The Champion

June 2007 , Page 25 

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How to Deal With Difficult Clients From a Mental Health Perspective

By John Matthew Fabian

Read more 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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