Lawyers & Clients The Initial Interview

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Robert H. Mnookin and Susan Hackley

An illustration of interviewing and listening techniques appropriate for lawyer-client interviews, featuring Harvard Law School Professor Robert Mnookin

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Developed by Professor Robert Mnookin of Harvard Law School, this video illustrates interviewing and active listening techniques appropriate for lawyer-client negotiations or for similar agent-principal negotiations. Specifically, the video demonstrates effective, pragmatic ways for lawyers to establish a solid professional relationship with their clients based on effective communication skills.

In Lawyers and Clients: The Initial Interview, Mnookin provides negotiation advice and commentary interspersed with two simulated lawyer-client interviews based on the PON role simulation "Eazy's Garage (Four-Party Version)" (also available through the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center). In the two interviews, different actresses portray Susan Garfield (a customer thinking of suing the owner of an automobile repair garage over what she perceives to be an unfairly high repair bill), and different actors portray Susan's lawyer. As the lawyers interview their respective clients, Mnookin interrupts their conversations with observations on practical maneuvers the lawyers could use in order to demonstrate empathy, to explore interests behind their client’s positions, and to explain the legal opportunities and risks involved in the case.

This video provides a visual illustration of the theories presented in Mnookin’s book Beyond Winning: Negotiating to Create Value in Deals and Disputes (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000; also available from the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center). Professor Robert Mnookin is the Samuel Williston Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Program on Negotiation.

The 2008 re-release of this video on DVD includes a chapter index as well as extensive teaching notes.

Lawyers & Clients Attributes

Time required: 30 minutes - 1 hour
Teaching notes available: No
Produced by: Robert H. Mnookin (featured) and Susan Hackley (producer)Program on Negotiation, 1998
Run Time:: 35 minutes