Connection, Capacity & Morality in Lawyer-Client Relationships: Dialogues and Commentary

Document Type


Publication Date



As important, and difficult, as it is to offer new law students clear and helpful frameworks for the interpersonal work of lawyering, doing so is only part of what a clinical textbook may aspire to. In our textbook-in-progress, we hope to offer both frameworks and support for students' sense of the incompleteness of every framework and for their recognition of the need for careful, flexible response to each individual client. Even care and flexibility by themselves are not enough, however, and every text must choose which aspects of lawyer-client relationships it will emphasize most. In the sections that follow, we focus on lawyers' development of connection in context, emotional connection and common ground with clients forged even across considerable gaps of difference; on the application of these skills across especially large contextual gaps, as illustrated in an interview with a client with a mild intellectual disability; and on the ethics and skills of making one special form of connection with a client, the moral relationship entailed in a moral dialogue. These dialogues and commentaries explore many complex moments between lawyer and client, but they also reaffirm the central importance of a fundamental skill and virtue - listening - in the lawyer's work of creating, in each case, a theory of the representation.