Positive messaging

As lawyers, we talk a lot about raising awareness among potential clients about collaborative law and educating people about the process but, says Kiren Dulkoan from Ardent Law, we also need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves how well we are selling the positives within our own profession.
I see it a lot; there seems to be a real fear of ‘selling’ collaborative law as an option to prospective clients. In my view, this is in no small part down to the fact that people fear losing a client if the process breaks down and instead revert to the safety net of the traditional process. To make a success of collaborative practice, we need to get over that “what if it goes wrong” mindset and focus instead on how fantastic it will be for our client when it goes right.


What if it goes right?

Collab isn’t for everyone, and its success or otherwise is down to our ability, as lawyers, to spot the signs in those early discussions with prospective clients and to gain a real understanding of their mindset, needs and priorities. If every time we speak to a prospective client we defer to the “let’s start with the financials” approach and go through the motions of mentioning mediation, collab or arbitration in passing, we are not doing ourselves justice as DR professionals or giving clients the opportunity to explore the alternatives available to them.
If we don’t talk about collab in a positive way, how can we expect clients to embrace it? It means spending the time when somebody first comes through the door to understand where they are coming from and exploring alternatives to the traditional court process in a genuine way, with belief. If you honestly feel that another way will suit that client better, they are far more likely to recognise this and buy into it, too. If you’re not feeling it and believing in the process, then I guarantee the client won’t believe in it either. The fact is, if you all commit and invest in collab, you won’t lose the client because – guess what? The process works.


Well you would say that…

I know what you’re thinking. It’s very easy to say all of this once you have a few cases under your belt. Until you’ve experienced a collaborative case, it’s difficult to explain the benefits to a client. So, the question becomes: how can we get more people to experience the process, and see it working so that they can then evangelise about it themselves?

Some firms invite newly qualified collaborative lawyers to sit in on round table meetings to experience the process and see for themselves how it works. I think this experience is invaluable, and I would absolutely recommend it to help the next generation of collaborative lawyers see the positive and lasting effects the process can have. Once you have experience it first hand, it transforms the conversations you have with potential clients, because you are coming from a place of genuine experience and knowledge
Most of us are members of local pods. But are we using the knowledge and expertise within those pods to their best advantage? Are we talking to each other enough about the right things? Are we sharing experiences? Are we sharing positive outcomes? Are we talking about the tricky situations we have successfully navigated and sharing the tools and techniques we used to navigate them?


Sharing is caring

I believe that the key to the growth of collaborative family law is sharing positive experiences within the legal community. We know that clients who have experienced the process will recommend it to others, but are we doing the same with our collaborative colleagues who have never experienced a case?
Sharing experiences is so important. Whether that’s within your pod, within your firm, within your team, formally or informally – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we all do it, and the people with experience share that experience and positive messages about the process to help others grow in confidence.
It’s so easy to slip back into conventional ways, especially when you’ve got people in your team or firm who default to the ‘this is how we’ve always done it’ setting. Breaking the mould takes time, it takes practice and it takes determination. But in my experience, it pays off, and sharing those positive messages is something we should all be focusing on doing much more often, rather than looking to others to promote collaborative law for us. 

Kiren Dulkoan is a director at Ardent Law in York. Get in touch with her to find out more about collaborative law and how the process works.

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