As a criminal defense lawyer, seeing old clients can be a bad thing if it means they’ve picked up a new charge or are accused of messing up a probation you worked so hard to get them. I sometimes joke with clients: “I hope I never see you again unless it’s random, like at the grocery store.”
A few weeks ago I was contacted by an old client. This wasn’t just any old client of mine. This guy had been really difficult. When I first met with him, he seemed to simply be disagreeable, hating the world and distrustful of me in particular. As we worked together it only got worse; it was like he was trying to win the “biggest jerk client of the year” award. Despite all the unpleasantness, I worked hard to get to the bottom of what made him tick and finally learned that he was suffering from some pretty profound mental health issues. He wasn’t just being a jerk – he was suffering from mental illness and the way he presented himself to the world was directly attributable to his suffering. I worked and pleaded and cajoled him to accept mental health treatment. It was the only way for him to break the cycle of going off his meds, going to jail, and ending up in prison. He finally relented and agreed to treatment. I was relieved and nervous for him because now it was all up to him.
So you can imagine how my heart sank when he called. My first thought was that he’d rebelled at treatment and been kicked out. If that was so, the arrest warrant had to be close behind. But then he surprised me: he had successfully completed treatment and had even been awarded as one of the best patients at the facility where he got treatment! It was clear in his voice. His was mentally clear and polite in a way I’d never experienced before. Now he just needed help getting off probation, which I was more than happy to do for him.
It’s still a long road for people suffering from mental illness, but this one client is a real success story. He went from being one of the most difficult clients I’ve ever encountered, to one of the most rewarding.