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CIVIL LITIGATION (ATP-2017)WEEK ONE; CLIENT INTERVIEWIntroductionClient interviewing is one of the most important skills required of a lawyer, yet law studentsrarely spend much time practicing it. As is truism, practice makes perfect. Clients want to dealwith someone they trust and like, so it is important for you to conduct the initial interview to thebest of your ability. Learning OutcomesBy the end of this chapter and the relevant readings you should be able to:illustrate the purpose of client interviewsexplain the scope of client interviewsdescribe the interview approachidentify the key components in the client interviewexplain the stages in an interviewdemonstrate on the gathering of information by client conferencingexplain the questions to be asked in a client interviewidentify the special problems that may arise in client interviewsdemonstrate how to handle clientsdescribe 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 RelationshipThe interview heralds the fiduciary relationship that is cemented by the retainer. The knowledgeacquired by the advocate in the interview from the client, should be treated as confidential andshould not be disclosed to anyone else without the client’s consent.11.2 Interview ApproachAn interview should have a logical sequence and structure without being too rigid. There shouldbe flexibility to allow the client to be treated as an individual with a unique set of issues, rather1 King Woollen Mills Ltd. v. Kaplan & Stratton Advocates (1990-1994) EA 2441
than just a legal problem. Remember that an effective client interviewing technique will create apositive atmosphere between you and the client.Successful interviews require the right atmosphereand empathy.AtmosphereAn interview is not the same as a conversation: it has a specific purpose. In an initial interviewthis purpose is to identify the nature of the client's problems. A client will outline the nature ofhis 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 lawyershould be able to give options.The need for empathyEmpathy is difficult to define but essentially involves the interviewer attempting to understandthe client's experience and the implications for them. Empathy is developed by effectiveinterviewing 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 tojudge the client. You must make your verbal and body language reflect this non-judgmentalstance.