Baylor Law Client Counseling Team to Compete in National Tournament

March 4, 2011
by Brittany Hardy

Brittney Johnson and Paul Green will leave March 11 to represent Baylor Law School at the ABA Client Counseling Nationals. The team won the regional competition in February. The two-student team is coached by Student Coach Lauren Sepulveda and Coach Vik Deivanayagam.

"With Client Counseling, we don't really know what our problems will be," Johnson said.

The team was given a "memo," a one-sentence fact statement about the client.

"It will usually say something to the effect of 'Jane Doe wants to see you about a problem she is having with a contract,'" Johnson said.

The actual relevant legal issue to the client counseling competition may or may not have anything to do with the issue mentioned in the memo. This year's topic of the client counseling competition is professional responsibility.

"Once we're in the actual competition round, our job is to interview the client in a cordial manner, spot the legal issues and counsel the client on the law and their options to resolve their predicament," Johnson said.

During the interview with the client, the team tries to get the client to disclose as much information about his or her situation as possible.

After the interview with the client, the pair engages in what is known as a post-consultation discussion. During this time, they discuss with each other any concerns they may have about the legal issues involved in the case, any variables that may interfere with their ability to provide the client with the legal outcome they desire, and how we plan to address those hurdles.

The judges score the on all of these tasks.

The majority of the team's practices consist of conducting practice interviews like the ones they will conduct at the competition.

"A few of our practices are devoted to making sure we know all the laws and rules related to this year's topic of professional responsibility," Johnson said, "While it is essential that we know the law and rules about professional responsibility, it is perhaps even more important that we become skilled at spotting the issues while engaging in a conversation with the client. "

To do this, the team has had to become skilled at knowing which questions to ask and how to ask them in a way that makes the client disclose all the relevant information that we need to efficiently counsel them on the law.

"I know it may sound dry and boring, but it is actually a lot of fun- impromptu fun, that is," Johnson said, "It's fun coming up with all of it as you go along. It's also fun to make the parts of the interaction with your client that you planned to say all along sound as though you just made them up on the spot just for them. To me, it is kind of like a mix between law and a theatrical performance. I love it."
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