How To Handle the Client From Hell

July 7, 2014 – In The News

Joshua Horn was quoted in the Law360 article, "How To Handle the Client From Hell.” Full text can be found in the July 7, 2014, issue, but a synopsis is below.

In a legal market where the buyer is king, legal service providers are left competing for clients and often cannot be picky about whom they represent. While attorneys may be able to work with some challenging clients, certain clients may not be worth the hassle, attorneys say.

According to Joshua Horn, a firm’s initial screening process is crucial to ensure that it is getting the clients it wants. While some clients can be trained, others may be past the point of being helped, says Horn.

"If somebody has been through a number of different law firms, that should be a red flag that the problem is with the client and not the firm," he said. "That's the first client that is going to sue you for legal malpractice."

Horn also warns that attorneys should be cautious about representing clients with unrealistic expectations and taking a position that is unsupported by law in an effort to keep the client satisfied.

"There is such competition for clients that lawyers are sometimes willing to sell their souls, but in the end, it'll catch up with them," he said. "The client will probably wind up leaving them or stiffing them on the bill when the client doesn't get the result it wants."

When faced with representing a difficult client, Horn says attorneys should document the recommendations they provide and whether the client follows their advice. Keeping these records could help protect a lawyer if a dispute over the representation arises.

"By creating a trail, attorneys can point to what was said if there is ever a question," he said.

"If you don't have a paper trail, a text or an email, you have nothing," Horn said. "There will be their side, your side and reality. And the judge or jury will have to come up with what reality is. Having a paper trail is a best practice in general, but in particular with difficult clients."