The first interview with your client is most important. Be prompt for your client’s appointment. Don’t make your client wait for you. Make your client comfortable. Be an active listener and a sensitive person. Get to know your client. Remember that non verbal communication can often be more informative than verbal expression. Develop good eye contact with your client. Give the client your undivided attention. Don’t allow interruptions (i.e. phone calls, etc.) to disrupt the interview. Your attitude should always be “How can I help you?”.
The purpose of the interview is to:
1. Identify the client’s legal problem;
2. Elicit the facts chronologically to provide perspective; and
3. Develop alternative legal solution to resolve the client’s legal problem (this may not be possible in the first interview).
Listen to the client’s entire story and then go ahead and elicit the specific details of your client’s claim. Take handwritten notes. For future reference, make the notes as detailed and extensive as need to be.
What does a client expect of you? how can you fulfill the client’s expectations? You must answer the client’s often unasked questions: What are you going to do for me? How are you going to solve my legal problem? Basic matters should be dealt with from the very beginning. Go over the attorney-client relationship, on how it is confidential, and how it should be open and honest. Explain the procedure and time involved in processing a lawsuit to conclusion. At the appropriate time you should discuss the law that is applicable to your client’s case, as well as any problems you anticipate. You must discuss your legal fees and cost with the client and explain the relationship between the value of your legal services in comparison with what the client is expecting from you for your services. Establish your fee arrangement in writing.
The client interview should last some time. Remember to avoid surprises. Ask your client if there is anything else you should know about him or her that the other attorney may use at trial. An excellent way to conclude a client interview is for you to ask the following question: “Is there any other concern or particular question you want to be answered before you leave today?”.
In summary, be friendly and courteous. Don’t be condescending nor superior in attitude. Likewise, don’t be impatient, impersonal or indifferent in manner. Above all, always keep your client fully informed of your progress with their case. Communicate with your client!