Conferencing can be done on paper but it is usually a chance to meet the client in person. This allows for their version of events to be heard, for advice to be given and instructions to be taken. It is important that the needs, wishes and concerns of the client are dealt with effectively but it is also a time when the client will receive a first impression of the barrister. The importance of this should not be lost and professional ethics and reputation should remain at the forefront of the practitioner's mind. At the same time as professionalism and confidence is shown it is important to remember that the client will be nervous therefore it is important to learn to put the client at ease as well as making them feel that they are in safe hands. Some amount of empathy and compassion will work wonders to compliment the preparation taken prior to the meeting and enable the desired outcome to be more easily achieved.
Preparation and an in depth knowledge of the case and its issues is vital. A competent practitioner should be in control and should guide the process. Conferencing demands excellent skills in fact management to identify the salient facts and matters arising, effective communications and thorough questioning techniques to elicit information. Any conference should have a logical structure and should include an introduction to explain its purpose, a main section to deal with the issues and a conclusion to clarify matters and advise.
The introduction should put the client at ease and explain each person's role. Client confidentiality should be explained, for example, explain why personal questions might be asked. It should define and set an agenda and clarify the structure of the meeting.
Appropriate language should be used to ensure the client understands every point that is raised and discussed and pertinent questions should be asked. It is vitally important that everything is listened to intently and reactions are appropriate and in accordance with what has been said. Time should be used efficiently and questions answered effectively.
The strengths and weaknesses of the case should be explained in clear and concise terms and any advice given should be realistic. The consequences of any action taken or not taken should be explained and any instructions taken should be clear, proportionate and in accordance with the client's wishes or needs. Of paramount importance is that both the practitioner and client are crystal clear on all aspects.
By following these steps and ensuring that the research and planning are carried out adequately a conference can be sure to meet the needs of all parties concerned and allows for the case or issue to move forward effectively and more expeditiously with everyone concerned in full and clear knowledge of all issues and requirements.