Skip to main content

Penn Law alumna advises first-year students on communicating with business clients

December 04, 2014

On December 2, first-year students at Penn Law had a special guest lecture from Pamela Craven CW’74, L’77, former Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel of Avaya Inc., on giving legal advice to business clients.

By Kathy Zhang C’17

On December 2, first-year students at Penn Law had a special guest speaker for their final Legal Practice Skills lecture before the holidays. Pamela Craven CW’74 L’77, the former Chief Administrative Officer and General Counsel of Avaya Inc., gave a lecture entitled, “Legal Advice to Business Clients in Real Time.”

Eleanor Barrett L’05, Associate Dean for Legal Practice Skills, invited Craven to come give a talk to the 1L students. “I just happened to have a conversation with Pam earlier this fall,” said Barrett, “and I realized she had a lot of good thoughts on how lawyers should communicate with one another and with business people, especially given her experience as general counsel for Avaya.”

Barrett and the rest of LPS faculty have been expanding ways for students to have more exposure and experience in communicating legal advice informally. Craven’s lecture complemented a recent exercise in which 1L students were put in a simulated meeting with a business client and had to explain to their client a portion of a long memo they wrote.

In her lecture, Craven spoke on how best to structure a lawyerly response to a client’s needs, especially with regards to written communication.

“A lot of [communication today] is being done without visual interaction,” said Craven. And part of the challenge in that, she explained, is that lawyers don’t really have the ability to see their clients face to face and get that “look of understanding.”

To that end, Craven advises aspiring lawyers to be able to give legal advice in simple, clear terms.

“Writing briefly and cogently is a skill. Business clients aren’t asking a question because they have an academic interest,” explained Craven. “They’re asking because they want to get something done.”

Tweets from the event: