Inaugural Collaborative Staff Training Imparts Valuable Lessons
I recently enjoyed the opportunity to attend the first ever in-person and live stream collaborative staff training, Open for Business, Managing Your Collaborative Practice for Passion & Profit, hosted by Joryn Jenkins at Open Palm Law. I have been a family law paralegal for three years. Last year, the firm by whom I am employed began practicing exclusively in out-of-court dispute resolution with a focus on collaborative law. I was excited and honored when Joryn invited me to attend her workshop and to co-present a session on ethics with her to an audience of both collaborative professionals and their staffers.
Attending Open For Business was energizing. Even when we love what we do, it can become automatic and mechanical. Our clients’ family issues become routine. We were all asked to share with the group what our clients say about us. It was a reminder that I choose to work with a collaborative family law firm because I care about families, and that we have a responsibility to treat every client and potential client with the utmost care, concern, attention, and respect.
The collaborative professionals for whom we work have striven to build their practices, and they need attentive, educated support staffers who also care about their clientele and the firm. Employing a trained staff enables them to focus more on their clients, and less on whether the office is running smoothly. The professionals invest in us because they believe in the power of teamwork, and in creating a great support team.
I love being able to tell clients that I have been to a collaborative training. They can have confidence in a firm that invests in its staff, and in thereby making collaborative practice better and more available.
But there’s more.
We can be a voice for our firm and for the collaborative process wherever we are. In the session on marketing tools, we worked on developing our own pitches. One of the most common questions asked when people meet is “What do you do for a living?” It has never occurred to some of us that this is an open door to market our firms and to educate others about collaborative practice. When we deliver an impressive pitch, we not only inform the folks to whom we speak, but it is more than likely that they will tell their family members, friends, and coworkers who have family law issues, or who know another person who does.
Support staffers serve an essential role in the collaborative process. When I speak to potential clients on that initial call, they want to know what makes a collaborative case different. My goal is to help them understand that it is worth coming in for a consultation to learn more.
Not every potential client readily agrees. He or she may not want to wait to have representation, and may choose not to spend the time and money to visit several law firms. He makes a decision by reading websites and speaking to support staff.
Fortunately, I have been able to provide insight into the process that I would not have had had I not attended this training.
It is exciting to explain to an anxious caller that local professionals are being trained and working to help them find a better way to get divorced. Most of them have never heard of legal, financial, and mental health professionals working with families in private meetings to reach a settlement agreement. I am able to explain that they will be asked to share their interests, to set their goals, and to build option scenarios for their futures. I can tell them that their team has been trained to help them with problem solving and communicating, especially about sensitive issues like child sharing. I am able to share testimonials that others have offered who have been through the process.
When we attend workshops, we are granted access to the experience of others, one of the most valuable tools available. I met a few at the training with whom I had worked but whom I had never met in person. I welcome the opportunity to network and share with other paralegals. Each professional has individual experience to bring to the table.
I was happy to share some of our office policies and procedures in my presentation. I hope they will help someone bring in another collaborative case, or render better services in those they already have. I took notes on many ideas that others shared, both presenters and attendees, that would be simple to implement to improve the office and help us better serve our clients.
The best lesson I learned? We can support each other on the journey to making collaborative practice better and more available, and should treat each other as indispensable resources. Thank you, Joryn!