The externs in professional mode

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

My Most Memorable Client Interview

By Esther Kabia, Extern, LAWYERS

From what I learnt, the interview room at LAWYERS had seen its fair share of tears, but this was my first during an interview.

The young lady came into the office on the 13th December 2011.  I could see she was badly hurt, so I asked if she had gone for a medical report and treatment.  She boldly answered yes although she claimed she had left the necessary documents at home (I learnt later that she had never been).

She was evasive and refused to face me.  She was reluctant at first, and referred to me as Isata when I had introduced myself as Esther.  I was at a loss.  I had an opportunity to practice all I had learnt about client interview, yet my client wasn’t cooperating and it didn’t seem to be working.  It seemed that the young lady had not wanted to come forward on the issue.  Perhaps she had done so to appease the lady who had referred her to the office, someone whom I understood she held in high regard.

I was determined to make it work, and of work it did.  After almost 15minutes of meaningless chatter, she gave in.  I encouraged, persuaded and cajoled her.  She had been adamant, yet in an instant, something snapped and she burst into tears.  I gave her a hog and this was when she warmed up to me and started talking.  Phew!  My interview was on.

It turned out she had an abusive partner.  For any trivial reason he would beat her up and then to add to her injury, he would take their two year old daughter either to his mother or to a particular “lady lover” of his.  She had been cohabiting with him since 2007 and this had always been the case.  He provided n support for her she stated, yet he always took part of her meager salary as a waitress at a local restaurant.  This had fueled the argument which led to her severe beating this particular time.  She said “I don’t want a case, I don’t want to go to court, I don’t even want to return to his house.  All I want is my daughter.”

I gave the necessary legal advice and consolation.  I had a word with the Administrative Officer and set an appointment for my client.  My client left with a promise to show up for the appointment (a promise she never kept) and my phone number.

My client had left no contact number and when I visited her place of work I learnt she no longer worked there.  I spoke with the Administrative Officer and she assured me this was no unusual occurrence.  Some clients she said will not show up after the first visit, would never call and that would be the end of the case.

I am writing this post because I got call from this young lady.  She sounded different.  She informed me she had returned to her village to reside with her mother and raise her daughter.  She had been apprehensive of the legal clinic, however, it turned out she had used it and part of what she gained during out interview against her partner.  A partial illiterate himself, words like domestic violence, maintenance, court, trial, human rights abuse had led him to take his leave of her she stated.  She stated that he sent an undecided amount of money monthly for his child’s upkeep.  She sounded happy and promised to come see me at the office next she was in town.  

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