Client-Advisor Relationship

This section will explain how the Nairobi code governs the client-advisor relationship, and what each person’s responsibilities are. First, read the information below. Then, take the quiz on the training activities page to test your understanding of the client-advisor relationship. At the end of this training, you should have a better understanding of the client-advisor relationship.

As a legal adviser, you have responsibilities to a prospective client from the moment he or she comes to seek your help. The Nairobi Code governs these responsibilities.

Imagine that a prospective client walks in the door. What do you, as a legal adviser, do first?

  • You must clearly explain whether you can offer your services, and explain the services that you can offer.
    • Any information the person tells you about him or herself in this conversation is confidential.
  • You also need to make clear the objectives and scope of your legal services.
    • Objectives: Help client prepare for first UNHCR RSD interivew; Help client draft testimony; Draft legal brief
    • Scope: First UNHCR RSD interview only; No appeal or Request for Review
  • The person will become your client only when he or she voluntarily consents to your services as a legal adviser, and after being informed of the objectives and scope of the services to which you have agreed.
  • The person will stop being your client if he or she clearly and explicitly tell you, in writing or orally, that he or she no longer wants your assistance, or is he or she makes an allegation of ethical misconduct against you.
  • The person will also stop being your client if you withdraw from representation, either because you cannot agree on the goals or strategies of the representation, or because you are ethically required to withdraw.

The client is the one in control of the relationship. Once the legal adviser has agreed to provide representation, and both people have agreed on the scope of the representation, the client has the final say.

The Nairobi Code is explicit about this – it says in section 3.6:
“Clients should remain in control of the goals of representation. If…the client and adviser are unable to agree on the goals or strategies of representation, the adviser may withdraw from representation.”

The work done on his or her case belongs to the client. He or she has the right to view and obtain copies of all materials in his or her files. This duty does not apply to work product and lawyer’s meeting notes. However, as the legal adviser, you have the right to maintain records of your work on a client’s case. Thus, you are not required to destroy a client’s files, even if the client requests it.

It is also your responsibility to notify the decision-making body when you are no longer representing the client.