Koren Hardy, Denise Diao, Megan Dyer, Hailey Cleek,
Nathan Young, Briana Whalin, Sarah Warren and Jonathan Hermes
CHECKLIST OR NO CHECKLIST?
I sometimes nudge the students in opposite directions:
- Use a checklist (or you will miss something)!
- Don’t use a checklist (or you will miss something)!
- Put down the pen and talk with your client!
- Pick up your pen and take good notes!
Fortunately, the students learn to find a balance between structure and flexibility. A checklist gives a sense of security and predictability, especially for a learner, but this feeling can turn out to be false.
As Megan Dyer observes: “Before my first client meeting, I wrote out everything I was going to say about the legal issue stated on the intake sheet. It turned out very differently! I have learned that my first task must be to listen to the client, learn what his or her goals or legal concerns are and then formulate a plan to address the client’s situation. I have to go where the case takes me.”
Nathan Young writes: “I learned something fundamental about working in law: to let myself be human. When you are nervous and concerned about your ability to do a new job, it is easy to default to routine. Stare at the file, take notes, go down checklists, anything to avoid a mistake you are afraid will ruin the client’s impression of you. In the process, you distance yourself from the client, from any connection that would help communicate what the client really wants and needs.
“Lists, detailed procedure, and complete notes were a crutch for me and a wall between me and the client. When you put down the pen and look the client in the eye, mistakes might get made (and in my case, mistakes were made); you might miss an item on the checklist and have to call later. However, failing to just talk to your clients is worse than missing a minor detail that can be corrected. Elder law is a relational field of work and the experience of working with clients, person-to-person, really brought that point home.”
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