The very basic requirement for a decent litigation practice is client counselling and as such it is also one of the most difficult tasks as well. Every lawyer during their law course must have studied that law is both art and science and therefore, let us all acknowledge this fact that counselling is an art which allows you to portrait your legal excellence before your client. Generally, the term counselling means to provide professional guidance to someone for a problem. Now, being a lawyer, a person will always come to you to seek legal remedy for some dispute. A lawyer and a client have a fiduciary relation that means relationship of trust and rapport.
Therefore, the very first thing which is required in client counselling is building trust and rapport. Various factors are responsible for building trust and rapport in the mind of a client. Even the smallest thing can become a factor in building trust and rapport before a client. For instance, if you have used a deodorant in excess and the client is allergic to that then it’s very obvious that it will make your client uncomfortable in talking you and lack of communication will lead to loss in trust and rapport.
Focussing on the counselling part here are the following measures which you as a lawyer require to counsel your client:
a) Purpose of Counselling: To start with counselling you being a lawyer should be aware of the purpose of counselling session. Here we are discussing on "How to counsel your client for legal notice?", so here the purpose of counselling is to motivate your client for sending a legal notice and to make your client aware about the pros and cons of sending/ serving a legal notice to the opposite party. Many a times a lawyer in his career comes across with clients who deny pre-litigation methodologies of settling the dispute outside the court for some reasons. Either the client is unaware of the benefits of pre-litigation methods or he suffers from some false awareness. In such a condition you are required to guide your client in a polite and a decent manner regarding the benefits of settling the dispute outside the court by serving a legal notice.
Before awaring the client, the lawyer himself should be aware of the benefits of serving a legal notice to the opposite party in order to settle the dispute outside the court. The lawyer should be confident in sharing his knowledge and his counselling session should have case studies to support his guidance and legal procedure which he is going to take in the dispute of his client.
b) Method for Counselling: The lawyer should follow a standard procedure for his client which may vary from client to client. The lawyer being an influential personality for the client should maintain the dignity of his image and personality through his conduct. The first thing a lawyer should do before starting the counselling session is to make the client comfortable and try to build trust and rapport towards his client. The lawyer should always carry the sense of confidentiality and non-disclosure of facts in his external behaviour. Once the client acknowledges that he is at the right junction to get adequate and correct legal guidance regarding the dispute then only he will answer to the questions asked by you.
Here it is important for a lawyer to find out the right time to start the diagnosis of the dispute or conflict. A lawyer shall have interviewing skills so that he can counsel and interrogate his client in the best possible manner. During the diagnosis the lawyer should use tri-question method to find out the facts and circumstances of the case. The tri-question method includes:
Open Questions: These are the questions which are asked to initiate the counselling session. During this session the lawyer or the interviewer should not interrupt in between when his client is narrating the story and the lawyer should allow his client to speak. Always remember, a good lawyer is a good listener.
Semi-Closed Questions: Once you allowed the client to narrate the whole scenario and after listening to the scenario you as a lawyer feels that there might be some facts or issues or circumstances which the client has either forgot to tell or is not disclosing it to you then you are required to ask questions in that regard and these kinds of questions are known as semi-closed questions.
Closed Questions: The questions asked just to confirm a certain fact are known as closed questions. The answer to these kinds of questions are majorly a 'yes' or a 'no'. These questions are the closing questions of any counselling session and such questions are often asked to make the client realise that the lawyer is aware of the facts and circumstances of the case and the lawyer has been such a good listener that he remembers the smallest of the facts in the case as well. These questions are often used to build trust and rapport in the client towards the lawyer.
These questions will also help a lawyer in counselling a client for serving a legal notice as during the conversation you as a lawyer can notify your client the stages and points under which serving of a legal notice can be a boon to his dispute. Asking questions in the tri-question format makes your counselling session structured and standard.
c) When to Stop: During a counselling session it is very important for a lawyer to know the time and moment when he can stop the counselling of his client. Unnecessary long counselling sessions can lead to loss in trust and rapport. It is important to give time to your client but that does not mean unnecessary time. You are required to set patterns for your counselling sessions and practice the same in order to learn and improve your career as a lawyer. Unreasonable extension of counselling session may lead to losing of interest and the client may start thinking that the lawyer has no rationale to support his wisdom and that is why the lawyer is just trying to impose his advice on the client.
Thus, these are the points which you as a lawyer is required to understand and remember while you are counselling a client for legal notice.