Lawyer-Client Communication

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This article is a topic within the subject Law, Lawyers and Society.

Required Reading

Y. Ross & P. MacFarlane, Lawyers’ Responsibility and Accountability: Cases, Problems and Commentary, Fourth Edition (Butterworth’s, 2012), pp. .

Working on Common Cross-cultural Communication Challenges, AMPU guide, 1997

  • [1] Communication styles: Communication messages can differ in ways from the semantic meanings of words to the body language and voice tong
  • Attitudes towards conflict: Is conflict positive or negative?
  • Approaches to completing tasks: Time, access to resources, focus on relationships or task completion
  • Decision-making styles: By oneself or delegated?
  • Attitudes toward disclosure: How much do people feel comfortable talking about themselves?
  • Approaches to knowing: Active evidence or striving towards transcendence?

Aboriginal English in the Courts, Queensland Government, 2000

  • [2] Access to justice: Often the use of jargon is a massive barrier. But for Indigenous communities, does anyone else actually speak their language, or even Indigenous dialects of English?
  • Over 200 Indigenous languages once existed, but only about four in Queensland still remain
  • [3] Questioning strategies: While direct questioning (interrogative) may be the Western way, there are cultural problems with using this style in Indigenous culture – indirect approaches work better
  • [4] Gratuitous concurrence: Can be good when establishing relationships, but not in courtrooms where the objective is to reach the truth. Avoid closed questions and intimidation, and invite witnesses
  • [5] Quantifiable specification: Often Indigenous people do not give precise quantifiable answers. Instead of specific dates, times, numbers or people, Indigenous people tend to give descriptions
  • [6] Negative questions: Didn’t you; Were you not etc

The Queen v Robyn Bella Kina, QLDSC, 29 November 1993

  • [7] Robyn Bella Kina was sentenced to life imprisonment for murder – but had no evidence at trial. Accusations of problems, difficulties, misunderstandings and mishaps occurring in the communication of my instructions which inhibited ability to do so
  • The appellant’s life, from childhood, has been filled with abuse, trauma and hardship
  • [8] Appellant was sexually molested as a child and worked as a sex worker after her mother died and she had an alcohol habit. She established a relationship with one client but he slowly became sexually abusive
  • [9] Appellant stabbed her sister while drunk and since then successfully went through rehab
  • [10] At the time of the fatal incident her partner made disparaging comments about her niece that made her feel concerned for her niece’s safety. She said she wielded the knife to threaten him against going near her niece.
  • “Neither (the ALS solicitor) nor any of the other lawyers … received any training ... concerning how to communicate or deal with Aborigines or Islanders”
  • [11] ALS solicitor expressed difficulties very similar to those outlined above in questioning. Kina was giving gratuitous concurrence on several occasions
  • I found it to be very common that clients were reluctant to discuss sexual matters


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Textbook refers to Y. Ross & P. MacFarlane, Lawyers’ Responsibility and Accountability: Cases, Problems and Commentary, Fourth Edition (Butterworth’s, 2012).

  1. Textbook, p. 59
  2. Textbook, p. 62
  3. Textbook, p. 63
  4. Textbook, p. 64
  5. Textbook, p. 65
  6. Textbook, p. 65A
  7. Textbook, p. 66
  8. Textbook, p. 67
  9. Textbook, p. 68
  10. Textbook, p. 69
  11. Textbook, p. 70
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