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Advanced Civil Litigation Class 2Slide 1 The Initial Interview The initial interview with a prospective client can be critical in that: The initial interview.

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Presentation on theme: "Advanced Civil Litigation Class 2Slide 1 The Initial Interview The initial interview with a prospective client can be critical in that: The initial interview."— Presentation transcript:

1 Advanced Civil Litigation Class 2Slide 1 The Initial Interview The initial interview with a prospective client can be critical in that: The initial interview with a prospective client can be critical in that: It can convince the client to sign up with your firm It can convince the client to sign up with your firm Until the retainer is signed (and even afterwards in many cases), the client can choose any lawyer s/he wants Until the retainer is signed (and even afterwards in many cases), the client can choose any lawyer s/he wants It can help determine the strengths and weaknesses of your case and determine whether it’s worth your firm’s time to represent It can help determine the strengths and weaknesses of your case and determine whether it’s worth your firm’s time to represent It can allow you to obtain enough basic information so that you don’t have to keep going back to the client for more information It can allow you to obtain enough basic information so that you don’t have to keep going back to the client for more information Remember that information discussed in the initial interview is subject to confidentiality rules! Remember that information discussed in the initial interview is subject to confidentiality rules!

2 Advanced Civil Litigation Class 2Slide 2 Preparation for the Interview 1 Review all available information on the case Review all available information on the case E.g., notes from phone call with the client E.g., notes from phone call with the client Any documents the client sent you initially Any documents the client sent you initially Use a questionnaire or interview form to save time Use a questionnaire or interview form to save time If the client can spend 20 minutes in the waiting room filling it out and not have to spend an extra 20 minutes in the meeting, it maximizes your time efficiency. If the client can spend 20 minutes in the waiting room filling it out and not have to spend an extra 20 minutes in the meeting, it maximizes your time efficiency. Determine and arrange a location for the interview Determine and arrange a location for the interview The best strategy is to have it in your office The best strategy is to have it in your office The client takes it more seriously The client takes it more seriously The client may have less of a problem paying if s/he is subliminally reminded of the expenses of an office you have to maintain The client may have less of a problem paying if s/he is subliminally reminded of the expenses of an office you have to maintain For an elderly or infirm client, there’s nothing wrong with going to the client’s residence for the interview For an elderly or infirm client, there’s nothing wrong with going to the client’s residence for the interview It should be in person. Phone only interviews are not a good idea unless you really have no other choice It should be in person. Phone only interviews are not a good idea unless you really have no other choice

3 Advanced Civil Litigation Class 2Slide 3 Preparation for the Interview 2 Tell the client what information to bring to the meeting Tell the client what information to bring to the meeting Police reports, medical bills, names of witnesses, etc. Police reports, medical bills, names of witnesses, etc. Don’t be afraid to overstate what you need. It’s better to ask for a document and not use it then to not ask for it and need it later on Don’t be afraid to overstate what you need. It’s better to ask for a document and not use it then to not ask for it and need it later on Schedule ample time for the interview Schedule ample time for the interview Also, arrange for any special needs the client may have Also, arrange for any special needs the client may have Taping the interview is bad form and may make the client ill at ease Taping the interview is bad form and may make the client ill at ease Review special ethical rules that may apply Review special ethical rules that may apply Do a “conflicts” check to make sure the firm isn’t already representing the defendant, for example… Do a “conflicts” check to make sure the firm isn’t already representing the defendant, for example… If there are potential conflicts, determine whether you can start the representation before the interview! If there are potential conflicts, determine whether you can start the representation before the interview!

4 Advanced Civil Litigation Class 2Slide 4 Soliciting Background Information 1 If you have no questionnaire, make sure you get all of the client’s basic information; e.g., If you have no questionnaire, make sure you get all of the client’s basic information; e.g., Name address, phone numbers, , profession, please of business, family status, etc. Name address, phone numbers, , profession, please of business, family status, etc. Ask a client how s/he chose the firm. Ask a client how s/he chose the firm. The answer can reveal whether the particular marketing media used by the firm have been effective. The answer can reveal whether the particular marketing media used by the firm have been effective. In addition, if the client was referred by another attorney, that attorney should be contacted to indicate what he knows about the client, and whether the attorney expects to share in the fee. In addition, if the client was referred by another attorney, that attorney should be contacted to indicate what he knows about the client, and whether the attorney expects to share in the fee. Note that attorney referral fees are unethical, but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen and it doesn’t mean another lawyer won’t expect one. Note that attorney referral fees are unethical, but that doesn’t mean they don’t happen and it doesn’t mean another lawyer won’t expect one.

5 Advanced Civil Litigation Class 2Slide 5 Background Information 2 Ask whether the client previously retained an attorney in connection with the same matter or a related matter. Ask whether the client previously retained an attorney in connection with the same matter or a related matter. If the client intends to discharge the prior attorney, find out why. If the client intends to discharge the prior attorney, find out why. Find out if the problem was with the prior attorney, or whether the client has unrealistic expectations, in which case the firm probably should not accept the case. Find out if the problem was with the prior attorney, or whether the client has unrealistic expectations, in which case the firm probably should not accept the case. Note that if the prior attorney has done some work on the case and has not been paid by the client, he may claim a lien on either the file or on the expected recovery. Note that if the prior attorney has done some work on the case and has not been paid by the client, he may claim a lien on either the file or on the expected recovery. Every effort should be made to negotiate an arrangement with the prior attorney. In addition, a consent to substitution of attorney should be signed by both the client and the former attorney. Every effort should be made to negotiate an arrangement with the prior attorney. In addition, a consent to substitution of attorney should be signed by both the client and the former attorney.

6 Advanced Civil Litigation Class 2Slide 6 Questions Regarding Liability In tort litigation, some types of information that are “sensitive” must still be asked about as they might be critical to the representation In tort litigation, some types of information that are “sensitive” must still be asked about as they might be critical to the representation In personal injury cases, find out if the client has a spouse and children, in which case derivative claims for loss of services should be included in the complaint. In personal injury cases, find out if the client has a spouse and children, in which case derivative claims for loss of services should be included in the complaint. In personal injury cases involving married people, you may have to pry with specific questions about the couple’s relationship since the accident In personal injury cases involving married people, you may have to pry with specific questions about the couple’s relationship since the accident Ask these questions as tactfully as you can, but ask them! Ask these questions as tactfully as you can, but ask them! In employment disputes, find out the client’s race, religion, age and national origin. Civil rights lawsuits sometimes allege multiple types of discrimination. In employment disputes, find out the client’s race, religion, age and national origin. Civil rights lawsuits sometimes allege multiple types of discrimination.

7 Advanced Civil Litigation Class 2Slide 7 Questions Regarding Liability and Damages Obtain the details of the accident, the names of any potential defendants, and information regarding their insurance carriers. Obtain the details of the accident, the names of any potential defendants, and information regarding their insurance carriers. Obtain the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses. Obtain the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses. Ask the client whether there was a police report, and, if so, obtain a copy. Ask the client whether there was a police report, and, if so, obtain a copy. Obtain authorizations from the client for all medical providers and employment records. Obtain authorizations from the client for all medical providers and employment records. Find out whether or not the client had any pre-existing illnesses or injuries that may relate to the after-effects of the accident. Find out whether or not the client had any pre-existing illnesses or injuries that may relate to the after-effects of the accident. Obtain the client’s pre-accident and post-accident work history. Obtain the client’s pre-accident and post-accident work history.

8 Advanced Civil Litigation Class 2Slide 8 Other Interviewing Techniques 1 Have the attorney who will be handling the case meet with the client first, even if just for a few minutes Have the attorney who will be handling the case meet with the client first, even if just for a few minutes The attorney should introduce you as the person doing “intake.” The clients will want to know that an attorney is handling their case, and not “just” a paralegal. The attorney should introduce you as the person doing “intake.” The clients will want to know that an attorney is handling their case, and not “just” a paralegal. Don’t take it personally. You could be the best paralegal in the World, but the client wants the interest of an attorney Don’t take it personally. You could be the best paralegal in the World, but the client wants the interest of an attorney Make sure not to represent that you are handling the case; make the client understand that an attorney will supervise everything done in his/her case. Make sure not to represent that you are handling the case; make the client understand that an attorney will supervise everything done in his/her case. Questions should be worded so as to permit clients to tell their own stories. Questions should be worded so as to permit clients to tell their own stories. Avoid leading questions. Clients should tell their side of the case with little prompting. Avoid leading questions. Clients should tell their side of the case with little prompting.

9 Advanced Civil Litigation Class 2Slide 9 Other Interviewing Techniques 2 Make the client comfortable Make the client comfortable Offer refreshments Offer refreshments Make sure the temperature in the room is comfortable Make sure the temperature in the room is comfortable Address the client formally and respectfully Address the client formally and respectfully Assure the clients of all the duties owed by the firm to the client; including Assure the clients of all the duties owed by the firm to the client; including Confidentiality (especially) Confidentiality (especially) Loyalty Loyalty Zealous representation Zealous representation Be confident but not condescending Be confident but not condescending NEVER make the client feel that his/her business is not worth your or the firm’s time (even if that’s true) NEVER make the client feel that his/her business is not worth your or the firm’s time (even if that’s true)

10 Advanced Civil Litigation Class 2Slide 10 Other Interviewing Techniques 3 Be confident in your firm’s abilities and be optimistic, but don’t promise results!! Be confident in your firm’s abilities and be optimistic, but don’t promise results!! Follow up on weaknesses in your client’s story, but do so gently and never in a challenging manner Follow up on weaknesses in your client’s story, but do so gently and never in a challenging manner You can prep the client for cross examination much later You can prep the client for cross examination much later If the client says something complicated, repeat the gist of it back to the client so as to make sure you didn’t misunderstand him or her. If the client says something complicated, repeat the gist of it back to the client so as to make sure you didn’t misunderstand him or her. Have consent forms (e.g., to obtain records) available for the client to sign. Usually, clients won’t have much of a problem signing these. Have consent forms (e.g., to obtain records) available for the client to sign. Usually, clients won’t have much of a problem signing these. After the interview, keep the client informed on the progress of the case After the interview, keep the client informed on the progress of the case

11 Advanced Civil Litigation Class 2Slide 11 Discussing Fees Have a retainer agreement ready before the interview, if possible, that states what your firm’s fees are Have a retainer agreement ready before the interview, if possible, that states what your firm’s fees are As a paralegal, you can’t directly negotiate fees. As a paralegal, you can’t directly negotiate fees. If the client wants to negotiate fees, bring in yuor supervising attorney If the client wants to negotiate fees, bring in yuor supervising attorney You can and should, however, tell the client what your fees are, how they are billed, etc. You can and should, however, tell the client what your fees are, how they are billed, etc. The client will feel a lot more comfortable after the issue of fees comes up The client will feel a lot more comfortable after the issue of fees comes up If the client is asked to pay a retainer, the client should know that… If the client is asked to pay a retainer, the client should know that… It will be credited toward your work for the client It will be credited toward your work for the client The excess will be refunded if you to less work for the client than is covered by the retainer. The excess will be refunded if you to less work for the client than is covered by the retainer.


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