Talk Don’t Touch? Considerations for Children’s Attorneys on the Physical Touch of Clients

51 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2016

See all articles by Andrea Dennis

Andrea Dennis

University of Georgia School of Law

Date Written: 2015

Abstract

Researchers focused on the representation of children and attorneys for children have taken great pains to explore issues surrounding the attorney-child client relationship and recommend strategies and policies supporting positive development of the relationship. Notwithstanding the breadth of available information, almost no attention has been aimed at whether attorneys should physically touch their clients. This article fills that gap.

This Article consists of three parts. Part I describes the literature commanding attorneys for children to develop quality relationships with their clients. These works recognize that young clients seek good relationships with their attorneys, but that barriers to creating quality relationships may exist. Next, Part I summarizes the current state of scientific knowledge regarding touch. Finally, Part I explains the potential benefits when attorneys use touch in their professional role.

Part II reveals the glaring lack of guidance offered to children’s attorneys regarding whether it is appropriate to physically touch their clients and the reasons to caution against attorneys doing so. Explaining that neither ethical nor professional standards prevent attorneys from touching their clients in non-sexual, pro-social ways, Part II begins by revealing that the existing literature fails to consider touch as a possible tool for developing a quality relationship. Part II then examines the potential negative outcomes that may occur when an attorney physically touches a child client. Not only may the child or attorney-client relationship be affected negatively, but the attorney may also be negatively influenced.

Drawing upon the first two Parts, Part III offers several suggestions for addressing the matter. It begins by reviewing approaches taken by other professionals who work closely with children. These occupations, which embrace different perspectives, offer worthwhile viewpoints for consideration. Part III then proposes that all attorneys for children receive training on whether and how to appropriately touch child clients. Finally, Part III recommends that legal organizations and lawyers for children adopt formal policies governing attorney-client touch.

Keywords: children, juvenile law, clients, Fordham Recommendations, UNLV Recommendations, legal representation, adolescents, communication, attorney-child client relationship, professional conduct

JEL Classification: K10

Suggested Citation

Dennis, Andrea, Talk Don’t Touch? Considerations for Children’s Attorneys on the Physical Touch of Clients (2015). Catholic University Law Review, Vol. 65, 2015, UGA Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2016-16, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2760073

Andrea Dennis (Contact Author)

University of Georgia School of Law ( email )

225 Herty Drive
Athens, GA 30602
United States
706-542-3130 (Phone)

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