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Legal English Training UK runs lessons for lawyers who need to improve their English. This is an example of what a lawyer might learn in one of our classes.
There may be various situations where a legal practitioner has to meet clients. It might be a first interview to establish the facts of the case (if there is a case), it could be an introductory interview because another lawyer has passed their client over to you; or it might be a meeting that your or the client have called to discuss the current situation.
If it is an initial meeting, hopefully your staff have laid the groundwork and tried to get as much information from the client as possible. Tentative generic questions such as "May I ask what it is about?" should suffice. If it is an existing client, they will have a file which you can read through to get an idea of the client and the issue. Make sure that you do not get any telephone calls during the meeting - they are very bad show!
Greet the client warmly and engage in small talk: "Did you have trouble finding us?" or "It's terrible weather, isn't it?" will do. Offer the client tea or coffee. It is surprising how many hosts forget to do this - and it is terrible for a guest to have to ask.
"So, what can I do for you?" you ask your client, who responds that he wishes to "sue" one of his suppliers for various reasons. Allow the client to naturally develop on his ideas and show that you are listening with frequent short (yet formal) language: "I see" and "I understand." Ask relevant questions or tag questions to check your understanding: "So, let me see if I understand this correctly..." You can also demonstrate your comprehension through positive body language. Remember to take notes so that everything is clear in your mind.
Legal English is not appropriate with a client unless you are explaining very specific terms. Keep it to General English or Business English and treat the interview as a natural conversation. Open with a question such as "How can I help you?" and encourage the client to delve further by saying "Please tell me more about this."
If you are looking to advise the client, you might first wish to see what the client expects from involving the law and then you can frame your answer accordingly: "I will give you a brief overview of legal options available" or "The best thing to do, from a legal standpoint, is this..." You can go into greater detail in the legal letter.
Concluding the Interview
You will agree the next steps with your client: "What I am going to do next is to draft a letter to the supplier." or "Please send me the documents that you mentioned as soon as you find them, and then I can write to Mr X". Conclude the meeting by thanking the client for coming in to the office and promising to keep him updated as to what is happening: "Please don't hesitate to contact me if you can think of anything else."
For more information on Legal English Training, please contact Legal English UK by e-mail, filling in the form on this page, or by telephoning 020 3566 0145.