Rehearsing Ethics: the lawyer-client case conference
A seminar by Bernard Keenan, PhD Candidate (LSE Law), Alain Pottage (LSE Law)
13 March 2015
1-2 pm, Multimedia Room
Sonic Arts Research centre
ABSTRACT: In this paper, we draw on participant observation of meetings in lawyers’ offices to explore a particular idiom of the ‘meeting’. Our focus is on the ‘conferences’ in which clients meet with their solicitor and barrister prior to an asylum appeal hearing. One of the objects of these meetings is to prepare the client for their appearance in court; to advise of them of what to expect and to introduce them to their advocate, hopefully so as to foster a relationship of trust. The template of these tripartite meetings is reproduced whatever the material context – whether the conference takes place in a holding cell or a barrister’s chambers. But the simple template can be actualized in very different ways, depending to a large extent on how the barrister construes and performs his or her ethical obligations to the client and the court. One of the key concerns of the barrister is to identify ‘gaps’ in the client’s evidence – absences or inconsistencies that might be exploited by the other side. The figure of ‘gap’ is the frame within which the anticipated dynamic of the eventual hearing is drawn into the dynamic of the conference. And within this moment of rehearsal a sense of ethics plays the crucial role in shaping the barrister’s judgement as to the permissible room for manoeuvre in prompting changes to the client’s narrative. In developing an account of the multiple temporalities of ethics, we engage with the question: given what we know about documents and texts as exemplary artifacts of knowledge, what happens when we shift attention to the framing of the ‘meeting’ as a space for the performance of ethical actions?