Standardized Client Training

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Slides used in initial plenary during training of standardized clients at Northumbria University Law School

Text of Standardized Client Training

  • 1. Legal Interviewing and Standardized Clients Professor Paul Maharg University of Northumbria

2. 2000 Research Study Law Society of England & Wales

  • Interviewed 44 clients of 21 different solicitors in the north of England.
  • 50% said that they had previously used a solicitor whom they did not like.
  • The most common complaint was lack of respect, followed by a lack of interest in the client, and then poor communication.
  • Hillary Sommerlad & David Wall: Legally Aided Clients and Their Solicitors: Qualitative Perspectives on Quality and Legal Aid

Study 1 3. 2000 Research Study Law Society of England & Wales

  • I sent my former solicitor packing becauseshe wouldnt listen .That is absolutely fundamental; this was my case, only I knew the full circumstances.

Study 1 4. 2000 Research Study Law Society of England & Wales

  • I went to [my current solicitor] because of her reputation and expertiseShe is a part-time Registrar and has a big reputation as a specialist in this area butshe just doesnt listen .

Study 1 5. 2000 Research Study Law Society of England & Wales

  • She listens for part of what I have to say, and then interrupts, saying something like OK, Ive got the picture, what well do is ... and she hasnt really got the picture, shes only got half the facts.
  • I think its partly because she so busy and also because shes simply not used to giving clients a voice. Whats more she has actually made me frightened of expressing my views.
  • I am about to change to another solicitor.
  • [continued]

Study 1 6. 2000 Research Study Law Society of England & Wales

  • I like my current solicitor because I can have a chat with her, I trust her ... ... The other solicitor I was just a file for him, but for [her current solicitor] Im a real person and that comes across in court.
  • I wanted the law to be explained. ... The way the solicitor views the client is important.He has to be interested in our views.
  • They must be able to give you time.If solicitors havent got enough time, they cant get enough out of you.You have to have time to be able to tell your story.
  • I never liked him. ... we couldnt have had a solicitor like him for this [matter]; I think he was perfectly competent, but there was no sympathy.

Study 1 7. summary:clients and their solicitors

  • For many clients, their engagement with the law was not simply about achieving a result.
  • Their responses indicated that the process itself was important.
  • Empathy and respect were not luxury items: they were fundamental to the service.

8. summary: what do clients dislike?

  • Inaccessibility
  • Lack of communication
  • Lack of empathy and understanding
  • Lack of respect

9. summary: what do clients most care about?

  • Three things, in descending order:
  • the process, ie having their problems or disputes settled in a way that they view as fair
  • achieving a fair settlement
  • the number of assets they end up winning.
  • Tyler, T. (1988) Client perceptions of litigation.What counts: process or result?Trial Magazine

10. competence in client communication

  • Study by Prof. Avrom Sherr (U of London)
  • 143 actual 1 stinterviews
    • 24 % trainee solicitors
    • 76% experienced solicitors
      • 70% at least 6 years
      • 23% more than 11 years
  • High percentages of ineffective interviews
  • Experienced solicitors generally no better than trainee solicitors
  • Sherr, A. (2003) What clients know: client perspectives and legal competence,International Journal of the Legal Profession,1, 5-31

Study 2 11.

  • 51% failed to get the clients agreement to advice or plan of action
  • 76% failed to confirm with client the solicitors understanding of the facts
  • 85% failed to ask before ending whether there was anything else the client wanted to discuss

Study 2 competence in client communication 12.

  • 51% failed to get the clients agreement to advice or plan of action
  • 76% failed toconfirm with client the solicitors understanding of the facts
  • 85% failed toask before ending whether there was anything else the client wanted to discuss

Study 2 competence in client communication 13. competence in client communication

  • Experienced solicitors:
    • Used less legalese
    • Better at filling in the gaps
    • Rated their own interview performance higher than did trainee solicitors
  • But the clients sawno difference in performance between trainees and experienced solicitors

Study 2 14.

  • Being client centred, is about paying attention to the practical and emotional needs of the client, not necessarily agreeing with the clients motives, policy or philosophy and not necessarily doing what the client says they want. The client centred lawyer will listen to the client in order to advise on all options, as well as showing what they think is best for the client.
  • Sherr, A. (2003) What clients know: client perspectives and legal competence,International Journal of the Legal Profession,1, 5-31, 12

Study 2 summary: competence in client communication 15. Standardised Client Project

  • SC project:
    • Professor Clark Cunningham, Georgia State University
    • Dr Jean Ker, Clinical Skills Unit, Medical Faculty, University of Dundee
    • Professor Paul Maharg, Karen Barton, Glasgow Graduate School of Law (Strathclyde)
  • Funded by:
    • Clark Foundation for Legal Education, Scotland
    • College of Law, England and Wales
    • Burge Foundation, Georgia State U., USA

16. SCI: our hypothesis

  • With proper training and carefully designed assessment procedures, Standardised Clients (SCs) could assess important aspects of client interviewing with validity and reliability comparable to assessment by law teachers

17. aims

  • develop a practical and cost-effective method to assess the effectiveness of lawyer-client communication which correlates assessment with the degree of client satisfaction.
  • ieanswer the following questions
    • Is our current system of teaching and assessing interviewing skills sufficientlyreliableandvalid ?
    • Can the StandardisedPatientmethod be translated successfully to the legal domain?
    • Is the method of Standardised Client training and assessment more reliable, valid and cost-effective than the current system?

18. training of SCs

  • The best way to learn how to do standardized patients is to do it along side of someone who has already done it before. Its [the] apprenticeship system.
  • Wallace, P. (1997) Following the threads of an innovation: the history of standardized patients in medical education,Caduceus ,A Humanities Journal for Medicine and the Health Sciences , Department of Medical Humanities, Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, 13, 2, 5-28.

19. conclusions

  • Use of SCs as described in our studyis as reliableandvalidas tutor assessments
  • We make what the client thinks important in the most salient way for the student: a marked exercise where most of the grade is given by the client
  • Wedo notconclude that all aspects of client interviewing can be assessed by SCs
    • We focus the assessment on aspects we believe can be accurately evaluated by non-lawyers
    • We focus the assessment on initial interview, which at Northumbria will be supplemented by an advice-giving interview
  • This has changed the way we enable students, trainees and lawyers to learn interviewing

20. where else are SCs used?

  • Strathclyde University Law School, Glasgow law students and trainees
  • Society of Writers to the Signet, Edinburgh corporate and commercial lawyers
  • Law Society of Ireland solicitors on continuing professional development programmes
  • Kwansei Gakuin University Law School, Osaka, Japan law students
  • Solicitors Regulation Authority Qualifying Law Transfer Scheme
  • University of New Hampshire Law School, USA 2 nd& 3 rdyear law students
  • Later this year, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.

21. SC training 1: script conference

  • read script as group
  • discuss the role
  • discuss feelings, reactions
  • clear up ambiguities re role of lawyer
  • use feedback to modify the scenari