March 10, 2011
By Paetria Hampton, 2L
ATLANTA - My fist assignment for this semester in Litigation was to think of interview questions to ask a potential client. My instructor asked for someone to volunteer to play the role of the interviewer. As soon as he asked for the volunteer, all heads immediately dropped. The eye contact vanished in a matter of seconds.
I did not volunteer because the HeLP Legal Services Clinic provided me with plenty of experience interviewing clients. I wanted to give someone else a chance. The instructor looked at the roll, and he called me to be the interviewer. I could almost hear the other ten classmates give a sigh of relief.
I interviewed the client using the funnel method, a client-interviewing technique we were taught in the Clinic. I built rapport. I explained the process to the client. I asked open-ended questions about a particular topic and allowed her to answer, and then I asked more specific questions covering the same topic in more detail. Lastly, I asked if there was anything else that she wanted to tell me about the particular topic prior to moving on to the next set of questions. I closed out the interview and proceeded to my seat.
I really did not think that the interview was anything special. I simply went to the front of the class and did, to the best of my ability, what I had learned about client interviewing in the HeLP Clinic. My goal was to complete the task at hand, go back to my seat, and blend in with everyone else.
The instructor was impressed with the interview. He did not expect me to do as well as I did. After he gave his feedback, we went to break. Over half of my classmates raved about how well I did. Three of them asked me to be their trial partner. I felt like a celebrity, in a minor way.
It was my experience at the Clinic that made the interview so natural for me. The Clinic has given me plenty of opportunities to interact with clients and to develop this important lawyering skill.