Tomorrow evening (Thursday, February 19) we are going to watch a DVD called Lawyers and Clients: The Initial Interview featuring Professor Robert H. Mnookin of the Harvard Negotiation Research Project. If we have time after our initial discussion, we'll watch it twice.
First, some context. Both at the start of the film and at the end, Professor Mnookin explains how interviewing and counseling fit together with negotiation. He starts by saying that the relationship between attorney and client is itself something that has to be negotiated, and he closes by reminding us that an effective client-attorney relationship is a precondition for productive settlement negotiations. Please keep that in mind, and think about how the three aspects of this course overlap.
Now for your tasks. Before we start watching the film tomorrow, think back to yesterday's class and ask yourself this question: What are the objectives of the initial interview? While we watch the film, look for examples of the attorneys (Eric and Gerald) meeting those objectives and missing them. Notice how the meeting between Eric and the client, Dr. Susan Garfield, becomes an arm-wrestling match. What is at the root of that? What changes could Eric make to his choice of words, his use of silence, his posture and -- most importantly -- his basic assumptions about the purpose of the meeting to prevent the interview becoming a battle of wills?
The second attorney, Gerald, seems to score better than Eric in terms of eye contact, empathy, and active listening, but I think there is something fundamentally wrong about the way he assigns roles. What is it? The picture below will make more sense when we get to that part of the DVD, by the way.
In addition to noticing how Eric and Gerald conduct themselves, and how their clients respond, I would also like you to pay attention to Professor Mnookin. From time to time he says "cut" and steps on stage to give advice. And after each interview he sits down with Eric and Gerald for a debriefing. Watch how he, Mnookin, asks questions, expresses emotions with his face, and uses his hands.
Finally, look out for examples of active listening techniques such as open questions, clarifying or closed questions, requests for clarification, summaries, reframing statements, and acknowledging emotions. Look out for their absence too. Make note of junctures where one or more of those techniques could have moved the interview in a better direction.