Working with vulnerable clients

There are times during our career we work with clients that are classed as vulnerable. But what does that actually mean? What implication does that categorisation have on working with vulnerable clients?

We will outline what a vulnerable client exactly is and how you can ensure you are staying true to the law in practice and intention.

A vulnerable client such as elderly person, addict, victim or individual where english is not their first language
A vulnerable client for example an elderly person

What is a vulnerable client?

A vulnerable client is an individual who will need more support than others to ensure they are not negatively affected in your dealings with them. Those effects take into account the financial and mental side of your interactions together.

Common vulnerable clients may be children, individuals with a disability (mental or physical), an elderly person, addicts, victims of domestic abuse and individuals where English is not their first language.

When it comes to proving the mental capacity of a person, it is usually assumed that a person is mentally capable. When they are not, this will have been assessed under MCA 2005, but it is a good practice to assess a client's mental capacity continually.

However, this list is not exhaustive and anyone who is particularly susceptible to being taken advantage of will be classed as vulnerable.

Working with vulnerable clients

In working with vulnerable clients, it can be highly advantageous to have a policy in place to safeguard everyone involved. Additionally, it is important to always provide what you and your company consider the standard of care, service or product to which it aspires at all times - regardless of whether your client is vulnerable or not.

With a policy in place, it is then a good idea to identify risk factors when dealing with a client deemed as vulnerable. From there, it will be possible to determine what help they need and how you can best answer their needs. It is important you find a way where you can work together, getting the best out of your client without making them feel pressured.

Finally, as a solicitor, you are always required to work according to the SRA code. When working with vulnerable clients, you need to take particular care to Principle 5 - pertaining to standard of care and service to clients.

Working with vulnerable adults

While children are an obvious example of a vulnerable client, working with vulnerable adults is increasingly more common. That is not because there are more vulnerable adults out there, it is simply what constitutes a vulnerable adult is widening, thanks to better and more inclusive definitions of what a vulnerable person actually is. For example, mental health is more widely understood and diagnosed, making identifying a vulnerable person easier.

In such cases, it is important you empower and enable the adult client to use your services as best you can. Doing so will actually help you and also ensure that the end result of your dealings with one another is as advantageous to them as they are to you.

Additionally, a vulnerable adult is considered a protected party and so must also have a litigation friend appointed to them as seen in Part 15 of the FPR 2010.

Work with vulnerable clients - key takeaways

Working with vulnerable clients is becoming more and more common. For that reason, knowing how to work with them effectively is key, not only to stay on the right side of the law but to keep the working relationship productive.

To that end, ensure that you know what your company policy is with regards to vulnerable clients, know who is classed as a vulnerable client and know what you are legally required to do with respect to the SRA code.