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Choosing Your Collaborative Team

By Joryn Jenkins

Assuming that you have a say in choosing any of your collaborative teammates, what considerations do you think should come into play? Do you consider only those professionals with whom you’ve worked in the past, those with whom you been successful?

While the answer may seem obvious to you (i.e. “Yes, of course!”), it’s not that straightforward. The correct response to the above question should actually be “No.”

You should consider the dynamic of the personalities of each proposed team member, how each will likely work with the others on the team and the clients. To put together a successful team, you should choose a variety of personas, rather than going for uniformity.

What Does a Good Team Look Like?

Imagine, for example, a team with only strong willed, vocal participants. Or what if the team were comprised of only quiet, reserved members? Neither of these collaborative teams is likely to be as successful as a nicely blended team that includes different personality types that complement each other.

Consider, instead, a team with a dominant leader, an introspective intellect, a compassionate hand holder, and an even-keeled practical person. This excellent combination of personalities is more likely to mesh well and produce collaborative success.

Find the personality types that would work well with each of the clients individually. The team you assemble may be different for each client. You certainly don’t want to choose a professional teammate who will conflict with the client. This is their process, after all. If you know that one of the clients is overly opinionated, avoid choosing a similar professional who will butt heads with that client.

Moreover, consider the types of issues at stake in the matter, and choose professionals with special expertise in those issues.

Collaborative Experience and Client Dynamics

So, going back to the counter intuitive answer to our first question, avoid simply choosing your friends, the first professionals who come to mind, or the professionals with the most collaborative experience in your venue.

While these may be wonderful additions to your team, you should also consider professionals with less experience as well, the dynamics in collaboration are often as important as experience.

In collaborative, we tend to give a small minority of professionals the lion’s share of the work. But the more professionals with collaborative experience, the better able we, as a group, are to spread the word that collaborative divorce is a kinder, gentler way.

Many professionals just need a bit of experience and the guidance of more experienced team members. We were all new at this practice method at some point, so don’t overlook a potential team member simply because she doesn’t have as much experience as others.

When you find a team that works well together, it will be tempting to use them for all of your collaborative cases. It is natural to want to work with those whom you already know you work with well. For tougher cases, this may be a good idea. But the more professionals with whom you work, the more cases you’ll be asked to join, and the better able you’ll be to transform your practice to entirely collaborative.

Choosing your collaborative team members wisely will not only lead to your team’s collaborative success, but also, to your own.

Joryn, attorney and Open Palm Founder, began her own firm here in Tampa after a 14-year career in law, 2 of which she served as a professor of law at Stetson University. She is a recipient of the prestigious A. Sherman Christensen Award, an honor bestowed upon those who have provided exceptional leadership to The American Inns of Court Movement. For more information on Joryn’s professional experience, take a look at her resume.

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