Prof. (Dr.) M.R.K. Prasad
Dean Faculty of Law, Goa University
Principal, V.M.Salgaocar College Of Law
One of the primary functions of a lawyer is counseling the client. Legal profession like medical profession is a “helping profession.” Traditionally legal counseling was viewed as the lawyer advising the client regarding the client’s legal problem. In counseling usually the lawyer exercises a great deal of control over the outcome of counseling. In this whole exercise, the client becomes a passive spectator if not a mute spectator. This often results in the lawyer taking decisions on behalf of the client. This in fact had become an acceptable professional practice.
As times change, legal profession also undergoes tremendous change which resulted in the developing of “client – centered counseling”. Client centered counseling requires that lawyer assist the client in the way he/she needs rather than the lawyer taking any decisions on behalf of the client. Counseling is all about giving such information which a client would like to know regarding his legal problem/case. Client may require such information to take some decision about the course of action he/she may like to take in future. You must understand that the client approaches the lawyer because the lawyer has the ability to understand his/her problem.
Unlike other counseling, in legal counseling, the client may be looking at the lawyer for various remedies. Therefore, the lawyer needs to understand what the client wants. The lawyer is required to assess client’s goals, expectations and needs. While assessing so, the lawyer should look at the expectations of the client.
Unfortunately, client counseling was overlooked by many Law Schools in India. However, at VMSCL, client counseling is offered as a skill development course. It is a mandatory course taught my clinical teachers with the help of simulations. In addition the course also gives firsthand hand on approach to each student individually under the supervision of the faculty. Through this course the students also understand professional ethics and understand how to handle the expectations of clients when they are illegal or not realistic. The course is designed to make the younger generation of lawyers to be more client centered lawyers.