A vital part of beginning an attorney-client relationship is the interview that takes place between an attorney or paralegal and a prospective client. This is the time for the client to get to know you, and for you to gain information to help you decide whether working with him will result in your winning his case, or whether this is a case that you are interested in taking.
Ice Breaking: Place yourself in the client’s shoes. A meeting with an attorney can be intimidating. The ice breaking meeting or initial interview is your opportunity to make your prospective client relax and feel welcome in your practice. Offer him coffee, water or doughnuts.
Asking Questions: Ask questions relevant to the case. Start with the basic who, what, when, where and why questions. To guide you through the questioning process, it’s best to use an interview sheet for your records. Record your client’s responses on that sheet as she is talking to you and relating her story. On the sheet are questions about the defendant, as well as the facts of the case from the perspective client’s point of view.
Listening: Listen to your potential client’s story. Give him your undivided attention. Also, maintain eye contact, which is a sign that you are giving your prospective client your undivided attention and proper respect. You should avoid the appearance of cross-examination during the interview, even if your instincts may tell you that he’s not telling the truth. Make sure your questions remain open ended; avoid “leading” the person.
Repeating Back: If you don’t quite understand what your prospective client has said, repeat what she just said for clarification. It could possibly be that there is something you missed during the course of listening to her tell you what she just told you about the case.