Insight From This Year’s Client Interviewing Final
The 2016/17 Client Interviewing Competition, sponsored by Gerard Maye Legal Solicitors, was another great success! And the winners will of course move on to compete in the Regional Competition. Let’s wish them all the success, and more, that we had last year when Brighton made it to the Internationals and came in third place! Giving us some background on the finals last week is Marlon Cameron, who can let us know exactly how things went down:
This year the scenario revolved around a dispute between students and their neighbours, which had escalated to involve the University. Student Alison Bernard acted as the client, and was seen first by Ashley Concannon and Lizzie Mutter. They began their interview with great confidence and charisma, with Ashley welcoming the client and setting out the structure of the interview. Lizzie then began the interview, and was very successful in eliciting most of the relevant information while Ashley took notes. Ashley then clarified a few points, before Lizzie fielded the question of action points in an extremely professional manner. The interview finished after almost exactly half an hour, the two ‘solicitors’ then reflected briefly, and said goodbye to their ‘client’ as they showed her to the door.
It was then the turn of Charlotte Ludlam and Jack Boyle. Charlotte and Jack were equally professional; however, their questioning was rather more incisive and their overall manner seemed more goal-oriented. A few details of the neighbour dispute came up a little later in this interview than the first, and while there were one or two things mentioned that the first pair had not mentioned, overall it seemed as though there was a little less detail to the action points this time.
The judges, which included Chloe Chatton, one half of the winning pair last year, and Gerard Maye, and John Searby, from Gerard Maye Legal, took around ten minutes to confer and deliberate. Organiser and University Lecturer, Jeanette Ashton, then thanked the judges and Alison for acting as the client. Gerry Maye then revealed the Judges’ verdict. He acknowledged how difficult it is to sell legal services to clients who deploy ‘sidewinders’, and commended the hard work of both pairs, but that sadly there could only be one winning pair – Ashley and Lizzie.
Fortunately, we are also lucky enough to have a perspective from one of the finalists, Jack Boyle, who has written a great piece about all the hard work and effort that goes in to a successful client interview; including some great hints, tips, and advice!
In essence this is what good client interviewing comes down to: listening, understanding a person’s problem(s), and also making sure they know that you have understood them. Whilst this may seem to be nothing more than common sense, the particular skills set that is required for a successful interview are not inherent in everyone. They need to be learned, and in the special context of the advisory relationship, they also need to be formalised. Once you have listened, you need to process the information and be able to then calmly, efficiently, and skilfully guide the person you are advising to their best possible outcome.
Law lecturer Jeanette Ashton led the workshops and guided us on the best way to pick up on these small details, and how it is important to make clients feel at ease, in a structured and productive session. Having Jeanette guide these workshops puts Brighton as a serious advantage, as can be seen from the success of last year’s winners of the internal competition, Chloe Chatton and Fionnuala Richardson, who came third in the international finals in Canada. But I am sure this year’s winners, Ashley Concannon and Lizzie Mutter, will get there!
Chloe, who also judged this year’s final, also came to one of the workshops and shared her experience of the competition; as well as giving us tips on how to impress judges, and get to the right outcome. We were also visited by Simon Landivar, a very experienced solicitor from Rix & Kay LLP, who spoke on his experiences advising clients in a number of different scenarios, as well as offering a very helpful approach to this type of work. (Follow this link to read the article).
At the final, all the judges’ commented on how it can be difficult to put what we have learned in to practice, and the importance of developing this type of skills set in order to be successful. Whilst this competition, the preparation, and the hard work that went into it, have made us aware of what is required; the process is not over, and everyone involved will continue to improve and develop with time. Overall this has been an enjoyable and valuable experience, as well as a lot of fun ‘playing lawyers’. I have no doubt that these skills which we have begun to hone will prove invaluable as we move towards our goal of becoming professionals.
Congratulations to Ashley and Lizzie, and good luck at the Regional Competition!
By Jack Boyle
To conclude, this has been another great year for Brighton Law Student’s, and it would not have been possible without the hard work of Jeanette who has organised, taught, and supported them every step of the way. Even the students who did not make it into the final still had a great time taking this extra-curricular class, and learned a lot of valuable skills that will be easily transferred into their future paths; whether they are legal or not.
Congratulations Jack and Charlotte for making it to this year’s final – And we wish Ashley and Lizzie all the best for their approaching competition.