Topics for Tremblay's "Lawyers as Counselors" Discussion
I am in the process of revising, with David Binder and Paul Bergman, their well-known interviewing and counseling text, "Lawyers as Counselors." (Susan Price, the co-author of the book as well as co-author with David Binder of its predecessor, "Legal Interviewing and Counseling," will remain a named author of this next edition but may play less of a role in this revision.) Binder, Bergman, and I are working on the book this summer, along with a Teacher's Manual and some accompanying videotapes for classroom use. We hope the project will be completed in 2001.
Having taught from that text for 10 years, I have a number of questions about its models and suggestions, while agreeing largely with its basic premises. The following are some of the questions that I bring to a discussion about the book and its models.
(1) Do we agree with the fundamental concept of client-centeredness? Does it work in practice as the book suggests it works in theory? Would you change its conception and, if so, how?
(2) Are there ethical issues raised by the typical interviewing or counseling interactions that the existing text does not address adequately? If so, what are they?
(3) The BB&P interviewing model suggests (Chapters 7, 8, and 9) a detailed four- or five-step model (depending on how one counts) that my students find comforting (in its structure) but frequently annoying (in its artificiality and perceived rigidity). Do you teach that model? Have you changed it? Can we identify the kinds of cases where it works, and those where a different model might work better?
(4) BB&P stress the importance of "active listening," and appropriately so. (Se Chapter 5.) The book's examples, though, are (in the opinion of some) fake-sounding and hard for students to emulate. Can we model some effective empathic responses that might read well and work well?
(5) The BB&P counseling model always assumes two or more finite choices among which a client must choose. (See pages 289-308.) My experience is that much counseling occurs before the choices have been defined. Clients must give authority to a lawyer to negotiate, for instance, or must decide what first offer to make. Do we agree that this is an equally-valuable part of counseling? Can we devise a model for it?
(6) The BB&P counseling model assumes rational clients, and sets out an elegant structure to assist a rational client to decide among competing choices. But recent psychological and behavioral research demonstrates that people are subject to deep "biases" that distort choice-making (e.g., overvaluing sunken costs, more risk-aversion for perceived losses than perceived gains, etc.). Should the models account for that research? If so, how?
(7) The BB&P text has been criticized for having one-dimensional, context-thin clients. Some writers decry the absence of race, gender, class, etc. in the discussions of the book's models of interpersonal relations. Is there an answer to this criticism? Are there ways to educate students about counseling or interviewing that account for those differences? What would those suggestions look like?