Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1986


What happens when lawyer and client first meet? How do they talk, how do they listen, what do they say, and what do they do? The answers to these questions are generated, and then lost, in thousands of law offices daily. There is thus a treasure of information, but it is mostly hidden from our view by legal barriers that protect privacy and confidentiality and by other barriers, economic, psychological, and logistical, that inhibit or preclude third party observation of lawyer-client contact. This Article reports an exploratory journey in search of that treasure, a journey into six law offices in the metropolitan areas of two states. In these offices I observed the initial consultation between consumer bankruptcy lawyers and individuals seeking legal assistance in connection with personal financial distress. The report of my observations introduces Lawyers A through F, each of whom devotes a significant portion of their time to consumer bankruptcy counseling. It describes the general structural characteristics and pertinent details of the consumer bankruptcy law practice of each lawyer. The report also identifies the differing attitudes of these lawyers about the alternative solutions to the financial distress of their consumer bankruptcy clients and reveals significant differences in the structure, content, and style of their interviewing and counseling behavior. This prosaic description is complemented by samples of dialogues between the lawyers and clients whom I observed. The dialogues are reproduced in Appendix, A.

I have strived to observe carefully and to report faithfully. To the extent of my success in that effort, the descriptions of lawyer-client contact that follow offer a meaningful picture of interviewing and counseling behavior in the metropolitan consumer bankruptcy law office.



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