Effective communication is crucial in legal practice. A number of studies have been conducted on language and law, focusing on topics such as courtroom interaction patterns of prosecutors, defendants and witnesses. In legal education, the importance of such communication between lawyers and clients has been emphasised. In particular, listening comprehension skills of legal professionals and application of conversation analysis in client interviews were studied. This paper discusses findings from professional training of law school students in their lawyer-witness interview assessments. A total of 391 videotaped assessments in English of a cohort of postgraduate law students at the University of Hong Kong were collected. 10 top-scoring and 10 bottom-scoring recordings were extracted from the data and transcribed for the analysis. The analysis uncovers the differences between high and low scorers’ discursive practices in the interviews. By using the notion of affect in sociolinguistics, interactional patterns between the student-lawyer and the witness in each group were analysed, focusing categorically on the opening sequence. The findings suggest that the student-lawyer who scored high shows empathy by displaying her/his ability to understand the interviewee’s perspective about the events, i.e., by putting himself/herself in the interviewee’s shoes. Further, such display of empathy in the opening sequence has a significant bearing on the success of the interview in terms of the final and total score awarded. Those who incorporated affective communication earlier on in the interview ended up with better assessment scores.
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Chow, W.W., Wong, K., Hiramoto, M. et al. Tell Me What Happened: Pragmatics of Affect in Legal Communication. Int J Semiot Law 36, 561–577 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11196-022-09904-7