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CS Training – PCTI Lawyering

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PCTI Lawyering


Intake meeting


  • The setting can enhance a client’s willingness to trust and ability to communicate openly
  • Considerations:

-Privacy/ability to ensure confidentiality
-Minimizing interruptions/distractions
-Client’s negative/positive associations with location
-Client’s physical/emotional comfort level
-Ensure you can sit facing the client


  • Be prompt (and if you are running late, apologize)
  • Smile, greet your client by name, and introduce yourself by name and role
  • Ask how your client prefers to be addressed
  • Acknowledge your client may have shared her story before
  • Make sure your client is comfortable
  • Offer your business card

Getting Started

  • Once seated, re-introduce yourself and explain your role
  • Explain the client’s role (client is in charge!)
  • Review your contact information
  • Explain the purpose of the appointment and manage expectations
    -Gathering information
    -Establishing rapport
    -Assessing the client’s situation
    -Providing the client with legal information/advice about next steps

Getting Started

  • Prepare the client for extensive questioning, and explain why it is necessary
  • Emphasize honesty
  • Let the client know if it acceptable to ask for clarification if she doesn’t understand, that she can say “I don’t know” as an answer, and that she can correct you if you misstate or misinterpret something she said
  • Explain why you will take notes and that the notes will be kept confidential
  • Give a brief explanation of law

By explaining the law,
-client can more actively assist in preparing her case
-makes it more clear why we are asking certain questions

Getting Started

  • It may be helpful to begin with small talk and try to find a topic that puts the client at ease (books, movies, video games, favorite foods, etc.)
  • Whenever possible, give the client some control in the process
    -Allow her to pick out where to sit
    -Allow her to let you know if she needs a break
  • Observe non-verbal cues; they are often as important as verbal answers
    -Physical appearance
    -Gestures (e.g. grimaces, crossed arms)
    -Affect, mood, attitude
  • Before getting to the substantive intake, make sure to review confidentiality

Getting the Story

  • Begin with biographical information (use intake form if you have one)
  • Allow the client to tell her story in her words, and try not to interrupt the client
  • Use the funnel technique: begin with broad, open-ended questions (Tell me about…) and move to more specific questions as needed to obtain information
    -This allows the client to relax, “unload,” and shows the client she will be able to tell you her story on her own terms, which builds trust
    Open questions call for client to narrate and often get the client to talk
    Can you tell me more about that?
    What was happening at the time?

Closed questions call for a one-word, specific fact and help you direct the interview
How old were you when you started drinking?
How long have you been unemployed?

Follow Up Questions

  • Keep each question to one main idea
  • Echo back the client’s own words
  • If you need to clarify, be specific about what you want to know (Tell me more about that vs. tell me more about _______)
  • Avoid legal jargon


  • Ways to contextualize
    -Ask follow up questions grouped by issue
    -Go chronologically
  • Follow up on inconsistencies or uncertainties
    -“I’m not sure I understood when you said…”
    -“What date did this happen on?”
  • Do not be afraid to probe
    -“What injuries did you suffer?”
    -“Were you punished if you did not follow the rules?”


  • Criticizing the client’s parents/family/trafficker
  • Making promises or giving false assurances (“I’ll make sure that never happens again”)
  • This is often a response to your own discomfort and lack of control
    Pressuring the client

Final Steps

  • Review documents provided
  • Offer an opportunity for questions
  • Ask the client if there is anything else that he thinks you should know, or if there is anything you didn’t talk about that he wants to share
  • Thank the client for sharing
  • Summarize the content of the appointment

Final Steps

  • Review next steps and offer a roadmap
  • Remind the client how to reach you
  • If appropriate, provide the client with an appointment card for the next appointment
  • Provide client with any other relevant fact sheets, checklists, or outlines
  • Be aware of door-knob syndrome

Follow-up appointments

  • Greeting
    -Ask the client follow-up questions to demonstrate you remember her
    -Engage in small talk
    -Framework/roadmap the appointment
  • Conducting the appointment
    -Explain the purpose of what you are doing
    -Review all forms/documents/work product with the client
    -Create a list of ‘action items’ for the client
  • Concluding
    -Review what you have accomplished
    -Put the appointment in context: where we are in the case, what is next
    -Discuss what you will do next and what the client will do next


What if your client starts to cry or gets emotional during the interview?

  • Take cues from the client: if it seems he needs a break, take one
  • Offer the client water and a tissue
  • If the client is unable to continue, offer to return to that part of the story later

What if your client requires the use of an interpreter?

  • Coordinate with an interpreter ahead of time, if possible
  • The interpreter’s role is to translate only, and you should speak directly to the client (and vice versa)
  • Explain to the client why you have an interpreter and the role of the interpreter
  • Ensure you client knows how to contact you and the interpreter moving forward (if appropriate)

What if your client is confused about the timing/chronology of events or contradicts herself?

  • Help with timing by asking questions that will clue you in (What was the weather like when that happened? Was it the beginning or the end of the school year? What were you wearing at that time?)
  • “I am confused, you told me _____, but you also said ______.”
  • “I am having trouble understanding what you said about _______________.”

What if your client seems uncomfortable sharing information where you are sitting?

  • Locate a more private space you can conduct the interview
  • Remind the client that confidentiality extends to the entire office
  • Offer the have the client write his story down

In conclusion…

  • Empower your client to take an active role in her case – legal representation is a collaboration
  • Meet your client where she is while balancing the need to move forward with the case/interview
  • Show empathy (but avoid “I know how you feel”)
  • Do not make assumptions
  • Be confident, but honest


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