Conducting Effective Client InterviewsParalegal Resource
June 27, 2014 — 3,392 views
Conducting Effective Client Interviews
You will be conducting two essential types of interviews with clients: the intake interview and a follow- up interview. Both are important for establishing and maintaining effective client communication during the course of the client's case.
Preparing for the client interview:
Before the interview, you will need to gather all documents related to the client and their case. Since this type of interview is a fact gathering process to acquire enough information for the attorney handling the case to find a solution for the client, you will need to gather any documents or required forms (including consent forms to release medical information or federal income) that are needed for the case to proceed.
While it is not necessary for you to know all aspects related to the case, it is important for you to be knowledgeable about the documents related to the case. Doing background research before the client arrives will allow you to create effective prepared questions and will put the client more at ease.
Conducting the interview:
Throughout the interview, you should maintain a friendly and professional tone. Since the client will be disclosing traumatic or personal information, it is your responsibility to make her feel at ease during the interview. You are responsible for building trust and rapport with the client, and during your time with her you are the face of your firm.
Explain to the client that you are there to gather facts, and that you will only be talking about facts pertinent to the case. It's important that the client states the facts surrounding the case in their own words, avoiding legal jargon.
Refrain from speaking as though you were talking to a friend. Avoid telling similar stories from your past, and avoid giving any advice to the client. While you should avoid giving false promises to the client, keep a positive attitude towards the case and refrain from speaking negatively about any parties involved in the case, even if your intentions are to sympathize with the client.
During the interview, the client will review the forms that you have prepared for her to sign and review any documents your firm currently has regarding the case.
You will also be documenting the information the client gives to you during the client interview. Take detailed notes about what is said during the interview, since the information is important to building and furthering the case. After the interview is over, you can ask questions and ask for clarification while the information is still fresh in the client's mind.
Your follow-up will usually be a separate interview where you ask follow-up questions or speak with the client about aspects of their case that have changed since their last client interview.
No matter how meticulously you kept notes during the intake interview, there will usually be come clarifications and questions that come up after the client interview is concluded. The follow-up interview will allow you to ask additional questions of the client. Since you have established a friendly and professional rapport with the client during the intake interview, she will see you as a friendly face.