Paul Fisher is the principal of Fisher Mediation in Los Angeles, California, and the co-chair of the Emotional and Psychological Issues in Estate Planning Committee.
How many times have you worked with a client who, at first, appears to be an appealing and charming individual or an unfortunate victim of someone else’s wrongdoing? Later, you realize the client is chronically adversarial, manipulative, inflexible, unreasonable, impossible to please, and takes no responsibility for conflicts he or she has helped create. As explained by forensic psychologist Sherrie Bourg Carter: “They believe that their distorted or exaggerated views of a situation are accurate, making it difficult for them to understand why others do not agree with them. They tend to disagree with their attorney’s assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of their case and legal strategies. When challenged they become defensive and entrenched.”
Sherrie Bourg Carter, Representing Mentally and Emotionally Disturbed Clients in Family Law Practice, 22 Am.J. Fam. L. 128 (Fall 2008). Think back to your first meeting. Had you known then what you know now, you never would have accepted the case. Sometimes, however, you are stuck with the case and have to make the best of it. These arethe 10% of clients who cause 90% of your grief. Attorneys have told me in mediation about the pain, agony and mental torture they go through with difficult clients.