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CIVIL LITIGATION (ATP-2017) WEEK ONE; CLIENT INTERVIEW Introduction Client interviewing is one of the most important skills required of a lawyer, yet law students rarely spend much time practicing it. As is truism, practice makes perfect. Clients want to deal with someone they trust and like, so it is important for you to conduct the initial interview to the best of your ability. Learning Outcomes By the end of this chapter and the relevant readings you should be able to: illustrate the purpose of client interviews explain the scope of client interviews describe the interview approach identify the key components in the client interview explain the stages in an interview demonstrate on the gathering of information by client conferencing explain the questions to be asked in a client interview identify the special problems that may arise in client interviews demonstrate how to handle clients describe the need for client counseling. 1.1 The purpose and scope of client interviews to establish an effective relationship with the client; identify the nature of the client’s problems; obtaining enough information from the client to reach a potential solution; NOTE: Advocate-Client Relationship The interview heralds the fiduciary relationship that is cemented by the retainer. The knowledge acquired by the advocate in the interview from the client, should be treated as confidential and should not be disclosed to anyone else without the client’s consent. 1 1.2 Interview Approach An interview should have a logical sequence and structure without being too rigid. There should be flexibility to allow the client to be treated as an individual with a unique set of issues, rather 1 King Woollen Mills Ltd. v. Kaplan & Stratton Advocates (1990-1994) EA 244 1
than just a legal problem. Remember that an effective client interviewing technique will create a positive atmosphere between you and the client. Successful interviews require the right atmosphere and empathy . Atmosphere An interview is not the same as a conversation: it has a specific purpose. In an initial interview this purpose is to identify the nature of the client's problems. A client will outline the nature of his or her problem and the effective interviewer will probe for the salient information. Remember, that ultimately it is the client who gives instructions! In a legal context, a lawyer should be able to give options. The need for empathy Empathy is difficult to define but essentially involves the interviewer attempting to understand the client's experience and the implications for them. Empathy is developed by effective interviewing skills. Remember that you will interview people from across the social spectrum, some of who may have acted in a way you morally disagree with. As a lawyer it is not for you to judge the client. You must make your verbal and body language reflect this non-judgmental stance.

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