To create a collaborative law practice, start by acting collaboratively towards your staff. Treat them as you would any other collaborative professional, whether he is a young paralegal or another seasoned partner attorney. Be respectful and polite. Encourage good communication and creative problem solving. Reward good teamwork and collaborative brainstorming.
Be sure that your staff understands how the collaborative process works. It is very different from the litigation scheme that they are likely to be used to. It requires a paradigm shift, a different way of thinking, not just for you, but for them, as well. Especially if a staff member has been litigating for years, you will need to take extra time with her to ensure that she understands this novel approach. But, how do you do that?
Next Steps Towards Your Collaborative Practice
Arrange for your staff to attend collaborative trainings. Hold private trainings for them yourself, on both basic and advanced collaborative skills. Meet with them regularly to ensure that they understand the process. Monitor their interactions with clients and the public as often as you can, using constructive criticism, to sensitize them to and increase their collaborative skills.
Remember that your staff is a reflection of you, and they are likely the first people with whom prospective clients will interact. Be sure that they understand how to answer the phone, to welcome clients to your office, and to explain as much of the collaborative process as you want them to do.
What About Your Office Space?
Your office space should also reflect your peaceful, collaborative vibe. It should be a comfortable, unintimidating space. Play relaxing music or sounds. Offer yummy treats. Decorate with warm colors and mellow lighting. Set the temperature at a comfortable setting. Endeavor to ensure in every way that you can that your client feels as relaxed as possible when entering your office.
Be sure to give each client a tour of your office and introduction to your staff so that he feels welcome and comfortable in your space.
Your collaborative law practice will be different from your litigation practice. It will be a soothing environment with welcoming staff. You’ll likely find that you enjoy coming to your collaborative office more than when it was a litigation practice!