Every lawyer knows that they have to work with distressed clients. It’s part of the role to simultaneously soothe emotions whilst gathering relevant information to build a case.
However, there is a subset of cases that no amount of your pastoral support is going to make any difference with. This is not your typical client, in an average divorce. I am referring instead to clients who are, often through no fault of their own, unfortunate enough to be stuck in a high-conflict divorce.
These are the types of cases that steal hours of your working week, not because there is necessarily much technical legal work to do, but because these clients are lost, frightened and, very often, under constant attack from their ex-partner. These clients need near constant reassurance and support, usually over years.
As a professional you want to be able to help, to do the best you can for your client, to be ‘present’ however, there is a point when your overall performance will quite simply drop off because you are working out with your disciplinary remit – trying to provide therapeutic instead of legal expertise.
The reality is that whilst these clients are running up their consultation fees with you, this is valuable time you are losing that could be spent nurturing your business, finding new clients, concentrating on case law and CPD, and simply enjoying doing the work you trained so long to be able to do.
This is not about throwing these clients to the wolves, leaving them without support, it’s about recognizing your expertise and when the limits have been reached. It’s about recognizing return on your investment is not simply about 1 billable hour received, but more importantly that lost hour which was available for expotential professional and business growth. It’s about recognizing one hour spent doing something you are not trained to do, whilst monetarily recompensed, quite brutally is costing you professionally and personally.
The take home is when you recognize you have one of these cases on your desk, make it part of your care package that these clients get specialist support. Be clear with them what your role is and is not and send them to trusted partners providing this type of psychological service. Remember that in these cases, it serves no-one involved, including you, to work beyond your professional duty of care.