Client Counseling from a Student's Perspective

One of the roles of a lawyer is acting as a counselor to his or her client. It was a slight surprise entering into law school to find that there were few opportunities that allowed students to take on that role. Needless to say, I appreciate this clinic for allowing me the opportunity to take on that role and develop the necessary skills to effectively counsel the client.

When it comes to developing client-counseling skills, I learned that there are two major approaches to client counseling that a student should first understand. Those approaches are (1) the client-centered model, where the lawyer provides objective advice and allows the client to make the decisions, and (2) the lawyer centered model, where the lawyer makes the decision for the client. While both models arguably have the potential to yield positive results for the client, scholars favor the client-centered model because it allows for the client to take ownership of the consequences associated with their risks and decisions.

Once I learned and understood the differences in client counseling, I made the decision to follow the client-centered model when counseling my clients. In making that decision, I was unaware of the variations of difficulty that I could encounter. After facilitating a few client meetings, I picked up on a few things that helped client meetings run smoother and decisions. What helped me the most and allowed me to effectively counsel my business client was learning how to put myself in my client’s shoes and see her business and concerns the way that she sees them. Law students are trained to spot potential risks and issues and act in a manner to avoid risk or resolve issues. So naturally in my client meetings, I identified and described risks that my client did not consider.

I learned that it was best for me to walk my client through various scenarios to identify potential risks and issues instead of simply stating the risks and issues. This method allowed my client the opportunity to not only visualize the risks and issues, but also make her own decisions regarding the methods we could implement in avoiding those risks and issues. My client was then able to see from a business standpoint why those methods were important and give more value to our attorney-client business relationship.  At that moment, I saw the true value and effectiveness in the client-centered lawyering model.