It is almost impossible to believe that my internship at GAIN will end in two weeks. I have gotten so accustomed to the work I'm doing at GAIN that I believe I will feel almost empty when it is over.
This week, I interacted with a client from the Victims of Violence program. They were an older client and they were the victim of an assault and attempted rape. My purpose in talking to them was to collect as much information as possible about the crime so that I could write their affidavit.
As I spoke with them over the phone, they became more and more emotional. They struggled to answer my questions and seemed reluctant to do so. In my time working with clients at GAIN, I have noticed this pattern. Many times, I have had to pull information from the client that I am working with. Most of the time, their refusal to provide important information comes from a place of ignorance. They are unaware of what information will be relevant to their case, so they leave out important details. Or they misremember the date and time, so they refuse to provide with that information. This has been the case with many of our Afghan clients.
But in some circumstances, as was the case with this VOV client, the hesitancy to share information stems from skepticism or lack of trust between us. It is an understandable reluctance. If I had been the victim of a horrific crime, I too would be unwilling to share that information with an intern.
This is the dilemma in client communications: you want to build a relationship so that the client can trust you but you have to also remain professional in your position as their attorney. My immediate instinct when I was on the phone with this client was to comfort them and to be their friend. However, as an attorney, a line must be drawn.
I believe this dissonance between the instinctual thing to do and the professional thing to do is what makes immigration law so personally challenging. It is hard to keep clients at a distance. It is hard to hear their stories without forming a bond to them.
I know that I will remember every client I worked with at GAIN. Their faces and their names and their stories.