Everyone in the legal field knows what it is like to deal with the know-it-all client. These are individuals who feel they know more than you do, in spite of the fact that you’ve acquired years of knowledge and experience about the law. Rather than letting you provide the skills they’ve hired you to provide, they take charge. Sometimes this is in direct opposition to their best interests. How should you handle it when they’re actually sabotaging their own experience? Here’s are some suggestions.
When a client expresses information that isn’t quite accurate or applicable, always acknowledge their contribution but steer the conversation in the correct direction. The easiest transition is the “Yes, but.” In this way, the client knows that you’ve heard and understood what they have to say to you, but you are able to add pertinent information to the conversation.
Don’t be confrontational.
It is easy to feel like you need to directly confront their misinformation but they are your client, so doing so in a less confrontational way is always the best tactic. Don’t get defensive when they are offering alternative opinions even if you believe that their line of thinking can actually be detrimental to their cause. A good formula is to think of it as a sandwich, give a compliment, your constructive feedback, and then an additional compliment.
Present your facts.
While the client may have some insight into their own situation, it is often clouded with their personal judgement. They’re not able to step back and look at it objectively. You, on the other hand, can provide the important facts that can allow both of you to better understand the implications of the experience.
Speak from experience.
Speaking of experience, this is also probably not the first time you’ve come across a similar situation. It is perfectly fair to offer solutions based on what has worked in the past for others. Your experience is valuable and they are paying you for it, whether or not they are willing to acknowledge that. Being able to establish your presence as leader and expert in the field will provide some leverage in these situations.
Work together to find alternate viewpoints.
Lastly, often these kinds of client situations are games of compromise. You need to work with them to help them find alternative viewpoints of their situation so you can work effectively to solve their legal problems. Remind them that you are there to help and take their concerns into consideration.The client may have some good points since they are involved in the situation every single day, but your expertise and experience needs to balance your ability and their input.