The First Client

Evaluating the effectiveness of the use of simulated clients to teach first year law students communication skills

In 2012 Newcastle Law School academics Dr Nicola Ross, Ann Apps, and Sher Campbell carried out research to determine the value of using a 'simulated client' as a teaching method for first year law students.

Overview and aim of research

The aim of this research project was to gain some insight into how students who were enrolled in Legal System and Method in 2012 responded to an interaction with a 'simulated client'. Each student was allocated a client by providing them with a link to a YouTube clip of an actor portraying either a respondent or claimant in a sexual harassment dispute. Students watched their allocated client respond to questions in several pre-recorded interviews. They were required to put together a client file by completing a number of interconnected tasks based on the information provided by their client. The activity was carefully designed to allow first year law students to develop legal written communication skills while at the same time exploring a range of experiences involving interactions with clients in a 'safe zone'. These experiences included conceptualising themselves as lawyers, experiencing some of the ethical and personal dilemmas they may be exposed to in their professional roles, contemplating the expanding role of the modern lawyer in the dispute resolution process, and reflecting on the role of emotion and empathy in working with clients.

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