I hate to use the word “sell” when discussing the marketing of my professional services. It sounds so dirty, like I’m trying to put one over on someone. It always reminds me of the classic “used car salesman,” that guy generally portrayed by the media as a sleazy, greasy guy in a too-tight polyester suit who is trying to take you for a ride . . .
But selling is really what we’re doing, right? Like it or not, whether you own your own firm or work for someone else, you must sell your services in order to make money.
And just as if you were selling widgets, you’d speak most highly of your favorite widget, the widget that you respected the most. In the same way, when selling different divorce process options, your passion for the collaborative process will be apparent to everyone with whom you speak. This is how you will sell your client on the idea, one-to-one, personally and directly, in your conference room. Which is all well and good, but it takes two to tango, right?
Collaborative is a “Two to Tango” Process
It’s not just your client you must sell, her spouse must also agree to take the collaborative divorce route, or you are still stuck in the default process, litigation. So how do you convince the other spouse that the collaborative process is the best option when he likely views you as the enemy, someone he cannot trust?
There is more than one answer to that question. First, let’s consider if your client’s spouse is not yet represented. If so, you may speak directly with him. Discuss with your client how best to approach this. She can guess best how her spouse will respond. I sometimes send a friendly letter to her spouse, explaining that, although my client wishes to divorce, she wishes to do so as amicably as possible. I explain the collaborative process and how it is better than litigation. I always suggest three collaborative attorneys with whom he may wish to discuss the possibility.
Another method that can be effective When the other spouse is not yet represented is to offer to meet with the couple together to discuss the process options. If the couple is still talking, this can be very effective. I especially like this method because, first of all, I know that both of the clients hear the same explanation from me, and they can also listen to each other’s questions. And I can correct any misunderstandings in the moment.
Even better than that, when the other spouse comes to my office, he can really get a true sense of who I am, what I stand for, and that I am not the enemy. It’s easier to trust what another
person is telling you when you speak with her in person.
But What if the Spouse is Already Represented.
If the spouse is represented, you cannot speak directly with him. But you can reach out to his attorney and offer to collaborate. If he is already trained in the process, he may well jump at the opportunity to participate in another (or his first) collaborative matter. If not, ascertain when the next training is, and see if everyone will agree to hold the proceedings until the other attorney can be trained.
If the spouse has already petitioned for divorce, suggest a litigation freeze, in which you request that the court freeze the litigation while the parties take part in a collaborative team negotiation. Why would a judge allow this? Judges permit it because they would rather parties come to an agreement on their own rather than litigating their cases.
While it can be more difficult to “sell” the other spouse on collaborative than your own client, it is a necessary step to proceeding collaboratively. But it’s not as difficult as it may, at first, appear. Contact me if you want a copy of my template for the collaborative invitation to your client’s spouse. I’m happy to share!