What to Do When Clients Second Guess Your Expertise

//What to Do When Clients Second Guess Your Expertise

Law-Firm-Basics--What-To-Do-When-Clients-Second-Guess-Your-ExpertiseLegal information is easier to access with just a simple web search. For attorneys, this is both an advantage and a curse since easy access to information means that some clients will want to serve as backseat legal advisors on their case. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to address clients who second guess your legal expertise.

Operate as a team

From the first day that you take on the new client, you need to approach their case as if you are part of their team. This doesn’t mean handing over your job as the attorney to the client but it does mean helping them to understand why you’re using the strategy that you’ve chosen and listening to their concerns.  Once a client understands your strategy, it’s easier for them to agree with it and they’re less likely to distrust your judgment. At Smokeball, our Client Success Team contacts new clients right off the bat as to lay out how the Onboarding plan works.

Use Their Language

No matter how you look at it, legalese is an inaccessible language for most people. If you want to reduce the number of times a client questions your legal expertise, you must help them understand the process and the plan by using language they’re familiar with. If the client can understand the case and your tactics because you’ve made the language accessible, they’re less likely to question your plan.

Remind the Client of Their Goals

If a client is questioning your case strategy or tactics, remind them of the goals they’ve set for the case. Also, briefly explain to them why or how your strategy will help them achieve their goals. Tell them why their suggestion isn’t practical or won’t work for the situation.  Even if a client is questioning your judgment on a specific tactic, that doesn’t mean they don’t respect the knowledge and experience you bring to the table. Clearly telling them that a tactic or strategy won’t work in easy to understand language is likely to get their attention.

Give Them a Choice

Some clients may insist on interfering in your role as their attorney. This is when you may be forced to give them a choice. They can take your legal advice which you believe is the best path or they can take their case to someone who is willing to approach the legal issue their way. Setting those boundaries with clients will save you energy when dealing with clients who second guess you.

Provide an Example

Some clients question your expertise or second guess your choices because they have the best intentions of making the strategy better. When this happens, you should provide the client with an example of how their advice could actually harm their case. Providing an example or proof of how their advice is wrong is a lot more effective than just telling them that their tactic isn’t the best one for the legal case.

Consider If They’re Right

It’s not always the case, but there are times when a client’s second-guessing has some merit. Objectively reexamine your strategy then determine if the client has some valid points. Don’t let your ego stop you from considering any legitimate insights that the client may bring to the table.








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By | August 7th, 2017|

About the Author:

For years, Josh has helped lawyers become more organized, productive, and profitable. A trained litigator, Josh came to Smokeball from a large east-coast law firm where his practice focused on franchise, insurance, marine, and general litigation. His work with Smokeball, and his continued passion for what he does each day, is driven by a desire to help lawyers and their staff do better in every way. Knowing well the stress and strain put on today’s legal professional, he regularly focuses on improving work and life in the law. He has traveled the country working with and learning from lawyers and their staff. Josh speaks regularly to bar associations about successful law firm practices and other legal topics. Recent notable engagements have been with the Chicago Bar Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, and the Missouri Bar’s Solo and Small Firm Conference. In addition to his work at Smokeball, Josh serves on the Writing Resource Center staff at The John Marshall Law School. Besides legal technology, his research interests include judicial decision-making, jury decision-making and psychology, and legal writing. He has written and overseen research exploring causal effects of sex/gender on federal appellate court decision-making, and assisted with research for a forthcoming textbook on judicial decision-making. Additionally, Josh sits on the Board of Chicago Fringe Opera Company. Josh holds his J.D., cum laude, from Washington University in St. Louis, where he served as a Senior Editor of the Wash. U. Law Review, held the prestigious Thompson Coburn Research Fellowship, served as Research Assistant to then-Vice-Dean (now Chancellor) Andrew D. Martin, and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri. He holds a B.A. in Political Science and a B.M. in Music Performance with Honors Scholar distinction from the University of Connecticut, making him a Huskies basketball fan through and through. Follow Josh’s activity on LinkedIn, and keep up with new articles on the Smokeball Blog.

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