Working in the legal profession, paralegals are presented with countless opportunities to work with clients who micromanage their case. Subsequently, the Paralegal has to discern how to deal with the issue or client is not always clear.
Often referred to as exercising: "client control." Most Paralegals are expected to know what to do about this issue. It is their responsibility to execute a plan that reduces the negative impact it may have on the case, minimize the drain on time/resources, and communicate with the client clearly the impact it may have on their case.
Client Control or lack thereof, rears its head often and causes more chaos than you think. Most legal professionals deal with this so often that they have a protocol in place when it occurs.
To better understand the issue of client control, you have to first figure out where the client is coming from. Often the clients behavior follows a theme consisting of one or all of the following:
According to the client they:
"They know what needs to be done, they even know how to do it (rarely true) , and they are absolutely sure it must be done now, but cannot do it themselves! They have hired you to do it the way they want and they want it done now!"
The above description is found in law offices and document preparation businesses across the country! I cannot say I have found a magic solutions to this revolving door of chaos...but I can say it requires finesse, understanding, and honest conversations.
A CASE OF THE KNOW-IT-ALLS:
I often watch paralegals unknowingly damage a case because the client has micro managed the case causing the paperwork to present badly. When the Paralegal tries to resolve this, they often do so by means of a "Hard Switch".
A Paralegal hard switch:
Suddenly rejecting all information provided by the client and tunnel vision focus on the case.
When this happeneds it almost always leads to conflict between the Paralegal and Client, which presents many issues. The client may self-sabotage the moment they realize they are no longer the driving force behind the Paralegals work.
The hard switch will also significantly reduce communication, maybe not immediately but pretty quickly.
This usually triggera a clients digression because they need to know everything happening or need something to always be happening.
Often the client will increase communication while the Paralegal dramatically decreases.
These are expensive issues, whether the client is wasting time, resources, and energy or the paralegal is worn down, frustrated or disinterested in helping the client.
I cannot stress enough that both the client and Paralegal have to adjust their behavior. The client must surrender case control to the professionals he/she hired and the Paralegal must be willing to hear the client and their concerns.
I still struggle to improve in this department, often finding myself thinking "they should know i'm working on it and I will let them know when there is something useful to tell them."
JUST CHANGE DIRECTION:
"As an experiment I started creating extra ways to connect that weren't immediately invasive to my work time or my work space. This was incredibly effective, the client had a place to vent or simply place a note in queue for me to read thereby alleviating some of the nerves and tension this issue causes.
I don't have a perfect solution, but I am confident that identifying this or any issue is the first step to resolving or improving upon that issue.
You may have already noticed this post is about communication, yet I did not mention the word once...I become very frustrated with articles that discuss communication without actually discussing the interpersonal mine field around the issues communicated or practical application focused on improving what you communicate.
I hope this was informative, if there is something you do to deal with this issue please feel free to share!! If you have questions or comments we would love to hear from you, see the link below!
Thanks for Reading!
-Fed-Up Legal Solutions
Shannon Highfield, LDA
Fed-Up Legal Solutions (Reg. 000329)