There is a particularly interesting section in this book entitled ‘The Ideal Client’. That man or woman is punctual, frank, honest, clear, consistent and accepts advice. When did you last see such a person? They probably exist somewhere.
Perhaps there are more than we think, but most clients are not any more perfect than their advisers. Solicitors would add that the ‘ideal client’ cheerfully pays his bill in advance, and then goes and tells his family and friends what a star you are.
The book is mainly written for the not-for-profit adviser. No doubt that will be an expanding area now that agencies can, and do, charge for advice. It is not only about interviewing but about how to advise, and includes sections on drafting and advocacy techniques. There are a lot of precedents and other information includes the Bar Council Guide to Representing Yourself in Court, and lists of useful organisations.
Trainees and students will find the glossary helpful, as it contains many of the stock expressions we use on a daily basis but which would baffle anyone else. There is a large section on something completely new to me – National Occupational Standards for Legal Advice, which seem to offer excellent training in the skills that a lawyer needs.
There are places in the book which might be expanded, such as dealing with difficult clients and how to end an interview. I would have liked to see more on the Law Society’s guidance on standards of advice and retainer letters. Many of us work in very trying situations with disabled, vulnerable or damaged clients.
Practical points such as how to deal with seeing clients out of the office in hospital, prison, or their homes, would be helpful. What skills are needed in that situation? Perhaps we have much to learn from other professions in the way they take a clinical history or examine a patient.
The book is very good on our professional duties such as confidentiality, keeping records and confirming advice. It is interesting on handling what it calls ‘satellite people’ (which means when a client brings the neighbour in as well for moral support).
As solicitors, we perhaps give little thought to the skills we use every day. Although written primarily for the welfare adviser this book contains much that will be of use to everyone, particularly the trainee. The best advice I had was never see a client at 4.30pm on a Friday afternoon – and also that friends and families make the worst clients.
Author: Elaine Heslop
Publisher: LAG (£30)
David Pickup is senior partner at Aylesbury-based Pickup & Scott