The Rest Of The Story: How I Signed Three Collaborative Clients in Just Two Days
For those of you much younger than I, Paul Harvey was an American radio broadcaster for ABC Radio. For close to 60 years, Harvey’s programs reached as many as 24 million people a week. I used to love listening to his famous The Rest of the Story segments, a blend of mystery and history, which premiered at the same time as I graduated from college in 1976, and continued until Harvey’s death in 2009.
So now I’ve bragged publicly that I signed three collaborative participation agreements in two days. And I’ve stressed that I was able to do this, in part, because of Constant Focus, both in my office and in my community. But marketing is a long-term practice, not an overnight success. It takes time. Here’s the rest of the story. . . .
John Jones came to me nearly a year ago, wanting to know how to divorce his wife. As I walked him through the choices of process, I used my poster on processes to explain his options and my costs poster to share the relative costs of each. (I have 14 posters that I created and find to be invaluable, especially for visual learners and/or for those under stress, for explaining various aspects of the services that I offer. I sell them separately, as well as in my toolkit, with a one-year guarantee, on my website, JorynJenkins.com.)
Like most clients, John was initially attracted to one of the least expensive options. “My wife knows our finances at least as well as I do. I’m very transparent about money and we go over our budget and our investments once a month. She pays all the house bills. Let’s just draft up an agreement that’s fair and I’ll give it to her to sign.”
I responded slowly, “I think that’s a great way to start, John, but keep in mind that transparency is not the same as clarity. Make sure she knows that you’re happy to pay for a lawyer to review the agreement with her.”
It didn’t take us long to prepare it but it took John months to find the right time to approach his wife with the agreement. And sure enough, she sat on it (and the list of collaborative attorneys I had suggested to review it with her) for some time before she acted (Like many spouses, she didn’t want the divorce). However, one of the attorneys finally called me to discuss negotiating the agreement collaboratively.
I reminded John of our discussion of the relative merits and costs of the various processes. I reiterated that, because he wanted to remain friendly with his wife after their divorce, she would need a facilitator to help her manage her expectations and her emotions during the process, as well as a financial neutral to ensure that she had that financial clarity I had already mentioned. He quickly acquiesced to the more expensive process, easily appreciating the value of what it offers. And we signed the participation agreement shortly thereafter.
But this soft pre-collaboration readiness approach still took almost a year.
Sam Smiths’ story was not much different than John’s. He, too, wanted to approach his wife with a ready-made agreement. He, too, was sure that she would sign it; it was so reasonable. However, he faced setbacks as his wife, also dragged her feet.
A few months after he had provided her with our proposed agreement, but had yet to receive much of a response, Sam clarified, “She’s so afraid of being on her own, even though I’ve been out of the house for years now. I don’t know how we fight that.” His shoulders sagged. “I can’t get her to understand that she’ll be fine with what she’s getting.”
I reminded Sam that a strong collaborative team could help her come to terms with those fears.
Ramping up Sam’s case consumed less time than John’s, but it was still five months between our initial consult and our signed participation agreement. Still, I knew that we would make up that lost ramp-up time by the fact that most of my collaborative cases finalize within four months of the initial full-team meeting.
The difference here was that, when Sam’s wife finally retained her lawyer, that attorney immediately petitioned in court for divorce. When Sam reminded his wife that they had agreed to try the collaborative process first, she instructed her lawyer to put the litigation on hold so that she could hire a collaborative attorney. It wasn’t until then that her lawyer assured her that she had been trained in collaborative practice and volunteered to handle her divorce collaboratively.
This is why I fear that that those of us who are collaboratively trained aren’t as focused on prioritizing discussing it with our clients as we might be. Why did Sam’s wife have to be first to bring up the collaborative approach with her own lawyer?
Jane Doe’s case was actually the exception. She consulted with my new associate while I was on vacation. When I returned, she was on my calendar for some follow-up questions, but she was already convinced that the collaborative approach was the right way to go so that her two young children would not be “put in the middle” of her divorce. In fact, her husband had already consulted someone trained and eager to engage with me in the process.
I asked my not-yet-trained associate how she managed to sell the idea of the collaborative process to this young woman. She said she used my posters to explain the choices, just as I do!
In each of these matters, the Constant Focus of myself and of my staff resulted in the case eventually proceeding collaboratively. In the first two, my initial Focus in explaining the process options effectively with my consults, combined with my continued Focus during the months before the participation agreements had actually been signed, resulted in the parties eventually choosing the best process option. In the last matter, the Constant Focus of my staff, who I had coached to understand and be passionate about the collaborative process despite her lack of training, resulted in her signing the third participation agreement within two weeks of joining my firm.
And now you know the rest of the story.
Constant Focus will change the way the world gets divorced!
About Joryn Jenkins.
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.