Let’s talk about how to capitalize on what I’m going to call “Collabortunities.” (Yes, I just coined a new word.) The COVID-19 outbreak has brought financial devastation to many small businesses. But it has also brought those with authentic entrepreneurial spirit a sea of opportunities. How can you ensure that your collaborative practice thrives during this trying time when so many will, no doubt, fail?
Work on expanding your partnerships. You may feel more alone than ever, and it feel counterintuitive to try to develop partners during this pandemic. However, just because you aren’t able to meet in person, there are numerous virtual ways to increase your connections. And many of us currently have less work, so more time to massage those relationships for which they may not always have had the time.
COVID-19 Collabortunity Tips
1. Retain professionals for your next collaborative divorce team from anywhere in your state; after all, distance doesn’t matter virtually. Our collaborative client conferences are occurring on meeting websites like Zoom, so why not seize this opportunity to partner with professionals from anywhere in the state with whom you’ve never had a matter? As long as he or she is licensed to practice in your venue and trained collaboratively, then the sky (or at least the state boundary!) is the limit.
I was doing this as director of Tampa Bay’s Pro Bono Collaborative Divorce Project long before the virus struck, so I can assure you that it works. My first out-of-area participant, from Stuart, Florida, went on to organize that county’s first collaborative practice group, so you might even help other counties and practice groups grow their experience by working with newer collaborative professionals.
Remember, by spreading the word, we all get more work.
2. Attend practice group or POD meetings in other communities that you might not otherwise have the opportunity to visit; you don’t have to drive there now, so see how the other side lives. You’ll get great ideas about how to run a meeting, how to help couples negotiate, how to teach better communication, really, all things collaborative. Even the strongest professionals tend to get stuck in a rut, doing things the same old way and with the same people. But there are so many right ways to collaborate and good folks with whom to work.
Now is not the time to allow circumstances to limit us. Now is the time to learn new ways of doing things. After all, isn’t that what collaborative practice is all about?!
3. Learn from others. By working with professionals from diverse communities with differing approaches to the practice, you’ll all cross mentor. See how our processes differ from yours. Perhaps I’ve tried the two-coach model while you never have. Do you caucus or have individual meetings more often than I do? Do I empower my clients to retain the neutrals before hiring the lawyers, which never occurred to you to try? Have you successfully handled a collaborative divorce in which the spouses had already been in front of a domestic violence court for an injunction, which I never thought could be accomplished?
All these differences and more I have seen in my travels. Learn from others. Education is power, and the more we learn about collaborative practice, the more successful we will all be.
4. Educate others about the collaborative experience. Whether it’s law students, interns, clerks, paralegals, office assistants, judges, new professionals, or the more experienced ones, by presenting webinars on collaborative practice, you’ll teach others about your passion for this practice. Even for those who don’t practice family law, you can offer remote instruction about collaborative and other forms of alternative dispute resolution processes that are used more prevalently in other areas of the law.
At the very least, you’ll create new referral partnerships. If you’re lucky, you’ll leave with even more. I was already scheduled to teach Introduction to Collaborative Divorce and Expand Your Credibility by Publishing at a local museum when we went into lockdown. The museum quickly changed horses and organized the day of webinar sessions to take place virtually. Instead of declining, my registrant count grew, as attendees now joined us from further away. At the end of the day, I had a new divorce client, as well as a new customer from another state for my publishing services!
5. Earn money for presenting collaborative trainings and webinars virtually! Choose a panel of respected collaborative professionals, from communities across the world, and discuss collaborative topics weekly. Charge registrants to attend.
6. Last, but certainly not least, as you expand your vision, you now realize that clients from anywhere in the state can retain your collaborative services. This way, you can market your collaborative practice and spread the word to communities in which it is not utilized as often.
Master Your Virtual Meeting
Think of the time you’ll save by attending meetings and collaborative events virtually! No travel time. Your invoices will be less because your clients won’t have to pay you to travel. Further, people tend to be more focused when they attend meetings on-line.
Having said that, I do admit that, although this is a positive aspect of virtual interactions because it saves time and money, they also tend to be less personal. You may find that you have to work harder on establishing your virtual relationships. But they will be well worth it.