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The good, the bad and the ugly: Top 10 characteristics of a difficult client


The good, the bad and the ugly:  Top 10 characteristics of a difficult client

We have all heard of difficult lawyers and unhappy clients.  But what makes a client a difficult client?

Rule 3.01(1) of Ontario’s Rules of Professional Conduct provides that lawyers must make legal services available to the public in an efficient and convenient manner. However, lawyers are not obliged to accept every retainer. Some clients can be more challenging than others.  Here are our top 10 characteristics of a difficult client:

  1. perceives his or her matter to be a pressing emergency or a “life or death” matter-if the client cannot give sufficient lead-time to do the work properly;
  2. wants to barter for legal services, offering inducements such as work or benefits for handling his or her case;
  3. thinks he or she knows the legal process better than the lawyer;
  4. has unrealistic expectations (e.g., taking estimates as guarantees, becoming overly irritated with minor delays, constantly complaining);
  5. demands that the lawyer set aside all other cases to handle the client’s matter;
  6. makes unrealistic demands of the lawyer and staff;
  7. is clearly motivated by malice and has instituted proceedings solely for the purpose of injuring the other party;
  8. is rude and belligerent to office staff;
  9. misleads or hides information from the lawyer;
  10. has delinquent accounts.

The good:  if these characteristics do not apply to your relationship with your lawyer you have a much better chance of achieving a successful result.

The bad: if one or more of these traits applies to your relationship with your lawyer beware.  Your lawyer might fire you as a client.

The ugly:  people who act on their own or without the assistance of lawyer may find their case will go from bad to worse (or “ugly”).  You may end up with a result you do not like or did not expect.  Good luck.

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About the author

Russell Alexander

Russell Alexander is the Founder & Senior Partner of Russell Alexander Collaborative Family Lawyers.