Client Interactions

This resource is intended to facilitate discussion about how to gather initial information about a legal matter, including issues of client confidentiality, client candor, and initial case evaluation decisions.

Required Section 5(a):

Engage in a training discussion about client interaction, including tips for gathering information about a legal matter and appraising the credibility and trust of a potential client.

Elective Section D:

Discuss and review interview techniques (asking the right questions).

Mentoring Tips:

Share the elements of a successful client interview.

What types of information should you seek in the interview?

What kinds of questions must be asked?

What types of things should you tell your potential client or avoid telling them?

How should you interact with your client during the interview?

Explain to the new lawyer ways you assess client credibility.

Identify ways to create trust with your potential client in the initial interview.

Allow the new lawyer to observe  a client interview.

Observe the new lawyer conducting a client interview and then discuss the techniques (good and bad) the new lawyer utilized in the interview.

Confidentiality Issues and the Potential Client:

  • Discuss the ethical obligations to a potential client even when the attorney does not take the client’s case.
  • Discuss specific examples of client information which is confidential and when such information should and should not be revealed.  Examples for discussion include:
    • Propriety of disclosing that you have been retained by someone
    • Disclosing the name of your client to a third party
  • Discuss appropriate ways to obtain waiver of privilege and the circumstances in which it is likely to be obtained in the new lawyer’s areas of practice.  Discuss the difference between implied and express waiver and identify conduct which effectuates waiver.
  • Discuss the potential of gaining unintentional clients and ways to avoid doing so.
  • Discuss common mistakes concerning violations of client confidentiality and share practical pointers in and outside the office for safeguarding confidential information.  Examples for discussion include:
    • Proper procedures for file keeping and ensuring that clients who visit an office do not see confidential information concerning other clients.
    • Propriety of discussing your client’s case in public (even at the courthouse).
    • Potential hazards of using email or facsimiles to communicate confidential information.
  • Where applicable, discuss confidentiality issues when the new lawyer’s client is an entity instead of an individual.  Examples for discussion could include:
    • Which communications are confidential?
    • With whom can the new lawyer discuss confidential information?
  • Discuss the obligation to maintain confidentiality of potential clients who consult with the new lawyer but no attorney-client relationship is formed.

Additional Resources:

Discuss the attached August 2010 blog post from the ABA’s “SoloSez,” “Keeping Initial Consults to Limited Time Periods.”  Discuss the techniques used by blog posters during initial consultations and compare techniques you use during initial consultations.

Discuss the excerpt “The Amazing Efficacy of the Client-Centered Interview” from “Connecting with Your Client” by Noelle C. Nelson, Ph.D. 1996.