Common Strategies Attorneys Use for Difficult Cases

Reviewed and approved by Kathryn Wayne-Spindler

It is not uncommon for attorneys to deal with difficult clients and complex cases, especially when it comes to the family law practice area. It is not always easy to handle cases that have high conflict issues and clients who can be uncompromising, uncooperative, demanding, angry and upset. Even if it is for good reasons, it does not make the case go smoothly. A great article tagged below and placed in this blog outlines some great strategies for my fellow attorneys and any professional dealing with highly stressful cases and situations.

An attorney with superb communication skills can help in these types of situations. An attorney should be able to stay calm and collected when handling clients in difficult situations or are clients who are difficult themselves, as this is a crucial skill for an attorney to have. We try very hard to do this for he benefit of our client.

Dealing with difficult cases is fairly common in the practice of law, as clients are in a highly stressful situation. This stress comes from the high financial and personal stakes in their lives, especially in a matter that involves family law such as a divorce or custody matter. Difficult cases and/or conversations are sometimes unavoidable. High conflict cases will come with more challenges. Keeping a client calm and keeping things moving smoothly is they key goal. The article tagged below sets out a few strategies attorneys can use to do so:

  1. Establishing boundaries. An attorney will often set boundaries and enforce them with a client, no matter how uncomfortable it can be for the attorney. This is an important strategy for managing client expectations as well as the attorney’s wellbeing. It is not uncommon for an attorney to say no to some demands a client has. Attorneys will get back to their client after checking their schedule or looking into a subject so that the attorney can think it over and take time to develop a response.
  2. Highlighting the benefits of an attorney’s services. This helps let a client know that they are looking in the right direction for the right attorney. This can also help them stand out from competitors. Highlighting the benefits can also help center the focus on the clients and showing them how it will benefit them and their attitude.
  3. Apologize but don’t get defensive. An attorney being too defensive can leave a difficult and stubborn client more difficult and stubborn. When a client gets angry, it is best for an attorney to apologize to the client, even if it is not the attorney’s fault. Keeping a level head can help an attorney de-escalate a difficult and tense situation with an angry client. This helps a client feel heard, which can help strengthen the attorney-client relationship.
  4. Have realistic expectations. Potential new clients will have expectations from an attorney when going into a consultation. These expectations often include time commitments, cost of service, value of service, and case results. Difficult client situations can be alleviated by having realistic expectations and maintaining a positive attitude. Keeping open communication and being respectful is a must for an attorney-client relationship.
  5. Avoiding giving “yes” or “no” to client demands. An attorney telling a client simply “no” can cause serious problems. Although, attorneys often give a client a “Yes, If/No, but” response method which comes from negotiating and closing strategies used in a courtroom. This can be a helpful tool for when a client asks an attorney to do something that is not legal or ethical and similarly when a client has a labor-extensive request that the client wanted done in an unrealistic amount of time.
  6. Knowing what to look out for. An attorney will often establish some warning signs to help avoid taking clients who are not a good fit for their firm. Asking enough questions and gathering enough information can help an attorney. An attorney should be clear about their services, boundaries, and the process. This helps when trying to see how difficult or easy a client will be to work with.
  7. Understanding the concerns of a client. Showing sympathy can help a client and can go a long way for the attorney-client relationship. A client knowing that an attorney understands their concerns can help make the client feel heard and respected. Attorneys show this by acknowledging the client’s feelings when the client is upset and angry, validating a client’s feelings and let them know that the client is not alone in feeling the way that the client feels, and when a client shares a concern, restate the concern when reviewing the case details with the client. This shows that an attorney has sympathy and understands the client all while helping the client feel comfortable.
  8. Preparing clients for bad news. Attorneys will ease into any bad news in a case with a client, since rushing the information will likely cause shock to the client and can cause a panic. Following up bad news with something positive can also be useful.
  9. Focusing on solutions. Attorneys try not to dwell on the negative as this is likely to upset a client or make the client feel more distressed. Highlighting what an attorney can do to help the situation is the best strategy. Establishing small goals and achieving them one at a time frame can be helpful for both the attorney and the client to show that progress is being made.
  10. Getting additional help or training. Attorneys will often keep learning as their skillsets need to be expanded for new issues and situations that come along and be expanded. Reaching out to fellow colleagues can help when an attorney is struggling with their insight. Furthermore, an attorney can further their education through Continuing Legal Education that is offered through different conferences so that the attorney can grow their communication skills.

Dealing with difficult cases and situations is a day to day task in the field of law. These strategies are helpful for an attorney to have to deal with difficult clients and cases.


The attorneys at Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates are experienced attorneys who change with the times to meet the needs of their clients. Contact the Milford, Michigan law office of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates at 248-676-1000 for assistance. The attorneys of Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates practice law throughout Southeastern Michigan including Oakland, Wayne, Washtenaw, Genesee and Livingston counties as well as four mid-Michigan counties Clare, Gladwin, Ogemaw and Roscommon. The attorneys handle cases in Milford; Highland; Hartland; White Lake; Wixom; Commerce; Walled Lake; Waterford; West Bloomfield; Linden; Fenton; Flint; Grand Blanc; Holly; South Lyon; New Hudson; Howell; Clare; Gladwin; Houghton Lake; Higgins Lake; and many more Michigan communities. And soon to be opening another office in Dadeville, Alabama.


For more information, please see article “How to Deal with Difficult Clients and Cases: 10 Tips for Family Lawyers” by Christian Denmon on