Effective Lawyer Client Communication: 
An International Project to Move from Research to Reform
Web Site Adress http://law.gsu.edu/Communication/

This goal of this project is improve lawyer-client communication by combining what has been learned so far within legal education with empirical social science research. We have selected the initial client interview as the focus for the pilot project. The initial interview is, of course, the one unit of service that is constant across all forms of legal service delivery. It is also one of the most critical units of service. The initial interview: (1) shapes client perception of the lawyer; (2) defines the service to be provided in terms of both problem and goal; and (3) is an important opportunity for client education, e.g. confidentiality, substantive legal rights, what the client can do for himself or herself, and the need to preserve evidence. In many cases the initial interview may in fact be the most significant communication before outcome determinative events such as hearing or settlement. By assessing effectiveness at the outset of the case, this approach provides feedback to lawyers during provision of service, thus creating the possibility for improved service and increasing the relevance of the assessment both to lawyers and clients. The use of customer satisfaction surveys is a standard procedures in most service industries. Our forms and procedures are modeled on the standard procedure used by health care providers.

Pilot Project to Assess Initial Interviews
For a description of the Pilot Project, see Clark D. Cunningham, The Client's Perspective on the Initial Interview: A Social Science Approach (pdf file)

Valuing What Clients Think: Standardized Clients and the Assessment of Communicative Competence (pdf) Karen Barton, Clark D. Cunningham, Gregory Todd Jones & Paul Maharg, 13 Clinical Law Review 1 (Fall 2006) (reporting empirical evidence that standardized clients can provide reliable assessment of client interviewing skillls) (presented at the 6th International Clinic Conference as Do We Value What Clients Think About Their Lawyers? If So, Why Don't We Measure It?)
-- Excerpts from Valuing What Clients Think (pp 1-6, 35-41, 50-54, appendices 4-6) (pdf) (to print using Adobe Acrobat, select "shrink large pages" for "Page Scaling" and un-check the box marked "Auto-Rotate and Center")
-- Excerpt from Paul Maharg, Transforming Legal Education 64 - 67 (2007) ( "How has [the Standardised Client Initiative] changed our teaching [at the Glasgow Graduate School of Law] ? The change is so significant and radical that we are still in the process of adapting and we shall be for some time.")

The Signet Accreditation Program for Lawyers in Scotland
The Society of Writers to Her Majesty's Signet (“The WS Society”), an independent membership organization for lawyers based in Edinburgh, is one of the oldest professional bodies in the world. The ELCC project is consulting with the WS Society on its plans to use Standardized Clients to assess both communicative competence and ethical decisionmaking for experienced lawyers who apply for its new Signet specialty accreditation program.

What Clients Want From Their Lawyers (August 2006) (prepared for the Society of Writers to Her Majesty's Signet, Scotland)
-- powerpoint presentation
-- D&W Training Exercise: Survey of Friends/Family about Causes of Client Dissatisfaction

Legal Education after Law School: Lessons from Scotland and England 33 Fordham Urban Law Journal 193 (2005) (presented at Conference on Professional Challenges in Large Firm Practices: Fordham Law School April 15, 2005)

Lessons from the Medical Profession

Assessing Quality Legal Services -- The Client's Viewpoint (Clinical Legal Education Association Workshop New York City July 8, 2000)

How to Explain Confidentiality?, Clark D. Cunningham, 9 Clinical Law Review 579 (2003) Click here to (1) read an on-line version with direct links for viewing videotaped simulations and other materials discussed in the article, (2) go directly to the videotapes, or (3) download a pdf version of the article.

Evaluating Effective Lawyer-Client Communications: An International Project to Move from Research to Reform (pdf file) Clark D. Cunningham, 67 Fordham Law Review 1959 (1999).

Taking It to the Streets: Putting Discourse Analysis to the Service of a Public Defender's Office, Clark D. Cunningham & Bonnie S. McElhinny, 2 Clinical Law Review 285-314 (1995).

The Lawyer as Translator, Representation as Text: Towards an Ethnography of Legal Discourse,(pdf file) Clark D. Cunningham, 77 Cornell Law Review 1298-1387 (1992).

A Tale of Two Clients: Thinking About Law as Language, (pdf file) Clark D. Cunningham, 87 Michigan Law Review 2459-2494 (1989).

ELCC Advisory Board

Bibliography: Books, Articles, and Cases

Guides to audiovisual materials

Links to related web sites:
Burge Endowment for Law & Ethics
Speciality Certification as an Incentive for Increased Professionalism: Lessons from Other Disciplines and Countries

For further information contact
Professor Clark D. Cunningham
Georgia State University College of Law

Last updated May 27, 2008