Effective teamwork

As Panic! At the Disco's Brendan Urie reminded us in his duet with Taylor Swift: “Girl, there ain’t no I in ‘team’”. And this applies just as much to the collaborative process. 
Traditional perceptions of divorce are very much based around the concept of one person versus another. The collaborative approach turns this on its head, and instead focuses on building a team that will work together to resolve the issues that will help your clients move towards a positive future. 
On day two of Collaborative Family Law Week, we explore the process of building an effective team.
Diagonal lines
As lawyers leading the process, it’s important to make sure that you create a team, and not ‘two and two’. All lawyers are used to building a relationship with their clients. What lawyers in conventional practice may not be as familiar with is the frank and open relationship with the other lawyer which is vital in the collaborative process to creating the strong team needed to get the best possible outcome for both clients. 
And those who haven’t been involved in many (or any) collaborative cases before probably won’t have given much thought to the relationship between the lawyer and their client’s former husband, wife or partner. If this relationship works well, it can provide a dynamic unique to the collaborative process which can translate into better end results for all.  For this to work, both clients need to have confidence that both lawyers have their best interests at heart and that nobody is there to “stitch them up”. They need to believe that they will be helped and allowed to find the answers that suit them, and to understand that the role of the lawyers is to keep them within the parameters of what will - and won’t - be allowed by a court.
Getting it all out in the open
Disclosure can be a huge hurdle for a lot of people, who often feel very protective of money they have earned or inherited. Issues around finances are generally a big part of any separation, and there can be an underlying feeling from clients that, as soon as their ex knows exactly what’s at stake, they will go after every penny. 
In a recent case a client was reluctant to disclose an inheritance, which they felt their ex wasn’t entitled to. The fact was, when they made that disclosure, their ex agreed with them that the money shouldn’t form part of the financial settlement. As soon as this was clarified, the whole dynamic of the discussions changed, and we were able to move forward constructively. Being open and disclosing and defining what’s there means we know what we are working with and as a team we can work with that appropriately and look at lots of different options together.
Bringing in the right people 
Choosing the collaborative process means clients choosing a support team that will help them reach the outcomes that are best for them and their family. As well as their solicitors, they have access to a wider network of financial, pensions, coaching and counselling specialists who are trained in collaborative law and can give specific advice. 
This means that they have the right experts on hand when needed, working together to give them and their ex the information and advice they need to make the - often difficult - decisions they face. This can be invaluable in helping clients to reach agreement.
The success of the collaborative process is in no small part down to having the right team in place to support our clients. It is our responsibility, as their lawyers, to understand their needs and priorities and build the team that will help meet those needs in a fair, positive and constructive way. 
If you're interested in finding out more about the collaborative process, there's information available here, and you can read our previous CFLWeek post about building trust here.
Brighter Future