Don't be Afraid

I hear a lot of reasons why people aren’t doing many collaborative cases. A lot of them are valid, but I would challenge you to ask yourself: could fear be one of the things that might be holding you back? If it is, you certainly wouldn’t be alone. 
It can feel as though there’s plenty to be afraid of if you’ve never run a collaborative case before. Here are some of the fears I come across most often when talking to other lawyers.  
Showing emotion
Let’s face it: solicitors aren’t renowned for being ‘good at emotion’. But you can’t escape the fact that separation and divorce are incredibly emotional experiences. And sometimes, showing emotion yourself can help clients feel more comfortable with you. After all, you are giving them a safe space to express and deal with some of the emotions they are experiencing as they come to terms with a new normal.  
Personally, I don’t think we should be afraid of showing our human side. Particularly if a client is struggling. If you’ve been through a similar experience, sharing this with your client can really help. Not only does it show that lawyers are human after all (who knew?!) but you are also living proof that they will get through this, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. 
Asking for help
Asking for help is seen by some as a sign of weakness. I think it’s a sign of real strength, and I would urge you not to be afraid of asking for help in the collaborative process. 
It might be help from another solicitor or from an external consultant, such as a family consultant or specialist financial or pensions adviser. What they do isn’t the point. The point is that you can’t possibly know everything about everything, and that’s ok. Bringing in a specialist can help you navigate sticking points in round table discussions and help you help your clients reach agreements.
Stepping in  
It isn’t easy seeing your clients getting angry and upset, and you don’t want to negate that emotion. But it is your role as solicitors in the collaborative process to keep discussions within the terms of the participation agreement, and sometimes this means you have to intervene. It isn’t always easy to do, but sometimes all it takes is a short break, a change of scenery and a bit of time for clients to feel calmer and bring discussions back on track. 
Trying something new  
And, if that technique doesn’t work, try something new. I heard from one lawyer that during a particularly unproductive discussion she stopped the conversation, opened the window and ‘threw out all of the nonsense so that they could restart the discussions on a different footing’. And it worked. Sometimes we want to try new things, but fear stops us. What’s the worst that can happen? The technique doesn’t work and you try another one…so what? We all live and learn. 
Hearing that ‘it’s ok to…’ can often help us move from a place of fear to somewhere within our comfort zone. I hope, if you do have any fears around the collaborative process, that this post might have helped allay some of them.

Kiren Dulkoan runs Ardent Law in York. 
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