Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1995

Disciplines

Law | Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility | Legal Profession

Abstract

There are more things of importance to representing clients than are disclosed through a typical interview or counseling session, even a session undertaken by a lawyer earnestly attempting to hear rather than ignore the client. We lawyers are often vividly aware, when we pause to contemplate the point, that we do not know all we should about our clients. We may also believe that we have great gulfs of knowledge and experience to cross in order to hear and understand any particular client. Further, we fear that our ability to cross these gulfs is limited by the human, and lawyerly, tendency to shoehorn clients' experiences into familiar, and seemingly useful, legal frameworks in a way that may obliterate the clients' own perceptions of their lives. The principles of legal ethics urge us to protect the dignity of the individual – but the techniques of representation that we master may jeopardize this very value.

It is quite understandable that lawyers would be ambivalent about investing great effort in ensuring that clients effectively and independently make the choices in their cases. To remain true to one's ethical, tactical, moral and human nature while presenting to a client the client's responsibility to make a decision and assisting the client to exercise that prerogative can be hard. It may cut against the grain of human nature to yield the power to decide. It may also cut against ingrained expectations that lay people should defer to expert professionals.

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