Client Counseling Skills Workshop

By Tep Punloeu, Associate Dean for College of Law

The fourth annual Client Counseling Skills Workshop, funded by USAID and jointly organized by the East-West Management Institute’s Program on Rights and Justice and the American Bar Association, was held at the PGCT Center in Phnom Penh on December 17, 2010.

The workshop was conducted for a full day with participants from seven universities. As the Associate Dean of the College of Law, I led a group of 19 University of Cambodia (UC) students to the event. The students benefited a lot from the two lectures: one on basic client counseling skills and the other on the code of ethics for lawyers.

The basic client counseling skills lecture was presented by Mr. Steven M. Austermiller, an American attorney-at-law and legal education advisor to EWMI. Significantly, this presentation helped students to understand various important aspects such as: what to deal with at the initial client meeting, interview techniques, gathering useful information from the client, listening skills, behavior of the lawyer during the counseling session, questioning techniques and advising the client.

Mr. Soun Visal, Secretary-General of the Bar Association of the Kingdom of Cambodia, presented the code of ethics for lawyers by concentrating on two main points – ethics and moral values, and misconduct.

After the presentations and a question-and-answer session, there was an opportunity for participants from each university to practice their own skills in the workshop. Mr. Ngov Houtchhay and Miss Sokkhea GechChheng were UC’s representatives; both of them received positive feedback from the two judges on their ability to ask questions, their listening skills and their ability to make clients feel confident in answering questions.

I understand that both of them had a lot of difficulties because it was the first time for them and the case was mainly related to family law which they have not studied completely yet. However, they exceeded my expectations in terms of questioning, body language, eye contact, good teamwork and providing several good options to the client.

Ing Veasna, a term 5 College of Law student, was very excited to be a part of the client counseling workshop. The most important skill he learned was active listening. “You have to listen carefully to your client, pay attention to body language, make eye contact, focus on the story, and figure out the facts versus the assumptions clients make,” Veasna explained. “And even though the workshop was only a few hours, I feel like I learned for an entire month.” Veasna was pleasantly surprised to have learned such valuable information in a short time period, and looks forward to participating in s client counseling competition in 2011. He plans on becoming a lawyer in the future and enjoys connecting with people to help them resolve legal problems.

“After the workshop, I really, really want to be a lawyer now,” he stated.