Policy for Accepting Clients

An enjoyable law practice depends on having good clients, and avoiding toxic ones. You can learn about the common traits of toxic people by simply googling "how to spot toxic people".

Learning how to spot toxic people is vital.

We have a procedure in place outlining the steps to take to get rid of toxic clients, but ideally we want to avoid taking them on in the first place.  Not only can toxic clients make our life miserable while we represent them, they can also cause trouble by leaving bad reviews and filing bar complaints. And they often will unless you satisfy their unreasonable demands which will prove impossible.  

The problem for lawyers is that toxic people present themselves as victims who offer plausible stories of wrongdoing. They won't direct toxicity at you until after you've started working for them. And you won't likely detect their toxicity because you're distracted by looking away from them at their adversary.

For every potential client we need to start with the assumption that they're toxic, so we can (hopefully) better spot the danger signs before taking them on. Here are the common danger signs:

Nine Warning Signs

1. Toxic people are manipulative. Their modus operandi is to get people to do what they want them to do. It’s all about them. They use other people to accomplish whatever their goal happens to be. They won't take advice that runs counter to their unreasonable demands.

2. They are judgmental. Keep your eyes and ears open for excessive criticism—about others, what they've done, and what they didn’t do. It’s never about them, and they will lie if it serves them.

3. They take no responsibility for their own feelings. Rather, their feelings are projected onto others. They take no responsibility for almost anything they do.

4. They don't apologize. Things are always someone else’s fault. They relish the attention that comes from claiming “victim” status.

5. They are inconsistent. It’s hard to know who you’re with at any given time because they are often not the same person. They may change their perspective, attitude, and behavior depending on what they feel they need to accomplish or what they want to have happen. And they know how to be kind when they want something from you.

6. They exaggerate. ‘So and so always …’ ‘So and so never …’ It’s hard to defend against this form of manipulation. Toxic people have a way of drawing on the one time someone didn’t or the one time someone did as evidence of their shortcomings.

7. They make you prove yourself to them. Toxic people make people choose them over someone else, or something they want over something others want. Often, this turns into a “divide and conquer” dynamic in which the only choice is them.

8. They make you defend yourself. They have difficulty staying on point about certain issues, probably because they’re not interested in your point of view or trying to reach an amicable conclusion. Remember, they are supreme manipulators: Their tactics may include being vague and arbitrary, as well as diverting the focus of the discussion to how you’re discussing an issue—your tone, your words, etc. They focus on problems, not solutions.

9. They are not caring, supportive, or interested in what’s important to others. In fact, the good things that happen to someone move the attention away from them and thwart them from focusing on their own goals. Beware of people who easily and constantly find fault with others and make them wrong. Loyalty is foreign to them.

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