Law Practice Management, 1221 WYBJ, Vol. 44 No. 6. 40

PositionVol. 44 6 Pg. 40

Law Practice Management

No. Vol. 44 No. 6 Pg. 40

Wyoming Bar Journal

December, 2021

Ten Ways to Have a More Constructive Conversation With Your Clients

Mark Bassingthwaighte A LP S Missoula, Montana

In the context of a conversation between an attorney and a client, effective communication occurs when both the attorney and the client feel they have been heard. For example, at the outset of representation, a client is often looking for confirmation that their lawyer understands what the problem and desired outcome is. Similarly, a lawyer is often looking for confirmation that the client has a clear understanding of what the lawyer can realistically do for the client given the circumstances at hand. Te challenge here is that an effective communication can only occur by way of a constructive conversation, which requires both participants to enter a mutual conversation. There must be a balance between talking and listening.

Tis balance thing can be harder than it might seem. Suffice it to say, that while I can be a good listener at times, having a constructive conversation every time I open my mouth remains a challenge and it’s all about my being unable to find that proper balance between talking and listening. In fact, in my personal life I have been told more than a few times by my lovely wife that if I would just listen, it would become apparent that she isn’t looking to have me solve her problem. Sometimes she just wants to be heard, to get it out, so to speak. Unfortunately, the lawyer problem solver in me just can’t shut up. I suspect I’m not the only lawyer who suffers from this conversational shortcoming. I don’t know about you, but law school taught me how to problem solve. I never had any law professor pontificate on the virtues of being an effective listener. Quite the opposite in fact, I was taught how to debate and how to put forth a compelling argument.

If any of this is striking a chord with you, following through with even one or two of the following tips will enable you to have a more constructive conversation with your clients. All ten tips come from a Ted Talk by noted author, journalist, and speaker Celeste Headlee. Te following are a summary of her points coupled with my trying to put an attorney-client conversation spin on them. If you care to view the entire Ted talk, and I encourage you to do so, you will find it at

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