LMX Theory between Lawyers and Clients

Devon is the central attorney to her practice, as she is its owner and partner. Therefore, Devon handles every case brought forward by her clients from start to finish. The nature of the practices in which her firm focuses directly correlates with a population of individuals who have a history of criminal offenses and little personal contacts or family. I have witnessed how the clientele confides in Devon, often considering her to be more of a friend and personal contact. I have also witnessed how certain clients rely on Devon both before being incarcerated and while in prison. Part of my daily tasks entail reading through mail, most of which are hand-written letters from Rikers. I have noticed how some letters do not include new information for their case, but instead say they are listing Devon as a personal contact or mere updates on their life outside of their case. Devon’s clientele is often under-privileged individuals with broken home lives, little education, and in one way or another found themselves against the justice system. Therefore, her support is extremely significant and often a stable component of their life they might not otherwise have.

The Leader Member Exchange theory of Leadership (LMX) relates to the interactions between leaders and followers and explains why leaders ought to form individualized relationships with their followers. I have seen LMX as it exists within Devon’s relationships with her clients. I recall the original intent of the practice itself to be a “personalized experience,” and I understand this to manifest between the attorney-client relationship. Evidence that clients feel comfortable with Devon and communicate with her on a frequent basis contribute to this personalized experience as well as underscore the importance of developing strong relationships. LMX theory states several benefits for both leaders and followers, but a major benefit especially for an attorney are referrals she receives as a result. For instance, a client named John calls the office every day from prison. Although this is mostly unnecessary and probably the only phone number he has to call, his reliance on the firm to be a source of communication illustrates his dependence on his relationship with his attorney. I have learned that there are several other clients that are referrals from John, and that it is not unusual for criminal defense attorneys to be a topic of conversation amongst inmates.

Considering my internship through the lens of LMX theory is extremely insightful in understanding client-attorney relationships, especially in the sort of firm I am experiencing. Because of the strong relationships Devon maintains with her clients, I have seen she is more effective in serving as their voice. Because her clients feel more comfortable speaking with her about their criminal conduct, they are more open to being honest when informing her about what happened. I have seen a high degree of trust, respect, and obligation within the relationship between Devon and her clients. I find this to correlate with her success in understanding the most effective way to handle each individual case she is confronted with.

One thought on “LMX Theory between Lawyers and Clients

  • June 14, 2019 at 11:17 am

    Indeed it does sound like she develops strong relationships with the individuals she is serving and that beyond providing legal services, she provides support in many other ways. It will be interesting to see, as you continue, if such strong relationships can ever negatively affect her representation and/or effective defense of a client; hard to imagine, but perhaps there would be instances and there is a limit at which point such relationships can become an obstacle? You reference her relationships as making her ‘more effective’ in terms of representing her clients; what is the basis for that, where have you observed the relationships and efficacy of other attorneys?

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