What Kind of Counselor Am I?

By Joryn Jenkins

I’m a counselor of law. But the longer I’m involved in collaborative practice, the more I find myself feeling like a marriage counselor. While I’m no mental health counselor, and I always defer to those on our team with that training, my own professional experience has given me quite a bit of insight that I don’t mind sharing with my clients and friends when asked.

Recently, I’ve even been receiving calls from other collaborative professionals who want to know how to save their own marriages! It tickles me, and I really feel as though I have good advice for them! I always recommend marriage counseling (you know, with someone trained to do it, rather than me). But there are other subjects that I can give advice on and things I can recommend.

The other day, it was for my CPA friend. She wanted advice in terms of taking her husband to a business lawyer with her about setting up her new business. I simply advised to “let him pick the lawyer, if he wants”. Then the lawyer he chose can explain to her husband how she should set everything up so that she is protected from any claims or disputes that customers/clients may bring against her. There is less likely to be any marital conflict and almost all attorneys will give the same advice in terms of setting the business up correctly.

When we got off the call, she wanted to know how she should pay me, for my counseling. I laughed and told her no money required.

Sharing Advice and Expertise Builds Relationships

I enjoy sharing my advice when asked, whether it is my legal opinion, or my educated opinion based on my work and personal experience. I’ve been retained occasionally by other lawyers, on behalf of either their clients or their firms, for my ethical advice. And often these days, I‘m asked for my marketing advice. Feel free to reach out to me if you are looking for that sort of counseling.

When asked for this kind of help, I always try to refer the asker to someone who has specific training on the topic. I have referred clients and colleagues to everyone from a clergyman to a financial planner to a substance abuse program. If someone respects my advice enough to ask for it, I always try to lead her in the best direction possible. This sort of networking builds value for everyone involved, which is really a type of marketing when you think about it.

And I always follow up with her several months later to determine if she followed my advice and to ask how she is doing. Usually, if she has taken proactive steps to ask for advice and to actually follow it, she is in a much better position when I follow up with her than when I originally spoke with her. But the follow up is key, as I learn about the effectiveness of my, or my referrals advice.

As a collaborative professional, you may find that others ask for your advice more often, even on topics outside of your realm of expertise. Collaborative practice provides its practitioners with a more well-rounded expertise than litigation does. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that your opinion is requested, and requested. Embrace it, good advice, followed up on, builds your network and your brand.

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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