DEI Resource of the Month
BY THE WSBA EQUITY AND JUSTICE TEAM
In fast-paced, deadline driven environments, it’s easy for us to see clients as case numbers and to-do lists. Stress can cause us to think of our interactions with clients as transactions: you’ll give me A (information, documents) so I can do B (my job). We often become confused and frustrated when clients are hesitant to provide information and hold up their end of this transaction—especially when it’s urgent and we’re trying to help them.
A simple but powerful shift is to use a relational approach to working with clients. A relational approach to lawyering is 1) recognizing that you and your client are both human, and 2) striving to build trust, mutuality, and connection in all your interactions.
From the very beginning, you can empower your clients by reminding them they are the expert in their own experiences. Listen to them to understand. Affirm their feelings. Ask them what outcome they are hoping for and help them make an informed decision instead of imposing your own beliefs.11 JustLeadWA’s Pro Bono Equity Training Guide has excellent information about how to build meaningful and equitable relationships with clients: https://justleadwa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Pro-Bono-Equity-Training-Guide-Final-August-2019.pdf. Down the line, if you do find yourself in need of information from your client to meet urgent deadlines, approach them with compassion and curiosity instead of frustration, and take a moment to ask the client what barriers they may be facing and if you can work together to overcome them. Although this relational approach may require more time and vulnerability, the trust you have built with the client will make them more willing to work with you.
1. JustLeadWA’s Pro Bono Equity Training Guide has excellent information about how to build meaningful and equitable relationships with clients: https://justleadwa.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Pro-Bono-Equity-Training-Guide-Final-August-2019.pdf.