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Law Firm Basics: What To Do When Clients Second Guess Your Expertise

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by Jane Oxley

on August 7, 2017

Legal 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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