Several members of New Perimeter’s pro bono team attended the 5th Asia Pro Bono Conference in Sanur, Indonesia (on the island of Bali) between August 29 and September 1. I was fortunate to be one of them.  The turnout was nothing short of remarkable – over 300 participants from 30 nations!  Wow!! Established by BABSEACLE, one of our key partners, the Asia Pro Bono Conference brings together legal service providers from around the globe to share ideas, participate in workshops and advance the pro bono movement in Asia. 

DLA Piper/New Perimeter was a top tier organizer and sponsor, and our attorneys were front and center throughout the conference. Nicolas Patrick (London) was on the opening plenary panel and the other New Perimeter participants were speakers, moderators, and trainers in one or more of the many events and workshops that spanned the conference.  Other firm attendees included Suzanna Brickman (New Perimeter, Washington DC), Claire Donse (Paris), Annette Bain (Hong Kong), Catriona Martin (Sydney), Efthimia Goudakis (Melbourne) and Mohammed Rakinul Hakim (Bangkok). 

Legal Aid Client-Centered Lawyering Workshop (September 2)

Because we were already in Indonesia, we could not pass up the opportunity to add on an additional day of training for the local legal providers that work so hard to ensure that those who cannot afford legal services are represented. To that end, on September 2, Suzanna Brickman and I partnered with BABSEACLE to hold a workshop on client-centered lawyering at the Puri Dalem Hotel, Sanur, Indonesia.  We were joined by Miriam Chinnappa of Avocats Sans Frontières (ASF), Irina Zaitseva of the law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, and Nattakan (“Ann”) Chomputhong of BABSEACLE. 

The Participants

When we arrived on the morning of the training, we found that over 30 participants had arrived early and were eager to begin even before our scheduled start time. Right then, we knew it would be a great day. 

Attending the workshop were legal providers from the local legal aid office. Rather than simply sending attorneys, the legal aid office also sent paralegals and administrators.  This diverse group offered various perspectives which allowed for a rich discussion about how to best serve the client.

The Workshop

Client-centered lawyering is a process designed to empower the client and foster the client’s engagement in the legal process. The desired outcome of client-centered lawyering is to maximize the client’s autonomy.  After all, it is the client that should ultimately make the decisions, not the lawyer.

While this is an easy concept to discuss, it is often hard to practice because clients are looking to legal providers for answers and many legal providers are trained to simply provide what they think is the right solution.

Throughout the course of the day, we were able to work through many of these obstacles lawyers face when working to understand a client’s situation, motivations and desires. Through a combination of presentation, role play and group discussion, the participants were provided with tools to assist them in the future to better understand where the client is coming from and what a client really wants from a legal provider.  Topics included communications skills, listening skills and dealing with clients experiencing trauma and anxiety.  The use of role play was particularly effective in this workshop.

Final Thoughts

We concluded the day sitting in a circle and discussing what people learned. It was heartwarming to hear the desire of the participants to go back and start applying what they learned with their clients.  As one example of something that may be done differently, the participants discussed how impersonal and intimidating it can be to have a client fill out a written form before actually talking to someone.  I left the workshop with the real sense that the client intake process would become much more client-centered going forward.