“Sell” the Collaborative Process Without Saying a Word

By Joryn Jenkins

It is critical that collaborative neutral professionals begin to take some responsibility for bringing clients into the collaborative process. We put the burden on the lawyers, and they are not always up to the task. I hear stories all the time from clients who consulted with one lawyer or another (who I know have been collaboratively trained and are even members of Florida’s leadership institute!) who never mentioned the collaborative option.

So why are even the collaborative lawyers having trouble bringing up that option? Because they are scared of the unknown. Because they are afraid of looking stupid on their first collaborative matter. Because their boss won’t let them. Because the other side already filed in court, and they don’t know how to abate the lawsuit. Because they’ll make more money being un-collaborative. There are many reasons why lawyers don’t explain this wonderfully beneficial divorce option.

Use Visuals To Start The “Collaborative Conversation”

None of these excuses is good but it happens every day. However, by placing collaborative divorce posters on the walls of your office to demonstrate the nuances of the process, not only will the newly trained lawyers learn how to explain it, but so will the neutrals.

Better still, I’ve discovered that the posters work, even when I’m not in the room. And they will for you, too. Find them at www.JorynJenkins.com/Posters.

For starters, convince every neutral and newly-trained collaborative lawyer you know or train to put my Courtless Divorce Processes poster up in his/her office. Treat it as decoration… until a client asks you to tell him more about it. Now you have a willing participant in your conversation about collaborative divorce who wants to know more, whether for themselves or their mother or their son or their best friend.

Neutrals Can Explain Divorce Process Choices

Neutral professionals and newly-trained lawyers should be as able to explain as the most experienced attorneys, using the posters for assistance, that a default divorce is easiest, but rare. It occurs when a person files a divorce petition, and the spouse doesn’t respond. The court enters a default judgment and grants the divorce.

The next type of divorce depicted is a Do-It-Yourself (or Kitchen Table) divorce. It is best suited for those couples that haven’t been married long, do not have children, and have few assets or liabilities.

Another type, what I call the “Kitchen Table Plus” divorce, occurs when spouses agree, but the agreement is too complex for them to use the online forms. One of them then retains an attorney to draft the agreement they’ve already reached.

In a One Lawyer/One Spouse divorce, the spouses reach agreement. One spouse hires an attorney who recommends certain changes to their agreement. The attorney then negotiates those changes between the two spouses.

In a Two Lawyer/Two Spouses divorce, the spouses each retain an attorney to negotiate on their behalves. The process is settlement focused, promotes cooperative co-parenting, and supports efforts to keep the divorce respectful and friendly.

In a mediated divorce, the couple can mediate together in the same room, or separately in different rooms. They may mediate with or without counsel. The mediator (an impartial person who represents neither party) facilitates settlement negotiations and is trained to remain neutral.

Finally, in collaborative practice, the spouses pledge not to go to court, as well as to be open and transparent. Solutions are customized by the clients to fit their families. Each client retains a collaboratively trained attorney who signs an agreement to withdraw if the spouses give up on the process, and, together, they may also hire a facilitator and financial professional. The process itself consists of a series of meetings during which the entire team’s sole job is to help the clients reconstruct their separating family, satisfy their interests, and settle their divorce.

Take The First Step

Understanding the different process options is an important first step for a couple resolving their divorce as inexpensively and quickly as possible, and with the least amount of stress. Therefore, it is important that the neutrals, not just the attorneys, are able to explain the choices to them, utilizing these easy visuals, posters.

There are 22 posters that all help to explain the various processes, roles, protocols, communications, and emotions to our clients. There are posters that depict the differences between litigation and collaboration. There are posters that explain the collaborative process roadmap, the key elements to a successful resolution, and the professionals’ roles and what to expect of neutral team members. There are posters that help clients with their communication skills. There are even posters that explain the emotions that clients may feel during the process and suggest how they may best deal with them during the process. All of these posters are effective and professional demonstrative aids for your office, and they are invaluable marketing tools, helping clients to ask the questions that plague them in the middle of the night, and helping the professionals answer those questions, as well.

The collaborative posters have proven how valuable they are. We are changing the way the world parts company, the way we part ways. Without the stress and the fear. Easily. Gently. With trust. With respect. With gratitude for the time we’ve spent together and for the gifts we’ve given each other.

The collaborative process is an important process, and it deserves professionals who know how to explain it, and who actually do! Visit www.JorynJenkins.com/Posters for more information.

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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