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How to Deal With Difficult Clients From a Mental Health Perspective
By John Matthew Fabian
Practice Points columns.
A criminal defense lawyer has an ethical obligation to best serve
the interests of his or her clients. When a client has a mental
impairment, it is critical for counsel to understand the client and how
the impairment affects the client’s ability to functionally participate
in the legal proceedings.
This article addresses difficult clients from a psychological and
psychiatric perspective. The focus is on mental health issues that may
lead to conflicts in the attorney-client relationship as well as
suggestions to better serve clients. This information is relevant in
various legal contexts, including competency to waive Miranda rights,
competency to stand trial, and issues regarding not guilty by reason of
insanity pleas. Understanding a client from a mental health perspective
assists in improving an attorney’s legal representation of the client.
Prevalence of Mental Disorders
Before discussing potential difficulties a defense attorney may
encounter with mental
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