Client-Centered Lawyering— What It Isn’t

Several years ago, I happened to sit in on part of a colleague‟s class in family law. The professor showed clips from Kramer vs. Kramer, a movie involving a custody litigation between the divorced mother and father of a young child, whom both of them love. At the outset, the lawyer tells his client, the father, “I’ll have to play rough,” but he provides no explanation of what that means. Later, after the lawyer conducts a cruel cross-examination of the mother, the client first begins to understand, and says, “Did you have to be so rough on her?” The lawyer‟s only response is, “Do you want the kid or don‟t you?” The lawyer at no time makes any effort to counsel the client about the nature of hard-fought custody litigation, to suggest either an effort at conciliation with the mother or an amicable arrangement for sharing time with the child, or to seek out the client‟s true feelings and desires about possible courses of action. “That is client-centered lawyering, which is favored by my colleague, Professor Freedman,” the professor said disapprovingly.

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