collaborative law is a team approach to joint problem solving. The team approach to joint problem solving has numerous advantages:
- We're smarter together: each team member brings a different background and expertise to the team. As the saying goes, a jack of all trades is a master of none. On a team, each person can be a master of their trade and rely on others for the knowledge they can't individually maintain. In addition, as humans, professional team members sometimes make mistakes. When we are open to feedback from other professionals, there is a greater chance that mistakes are minimized and corrected, ultimately offering a better service or product to the clients.
- We're better together: each team member brings different experiences to problem solving. Our experiences shape our ability to empathize and be creative in problem solving. Having different experiences at the table increases the likelihood of spotting biases that could limit our creativity. For example, on a divorce case it can be helpful to have some team members who have experienced divorce themselves, as they may be better able to identify with and explain some of the feelings that a client is expressing. Understanding is an integral step in finding resolutions that truly match the priorities and goals of each participant.
- We're stronger together: each team member is a resource for other team members in addition to being a resource to the clients. Difficult problems are not just draining on the resources of the clients, they can be draining on a professional team as well. The professionals are just as human as the participants and sometimes we have issues in our lives that are triggered by the case we're working on. When a professional team supports each other, we increase the ability for everyone to process their emotional reactions effectively and focus on joint problem solving.
- We're faster together: each team member's ability to focus on their area of expertise allows multiple projects to move forward simultaneously. While it may seem counter-intuitive that problem-solving is faster with more voices in the mix, when a team works together, effective delegation and coordination can make problem-solving more efficient. In a collaborative divorce case, for example, it is possible for the parties to work with the coach on parenting issues, while at the same time the financial neutral and attorneys are making sure that the financial documentation is processed and appropriate scenarios generated.
The key to all of this working is to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each team member and to respect the value of every team member. This is just as true in collaborative law work, as it is in any other team setting. At Skylark Law & Mediation, PC we rely heavily on the strengths and unique experiences of each of our team members.
It is all too common, unfortunately, for some people to be dismissive or rude to an administrative staff member, thinking that the person who answers the phone is not as important as the attorney or mediator working on their case. What that person doesn't understand is that every member of the team is an integral part, who controls different pieces of the puzzle. The clients who recognize the value of the team, benefit by lower costs because they spend less time with their attorney and mediator, using the full team for the strengths of each member.
Being rude, disrespectful, or dismissive to any one team member is likely to cost a client more in the long run, and ultimately minimizes the potential benefits outlined above. It's both polite and in your own best interest to respect the full team.
If you're interested in learning more about collaborative practice consider attending the upcoming Introduction to Collaborative Law Training from the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council, or reading this article: Improving Negotiations using Collaborative Values: A Checklist of Tools.