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Community Liaisons

By Joryn Jenkins
community liasons

It is the objective of every practice group to build the awareness, rx acceptance, and use of collaborative services generally, and their own group’s efficacy, in particular. What if we had an outside advisory board or focus group comprised of representatives from various community organizations and resources to assist us in getting the message out, providing input on our service model and the populations we serve, and expanding our network and collaborative opportunities?

Wouldn’t it be beneficial to invite a network of key community representatives to hear what we’re doing and to share their ideas with us? They would represent clergy, community groups, employers, related service providers, and educators. They would also include heads of services from related charity, educational, business, local government, and medical services. They would promote broader awareness and acceptance/use of our collaborative services. They would be involved in any outreach to the service population.

These are the folks who are the ‘movers and shakers’ in their arenas. They will be much easier to access if they are connected to the professionals who reach out to them already, because the trust already exists. Once that is accomplished, these are the folks who will influence others and thereby grow our recognition and acceptance in both the practitioner and consumer communities. Because they see the fall out, these are the people who know that traditional courtroom divorce, the conventional divorce process, is not working.

Different venue issues will make each board or focus group unique. The socio-economic and racial differences in our home communities will result in diverse feedback from each.

I was a member of a practice group years ago that evaporated because we could not get traction in either the legal community or the lay market. So now that my community has evidenced more interest in collaborative practice these last few years, I have explored novel methods for getting the collaborative movement more publicity among the lay public. My practice group’s pro bono committee has been somewhat successful in that endeavor, publicizing Florida’s “first pro bono collaborative divorce,” among other things.

But one of the first things I did when I realized the need to take affirmative action to push collaborative practice out into the community was to join a local weekly BNI (Business Networking International) group. Each week, I run a specific new marketing idea past the entire group of forty professionals who work in a variety of industries. Between meetings, I meet with BNI members to discuss (read “educate”) them about why collaborative practice is a better choice than traditional divorce for those people about whom they care. In the process, I obtain their ideas for marketing it. Better still, this group of forty people is now out there every day of every week, marketing collaborative divorce FOR me, for my practice group, and for our entire community!

BNI groups are already out there, meeting weekly, in most venues in the United States. And there are other referral marketing groups, as well. The concept permits one representative from each profession. One need only find a group that lacks a member of your profession. Joining costs very little and the feedback is enormously valuable.

These folks now boost collaborative without a formal mechanism for their feedback and comment on the process. (I DO get feedback.) The larger point is that I have a network of influence, deriving no direct benefit, with no axe to grind and therefore infinitely more credible, telling their friends and contacts positive things about collaborative divorce. They are my “community liaisons.”

The more people who are aware of the collaborative practice method, the more quickly it will become the primary method for resolving divorces in our community. So appoint a focus group or an advisory board for your practice group or join an existing referral networking chapter and put them to work, benefitting your community.

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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