Client Science: Advice for Lawyers on Counseling Clients (Review Part 1 of 2)

I was recently given a review copy of Client Science: Advice for Lawyers on Counseling Clients through Bad News and Other Legal Realities, written by Marjorie Corman Aaron. This book offers a wealth of information for attorneys seeking to learn how to better communicate with, and thus better represent, their clients.

The skills taught in this book are crucial to effective client representation, but as is oftentimes the case, are rarely taught in law schools. Aaron’s book bridges this gap by examining effective communications skills, as gleaned from a multitude of sociological and psychological research studies, and then provides lawyers with practical tips for implementing effective communications skills in their law practices.

One of the most useful parts of the book is found in Chapter One on page 18, where Aaron offers 8 tips for lawyers to use when delivering bad news to clients. What I particularly like about these suggestions is that they are simple and easily implemented.

  1. Be prepared–Ensure that all importnat information is readily accessible.
  2. If possible, arrange for a face-to-face meeting in a private, comfortable setting.
  3. Allude to the bad news up front, with sensitivity and caring, but don’t be too blunt with your opening words.
  4. After doing so, move right on to a brief summary of the bad news rather than launching into a complicated, lengthy summary of the legal process.
  5. Rather than “soften the blow,” be direct and very accurate.
  6. Provide information using simple language that your client can understand at a pace that is comfortable for the client.
  7. Be aware of your client’s emotions and express empathy. Detachment is a no-no.
  8. Give your client sufficient time to absorb the information and come to terms with the bad news.

In later chapters, Aaron elaborates on her recommendations, explaining the basis for them and providing concrete examples for use when counseling clients. I found her specific suggestions in the latter half of Chapter One regarding more effectively breaking bad news to clients to be particularly helpful and will likely write about those in a future blog post.

Also of interest (and possibly the subject of future blog posts): Chapter Two, where she focuses on avoiding legalese and communicating with clarity and Chapters Six, Seven, and Eight, where she offers tips regarding voice inflection and speed, strategies use of counsel to better communicate ideas, and the effective uses of gesture and body language to facilitate comprehension.

Why should you buy this book?

This book is chock full of practical information rarely found elsewhere. Effectively communicating with clients is one of the most difficult–and most important–skills that a lawyer can master. After all, you can provide your clients with the most skilled legal representation available, but that’s all for naught if, throughout the process, your clients are unhappy, confused and frustrated. In other words, better communication leads to better representation and this book will help you achieve both.

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  • shg

    Two questions, Niki. First, it would be helpful to have some background about the author so that there’s a reason to credit her authority to write the book. Second, from her overly simplistic 8 rules, she sounds like an ADR person, more touchy-feely than lawyerly, who would rather play social worker than lawyer.

    Empirical studies are fine, but hardly a substitute for experience dealing with living, breathing people. They aren’t all the same, no matter what the study says.

  • Hi Scott,

    Thanks for your comment. I actually didn’t intend for this to be a review, so I didn’t include information about the author, etc. The title was edited to indicate it was a review, so that may explain why the post seems a bit off to you. My intent was to offer a few quick communication tips for lawyers, premised on the ideas set forth in the book. (I do plan to do a full review of this book for the Daily Record in the near future, however.)

    As for her approach, given what I know of you, I’m not surprised that you find it to be all about feeeeellllings;) Everyone approaches issues and people differently, so her approach may not be the right one for you. Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

    Thanks for your comment though, my friend. As is usually the case, it got me thinking.