This Friday at 4:30 I am presenting at the 13th Annual ADR conference: Creative Conflict Management. My presentation is titled: Litigator to Collaborator, Changing from the Inside Out. If you are in the Seattle area and interested in mediation and transforming your practice, you might enjoy the two day conference.
I've been thinking about my presentation. In case you can't make it, here is what I will be highlighting:
1) Make no assumptions about what the other collaborative law attorney is thinking. Check out and clarify the hidden assumptions. Do you both agree to withhold information about the law until the clients have had a chance to air their grievances and start investigating the facts? Or are you going to coach your client early in the case as to how the law will apply? Imagine the conflicts that could arise if one client feels empowered and knowledgeable about the law while the other person feels powerless and misinformed, having been told by his or her attorney that there isn't any need to "know the law."
What other situations could breed conflict if the lawyers operate from two different perspectives? What about a commitment for both attorneys to seek coaching if they can't agree or work together well? We have an agreement to transparency in collaborative law; does this mean that you have to volunteer that your client will begin working hard to get a raise right after the divorce? Is it OK to disclose this type of information only if asked?
2) Bad, annoying habits make for bad collaborative lawyers. Personality traits that irritate and distance people from you in your personal relationships will have the same effect, most likely, in your collaborative career. Figure out what these are. Change. Or at least learn how to reign yourself in a bit. Examples: talking excessively or having to be the expert. Learn to let go and let someone else be smarter or more articulate sometimes.
3) As the mother of collaborative law says, "what makes me a better person, also makes me a better collaborative lawyer." We aren't going to shift into a new language overnight. Collaborative law often occurs during tense sessions with emotional clients. People are uptight. It's hard to practice new language skills in those situations. It's easier if you've gradually been adding new vocabulary and phrases slowly during less stressful times. Only the phrases you've added to long term memory are going to be the ones that come to mind when you start sweating it out in a heated 4-way meeting. Cultivate an appreciation for conciliatory language. Here are some of my favorites: So what I hear you saying is... I think we have an agreement on... I want to compliment both of you on well you were able to work through... Do you see where you are in agreement about... I understand you are angry about XYZ, can you tell us where things have worked successfully this past week... You say ABC, but I'm noticing DEF, can you explain this difference?
If you are interested in seeing my presentation, call me at 206/932-9699 and I'll see if I can get you into my session. Otherwise, you can sign up for the whole two-day event. The conference website is at www.mediate.com/nwadr. It starts this Friday (April 29) at 1:00.