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This article has been written by Oishika Banerji, an undergraduate student of Amity Law School, Kolkata. This exhaustive article deals with the necessity to understand client conversation skills by a lawyer.

Introduction  

In any profession, the most important factor that should be present is conversation skills. When one talks about the profession of the lawyers, one cannot eliminate the aspect that the profession is solely based on the conversation carried out between a lawyer and his client. In this conversation skill, there is equal participation from both ends which further decides the future of the concerned case. The burden to understand the facts of the case and the client lies on the legal practitioner for that is what leads a lawyer to become successful in his profession. Communication has always been an important element in the legal domain.  A lot of emotions, thoughts and views are expressed by the medium of communication. At times without even saying something a lot can be expressed. Thus both the verbal and non-verbal means of communication stand relevant in the development of the relationship between the lawyer and his client. Understanding of the client is necessary to relate to the chaos within the client and the desire of the client from the case. The lawyer must develop conversation skills to communicate with the client. Why this is termed as a skill is because it is the art of speaking from the lawyer’s end which can bring the client mentally closer to him. This helps in understanding the client and his perspective as well. The skill of listening more than just speaking is required to be present in any legal practitioner. The skill of listening and speaking initiates the mastering of the conversation carried out by the client with his or her concerned lawyer. 

What is the skill of mastering client conversation

There are several kinds of clients that exist and a lawyer experiences all of them through the case he comes in contact with. Client conversation can be defined as the communication skills that a client possesses and express the same whenever he or she feels suitable with the attorney he or she is consulting to. It is also a process in which a legal professional converses with his clients. This conversation has two ends and therefore it is a dialogue and not a monologue by nature.  While one is the client, the other is the consultant or to be specific a legal expert. Now why this conversation is referred to as a skill is another matter of concern. A skill refers to specificity and expertness in any field. Thus what can be inferred by joining the two concepts namely client conversation and skills is that it involves development in understanding and reaching out to clients by the medium of their conversation. An indispensable aspect of socialization is conversation and communication. The relationship between a lawyer and his client is just like any other relationship that requires time to grow and nurture. While growth is necessary to build trust, nurture aims at the reasonableness of understanding the circumstances surrounding the case. 

Client conversation skills can be in two forms. One being a formal one while the other can be of an informal nature. Formal conversation involves the client and the lawyer to discuss and find solutions in terms of just fulfilling the duty of the lawyer. Other matters related to the discussion are directly faced in the court. The other form reflects the informal conversation. Informal conversation is a more personalized form of conversation.  The client is always a  part of his case along with the lawyer. The client and the lawyer carry out a conversation which involves a discussion about the facts of the case, client’s opinion, statutes that can be applied in order to provide justice etc. Provisioning a scope for the client to speak helps the client to feel free to express. The lawyer then focuses on the things that are considered to be necessary and the rest of the things are ignored. But this ignorance is not expressed to the client to make him feel comfortable to speak out. Therefore the client can improvise on what the lawyer decides and suggests changes if required. Thus the resolution of the case happens in the chamber of the lawyer itself before proceeding to the court. While the former type of conversation reduces the ambit of building relationships between the lawyer and the client, the latter engages in comforting the client more than just solving the case and providing compensation if required. Therefore, the skill of mastering client conversation is an essential requirement in order to simplify the steps involved in litigation.

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Why is the skill require 

For any legal expert acquiring the skill of mastering client conversation is essential for the following aspects that should be  looked into while handling a client of a particular case: 

  1. Personalization – the skill of mastering client conversation helps in understanding the client better and in a more personalized way. This helps the lawyer to talk to the client easily and smoothly. 
  2. Negotiation – when a legal practitioner possesses this skill of mastering client conversation, it becomes easier for the former to negotiate better with the client and thereby be acknowledged with what the client is asking for.
  3. Awareness – there comes several statutes that the clients are not aware of. If the advocate knows the way the client converses it becomes easier for him or her to inform the client about the necessary defences available for him. 
  4. Building goodwill – the establishment of a lawyer in the legal domain rests in the hands of the lawyer himself. It is through his way of dealing with clients that reach out his influence in the crowds. Possession of this skill is one such step forward towards the big goal. 
  5. Creating comfort –  every client wants to be heard before being advised. Mastering of the client conversation skills provides parameters for the lawyer to offer space to his or her client to be open and to speak out. This helps the client to converse the way he wants by elaborating or confessing his role in the case. Often success is attained by just knowing the facts that are responsible for the birth of the case. 
  6. Clarity – the communication carried out between a lawyer and his client should be transparent enough for both of them to understand each other. This can be attained if the lawyer is well acquainted with the conversational skills of the client. Clarity makes it easier for the lawyer to connect with his client psychologically, emotionally and socially. 

These are the various steps to reach to the skill and possess it for a better and a much more improved manner of carrying out consultancy procedures.  

How to master client conversation skills

There are various kinds of clients that come to seek help from the lawyer. Not only in a legal atmosphere but also in other fields. Every other client is different in terms of ability, maturity, the potential to express and understand the situation he or she is surrounded by. Understanding the client and moving forward based on the traits of the client is the role of any lawyer while dealing with a particular case. Although there exists no procedure of mastering client conversation skills, gaining expertise on the skill can be acquired by experience and modern approaches only. Therefore the  requirements to carry out the procedure of mastering the client conversation skills are:

  1. Understanding
  2. Observation
  3. Experience
  4. Listening
  5. Inquiring 
  6. Accepting reviews from the client 

Understanding the circumstances the client has been through is necessary in order to relate with him. If the client is emotionally driven, then the adviser must not be driven by the same kind of emotion for, practicality is the key to win a case. Coming to observation, there are minute details in the way or the manner in which a client converses. These details need to be noted and taken care of to browse to the depth of the case and subsequently find a solution or remedy for the same. Experience develops over the years. The procedure of mastering skills becomes easier when a lawyer is aware of the way he or she should represent himself when a client approaches him or her. Mastering client conversational skills is not a one day task. Failure and success are involved in this journey equally. Listening as has been mentioned before is a necessary trait that all lawyers must have because it carries similar importance like that of speaking. If the clients are aware that the lawyers are listening to them then that creates a comforting environment for the client to be in. This instead makes the entire legal procedure easy as well. Inquiry and investigation is not the duty of the lawyers but he should do the same at minimal levels in order to extend help to his client. If the lawyer has questions after listening to what the client has to say, then it becomes easier for the lawyer to know the answers of the same from the client for, by them, the client will be adjusted to the environment of the lawyer. Inquiry and asking help the lawyer to know more as to what the client had to go through and in what way he wants to get justice from the courts. At the end comes acceptance of reviews from the client in the form of feedback which makes both the lawyer and the client happy and satisfied. For the client, it makes them feel good to be involved in the entire process with the lawyer whereas, for the lawyers, the reviews of the clients make way for improvement and building motivation within themselves. 

If clients are categorised according to their traits, the two main divergent classifications that can be made are that they can be very sophisticated which means that the client is experienced in talking with lawyers and he is well acquainted with his case while there can also be clients who are just opposite to the former. The process of dealing with these two types of client broadly will be carried out altogether in different ways. Several times the way a client speaks out does head movements, shows impatience in his or her eyes, the way they converse, frequently stop in the middle of the conversation, deliver emotions at a recognizable level makes it possible for the litigant to understand and revert back to the client the way he or she wants to.  The process of client counselling involves a lot of ethics on the part of the lawyer, mastering client conversation skills is one of them. A thorough process of carrying out consultation will create a feeling within the clients that they are in the hands of specialists who have genuine concern and interest in the problem faced by them along with the requisite knowledge to find a solution.

The disadvantages of not having the skills 

There are several lawyers in the nation and around the globe but the number of good lawyers and lawyers with the skill of mastering client conversation are hard to find. There have been various situations in which the lawyer has found himself in a situation in which he has failed to judge as to on what grounds can he provide justice to his clients. This has had a detrimental effect on the relationship between a client and the legal practitioner. Some of the drawbacks of not mastering client conversation skills are provided below:

  1. Lack of understanding – Several times the client tries to make the lawyer understand as to what he is feeling and what is his demand from the lawyer through the process of conversation. If the lawyer lacks the skills of mastering such a conversation, then it becomes difficult to carry on with the client.
  2. Professionalism- Although this skill is required to be present in every adviser or any individual carrying out any profession, in a legal field, the skill remains unused if the lawyer is not well acquainted with the skill of mastering the conversation of the client. The lawyer in such a case will only ask for the required information, thereby limiting the client from saying whatever he or she wants to. This makes the relationship between both of them weaker. 
  3. Bad Image- If a legal adviser does not master the task of relating to the conversation of the client, then the same creates a bad image in front of the client. While every client wants a certain quality of time along with the space of being heard, restriction of the same will turn out to be disadvantageous for the lawyer himself. 

The list of negative impacts is endless for not possessing the skill of mastering client conversation. Absence of these impacts is indeed beneficial and necessary for any lawyer to practice and profess. 

Conclusion 

For any successful profession, the necessity to have a dialogue rather than a monologue is always welcoming. Every individual wants to be heard and to be listened to. The hack of mastering client conversational skill is not an ordinary skill to be acknowledged. This skill involves a lot of miniature things to be taken care of. Expertise to this skill can be said to successfully carry out any kind of profession the person is in to. The scope of this skill is wide enough to involve everything a client wants and desires. Legal profession gives the scope for two people to sit and discuss any kind of issue to finally provide a successful solution. This aim of the profession starts with the mastering of clients’ conversation. A skill that has many words to say, understand and be observed. 

References 

 


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