Professional Relationships assessment: Essay on client interview skills and the link to ethical practice
Fiore Houwing (44366728)
LAWS108: Law, Lawyers and Society, semester 2 2017
Length: 1421 words
The client interview process is one of the most common and frequently performed tasks for lawyers and possessing the relevant skills is therefore essential for competent legal practice. The first part of this essay explains how a lawyer’s understanding of their role might be reflected in the interview style by referring to the link between legal ethics theory and client interview skills. The second part is a reflection on my own client interview skills and what I can do in order to improve them.
Part 1: Legal ethics and client interview skills
One of the key ethical dilemmas for lawyers is balancing client loyalty and the loyalty that they owe to the court. Their duty to the court is to seek justice; their duty to their client is to win the case. Lawyers are often caught in an ethical and philosophical dilemma between their duties to their client and their duties to the court.[footnoteRef:1] Lawyer's deal with ethical dilemmas in their own way as each individual has their own values and ethical beliefs. They have to make choices about values and ethical considerations in difficult situations, which indicates the lawyer’s understanding of his or her role.[footnoteRef:2] The ethical choices lawyers make tends to fall into one of the five approaches to legal ethics, emerged from normative ethics theories, listed by Lise Barry (derived from different authors).[footnoteRef:3] The five approaches are: adversarial advocacy or the dominant approach; moderated adversarial advocacy or the responsible lawyering approach; contextual approaches; moral activism; and ethics of care.[footnoteRef:4] Every approach emphasises different values lawyers serve in legal practice. [1: Christine Parker and Adrian Evans, Inside Lawyers' Ethics (Cambridge University Press, 2nd ed, 2014) 333.] [2: Ibid 31.] [3: Lise Barry, Lawyers: Roles, Skills and Responsibilities (Lawbook, 3nd ed, 2017) 73. ] [4: Ibid. ]
Client interviews are important for multiple reasons. It is in the forum where client's matters are resolved and decisions are made directly or indirectly which determines the outcome of the case. Clients and lawyers usually meet for the first time during an interview, thus, affecting the client’s perception of the lawyer directly.[footnoteRef:5] It is “where the foundation of the lawyer-client relationship is laid”.[footnoteRef:6] Interviewing is the primary means of access to the law for most people and therefore also important, considering the lawyers obligation of making the law accessible to the public.[footnoteRef:7] The legal interview is usually time-bound and important to both parties.[footnoteRef:8] It is the most personal, direct and complex medium for communication between a lawyer and their client. Hence, why it is important for a lawyer to...