The Importance of the Client Interview

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In the context of legal representation, the client interview can be a nerve-wracking experience for both the attorney and the potential client.  These nerves originate outside the context of the legal sphere and relate to the fundamental anxiety that all people feel when they have to meet someone new.  The fact that this meeting relates to a legal question only adds to that anxiety. Underlying every client interview is an individual who needs help and an individual who can provide help.  The client has requested the meeting because they have what they feel is a legal problem which they need help from a professional to navigate and solve. Sitting across from that client in the interview is an attorney, who has their own concerns.  Although attorneys meet new people every day, they are still opening up their office to meet with a new person.  Beyond merely meeting this person, the attorney also has important ethical obligations to keep in mind as well as business considerations. A successful client interview (which may not always lead to representation) requires one thing: clear and open communication. If you are an attorney, you need to demonstrate to your potential client that you are trustworthy.  You need to create a space where that client feels that they can explain their issue fully.  When a potential client holds back information, your ability as an attorney to decide whether or not to take their case, or your ability to pursue their desired outcome if you do take their case, diminishes.  To foster a trusting relationship, explain to the potential client that the interview is protected by the attorney client privilege, and further explain the importance of having a complete set of facts to work with. As a client, you need to understand that providing an attorney with an incomplete depiction of your legal issue is like asking a doctor for a diagnosis but only giving them half your symptoms.  The same way the doctor could give you a prescription that may or may not heal you, an attorney can only offer potential solutions based on the facts you disclose.  The attorney client privilege exists for precisely this reason: so that the client can receive accurate and competent legal advice. Clear and open communication during a client interview will not always lead to an attorney-client relationship. However, the confidence of the attorney and potential client in one another, clear and open communication, and active listening will result in better outcomes than parties speaking in code and half-truths.

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