Negotiating the Lawyer-Client Relationship: A Search for Equality and Collaboration
Hurder, Alex J.
Two law students under the supervision of a law professor represented M. Dujon Johnson by court appointment on a misdemeanor charge in a Midwestern state's trial court. The lawyers investigated the case thoroughly, interviewed their client, developed a theory of the case, and represented Mr. Johnson aggressively. When the case came to trial the prosecutor asked the judge to dismiss the case, a victory for the defense. The client was furious. He was angry at the court and angry at his lawyers. Taking advantage of their unexpected free time, the law professor, the two law students and their client began a discussion of their relationship. It was a discussion that should have begun when they first met. Johnson's case poses the question for clinical legal education of how relationships of equality and collaboration between lawyers and clients can be created and sustained. The texts on legal interviewing and counseling that have been most influential in clinical legal education have not provided a satisfactory answer to the question. Leading texts on professional responsibility also fail to answer the question. The issues that were not raised in the initial interview with Johnson--his goals, the means he would choose to pursue the goals, the division of responsibility between Johnson and his lawyers, and the rules governing the interaction between Johnson and the lawyers--were all critical terms of the lawyer-client relationship. They are issues that must be decided jointly by the lawyer and client because they determine the actions to be taken by both. The process for making joint decisions is negotiation.