The Initial Client Interview
The initial client interview is the easiest and yet the most difficult interview to conduct. It is easy because the client wants to talk to you and knows that you are ready to help with whatever legal problem is involved. It is difficult because clients often think the paralegal needs to know everything they know and provide too much information or the wrong kind of information. The client interview is also an important part of establishing or maintaining a good client relationship.
The supervising lawyer usually conducts the initial client interview; only the most experienced paralegals are able to conduct an effective initial client interview. The initial client interview is where the lawyer obtains information about the legal problem of the client. The lawyer uses this information to evaluate the courses of action open to the client and to decide whether to agree to represent the client. A paralegal attending an initial client interview is often asked to take notes, make copies of documents, and provide the client with any materials the law firm usually distributes to new clients.
Although the paralegal does not have an active role in the initial client interview, attendance at the initial interview allows the paralegal to observe the questioning by the lawyer. This provides information about what facts the lawyer thinks are important and can be useful in guiding subsequent fact-gathering interviews. In addition, clients usually provide background information at the initial interview. This background information can be a valuable tool in planning a later investigation.