No matter what you do, your clients will be uncomfortable coming to your office. They are going through a divorce, one of the biggest stressors in their lives. And many collaborative meetings will occur at a lawyer’s office. Most people don’t ever have to deal with attorneys, and, to most, doing so is always going to be intimidating. But while your clients will be uncomfortable, there are actions that you can take, and ways to set up your office, to put them at ease. Here are my top seven tips for making your clients more comfortable.
1. Give clients a tour of your office. Walk the clients around your office before the first meeting, so they know where to find the bathrooms, the sodas, the coffee, etc. As you do, introduce them to staff that you see. Make them feel at home. The more welcome they feel, the easier it will be for them to decide to sign your retainer agreement and to make the most of their collaborative meetings.
2. Locate your office in an easily accessible location where parking is easy and free. There is nothing worse than being stressed about an appointment, and then having that stress build to an unbearable level before you even arrive because you can’t find the office or a parking space. Don’t add these unnecessary stressors.
3. Always have tissues available. Divorce is an emotional, overwhelming experience. At some point, most clients, both men and women, may become tearful. Ease the potential awkwardness of this display of emotion by having a box of tissues in every office and conference room. Place them where they will be conspicuous. Your client will feel more comfortable knowing that she is not the only one who might need tissues during her meetings.
4. Offer food during meetings. Treats like baked goods and chocolates make everyone feel a little bit better. They are comforting. Eating sweets releases endorphins in the brain that help to reduce stress. And, during especially long meetings, clients need to sustain their sugar levels so that they can think clearly and rationally.
5. Provide offices other than the conference room in which clients can caucus with professionals or just get a moment away from the center of stress. Sometimes the best way to move a meeting forward is to send the spouses briefly to their own separate corners.
6. Display posters in your office that explain the collaborative process. Review the work-related posters before the first meeting so that the client understands their usefulness and can use them during the meetings, if necessary. Important posters include the collaborative roadmap, the emotions stoplight, the facilitator’s role, and the financial professional’s role. These posters should be displayed where clients can see them. Not only are they informative, but they offer the client something to focus on other than his spouse or the other lawyer. Go to www.JorynJenkins.com to find the posters that I’ve created specifically for these purposes.
7. Seat team members to the best advantage. Prior to the first team meeting, discuss and decide with the other professionals the optimum placement of the team members. The mental health professional will be especially helpful, as she will have already met with both spouses individually and will be giving the team insights into their personalities and relationship, and their goals and interests. Consider whether the spouses should sit next to each other, opposite each other, or diagonally from each other. Should they sit on either side of the facilitator, close enough for her to touch them, to comfort them? Should they sit next to their own lawyers, close enough for the lawyers to touch them, to support them?
Collaborative team meetings can be stressful, but there are ways to set up your office and actions that you can take to reduce the stress for your clients.