Client counselling competitions are one of the co-curricular activities in law school wherein two teammates acting as counsels try to resolve the problem of a client, which usually involves a question of law. This mock event helps in inculcating useful skills like communication and critical thinking skills for those who want to pursue Alternative Dispute Resolution as a career.
Do’s and Don’ts
- Pick a suitable teammate– They should be able to have the following skills along with you:
- Able to think on the spot.
- Able to fill up a point that you may have missed during the rounds.
- Basic legal knowledge about civil, property, torts, family laws- licenses, legislations, required documents like a legal notice, etc.
Practice beforehand- Practice with mock problems available on the internet along with a timer. You and your teammate can take turns with regard to being the client and counsel, or take help from your friends.
Know the format of the client counselling sessions- The general format of the rounds is as follows:
- It usually starts with an introduction from the co-counsels (you and your teammate) explaining what client counselling is and aspects like confidentiality, fees, etc.,
- The client shares his or her issues with co-counsels asking various questions,
- Private caucus amongst the counsels to discuss the legality of the issue and solutions,
- Counsels suggest the best possible solutions (1 or 2) that would be suitable in the situation for them,
- Question and answer session with the judge.
Stick to the time limit- This has to be complied with at each stage, usually provided in the rules and regulations of the competition.
Cull out relevant facts during the round- Note down the time as well as dates while the client is telling their story. You can do this while your partner asks questions and vice versa.
Be honest with your client- If you feel your client is at fault in this situation, make sure you tell them that they might have some liability, in a non-confrontational manner. They have come to you for help but saying “you are not at all at fault” when they are in reality, gives them false expectations.
It’s okay to miss out, politely ask again- If you missed noting down something while the client is airing out their grievances/his side of the story, ask them to repeat it. Don’t be hesitant to ask again, because one fact can make a difference, and this happens with lawyers in real life too.
Decipher who is your real competition- You might feel competition is with the other teams, but actually, it is with the fictional client in the room as they are the ones instructed to deviate from the topic so that you can’t find the subject matter or a legal solution in time.
Remember: You should be as invested as the client is in his/her/their issue.
Do not panic- If time runs out before the solution is found or if you are unable to find a solid solution, just say something along the lines of “Let’s schedule a session next week.” This happens in real life too! See: 10 Proven Ways To Overcome Nervousness And Become A Better Public Speaker
Keep a poker face– Even if the client goes off-topic, don’t show a frustrated look as you are supposed to be professional as lawyers.
Remain confident, not overconfident- Clients can be hard to deal with as they can be overly emotional or unwilling to come forward with all the facts. Don’t lose confidence if they don’t and at the same time do not sound arrogant while asking for information.
Use tactics to get the client back on track- If they start getting emotional or talking about irrelevant things, do not abruptly tell them “Please stick to the legal facts.” It is your job to grasp the relevant parts. Instead, guide them back to the flow of the conversation where they were speaking about the legal problems they are in.
Do not seem unorganised to the client-. Just make sure to divide your work with your teammate beforehand.
Example: If your teammate is better at communication skills and thinking on the spot, they can make the client comfortable- “I hope there was no traffic, I hope there was no problem reaching our office” OR if the round is virtual, “I hope I am audible, I hope there was no problem while connecting to the meeting, etc.” You can be the one to ask questions while the client narrates their story.
Do not be unprofessional- Maintain formality with the client, but do not get emotionally involved as well. Allow them to be emotional as they are human beings in distress, but focus on the legal parts of the problem.
Do not use any technical terms with the client- preserve that for caucus with your teammate to indicate to judges that you are understanding the subject area under which the problem falls, eg. defamation but do not use any legal jargon in front of the client.
Still figuring out whether to go for a client counselling competition or not? See The Ultimate Guide to begin your Law School
About the Author: Anjali Baskar is from School of Law, Christ University. Her interests in law include Public Policy, ADR/ODR, Criminal Law, IPR/Entertainment Law, etc.