Guide to Client Interviews for Paralegals

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April 22, 2019
Author: Lorman Education

As a paralegal, interviewing witnesses and clients is an ever evolving process. Each interview (and interviewee) is different-- how can you possibly prepare adequately for each and every one?

Fortunately, there are several tips and tricks that you can keep in mind before you head into your next interview. Whether you need some pointers on how to prepare and keep interviewees comfortable during the process or you're confused about what to ask, here's your primer on holding more effective interviews.

Effective Interviewing Techniques for Paralegals

Nail the Prep Work

It doesn't matter how well you can handle the actual interview process if you haven't done any work to properly prepare for it. Nailing your prep work is essential to an effective interview that's useful for you and doesn't present a hassle to your client.

Prior to your interview, there are a few steps you should be sure to take to ensure you're well-prepared:

  • Gather every pertinent document you can manage to find
    • Accident reports, consent forms, and other similar documentation
  • Understand how to put your client at ease
    • Think carefully about how you'll work questions
    • Research ways to instill and build confidence in your clients
    • Conduct yourself in a professional and empathetic manner
  • Put together a questionnaire
    • This will help guide your interview and ensure that critical details aren't overlooked

Establish Rapport and Build Trust

All of that prep work that you poured valuable time into won't do you much good if your client or witness feels uncomfortable during their interview. You need to make them feel comfortable with being open and honest with you-- and you're a total stranger. How do you do that?

  • Be courteous, polite, and friendly
  • Have quality conversations
    • Don't be afraid to get a little personal to break the ice, but avoid becoming overly-friendly, talkative, or personal
  • Remember that this isn't the time to show off
    • You don't need to burden your client with jargon and stuffy conversations
  • Exude confidence and maintain a good attitude, even in the face of mistakes

Consider Your Questioning Style

Different questioning styles will be more or less effective depending on your case, your client, and a variety of other factors. You'll need to choose whether to pursue more open-ended or closed-ended questions during the interview process; in many cases, a healthy mix of both can be achieved.

Open-ended questions are ideal for when you want to give clients the opportunity to give you sizable amounts of information. Answers may be difficult to follow, so it's crucial that you take good notes.

Closed-ended questions can be answered quickly; they're ideal for following up open-ended queries and they present the easiest avenue for gathering concise, factual information about an incident or event. 

Remember to Listen

Your interviewee could lead you to a gold mine of information, but you'll never know it if you aren't listening to what they're saying. It seems obvious that you should be listening closely to answers, but the leap from knowing what to do and actually doing it can prove rather large.

Utilize both passive and active listening. Passive listening doesn't involve reacting to what you hear, so it's critical to bring active listening into the fold, too. Active listening helps interviewees feel heard and understood-- it also gives you a chance to repeat information so that you can better absorb it. Blending both of these listening styles helps form one cohesive effort to understand and empathize with your client. 

Want to learn more about how to better serve your clients and fine-tune your interview process? Contact the team at Lorman Education Services today! Our friendly, knowledgeable team is passionate about helping you further your career and improve the skills you rely on in the workplace every day. Whether you're looking to learn something new or to delve deeper into familiar topics, we've got the resources you need to make it happen..


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