Challenges of 'Sameness': Pitfalls and Benefits to Assumed Connections in Lawyering

63 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2012  

Alexis Anderson

Boston College - Law School

Lynn Barenberg

Boston College - Law School

Carwina Weng

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Date Written: April 5, 2012

Abstract

Individuals are drawn to connect with other people because of shared experiences and personal characteristics. These connections often help people establish rapport, trust, and engagement. Surely these same benefits would apply in the lawyer-client relationship where a lawyer’s ability to find common links with her client would facilitate the lawyering process.

Perhaps that is true, but not necessarily and not without some potential costs. As clinical teachers, we have become increasingly wary that assumptions attributable to sameness can complicate lawyering. Untested assumptions, whatever their source, can impair lawyering judgments. In our collective experience, we have found that assumptions rooted in sameness are particularly seductive and bring unique challenges to our work.

Our aim therefore is to identify the assumptions that accompany sameness, to increase the likelihood that personal and experiential connections enhance the lawyer-client relationship and the lawyering process, and to minimize the possibility that they interfere. In addition, we explore how questions of sameness, or its complement, difference, arise in clinical supervision and provide suggestions to best address these questions with our students, our clients, and third parties within the justice system.

Our focus is on the intersection of difference and sameness, as they are assumed or actually exist between lawyer and client, and the effect of difference and sameness together on the lawyer-client relationship and the lawyering process. In our experience, lawyers and clients build professional relationships both because of shared personal characteristics or life experiences and in spite of them. Just as other commentators have helped lawyers develop methods for bridging difference, we seek to offer tools for dealing with the consequences of assumptions rooted in sameness. It is our hope that this inquiry will assist clinic students and their supervisors to acknowledge and deal with the normal human response of making and acting on connections. Ultimately, we hope that all lawyers will interact with clients with holistic awareness of sameness and difference.

Keywords: clinical legal education, psychology, social work

Suggested Citation

Anderson, Alexis and Barenberg, Lynn and Weng, Carwina, Challenges of 'Sameness': Pitfalls and Benefits to Assumed Connections in Lawyering (April 5, 2012). Clinical Law Review, Vol. 18, 2012; Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 261; Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper; NYLS Clinical Research Institute Paper No. 06/2012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2035059

Alexis Anderson (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States
617-552-0952 (Phone)

Lynn Barenberg

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States

Carwina Weng

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States

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