Why do collaborative lawyers need specialist training?

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Family Law on Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

Taking your case to court is not the only way to resolve your financial issues when getting a divorce. Especially when there are children involved, collaborative family law can help couples to come to an agreement in a calm, non-confrontational environment, which can help them remain on good terms going forwards.

The process starts with each partner engaging a collaborative lawyer, who must be specially trained in this area before working with clients. Since lawyers are already highly trained professionals, what does collaborative legal training teach them that they don’t already know?

A vastly different approach

As opposed to the adversarial nature of litigation, which encourages an ‘us against them’ mentality between both the couple and their lawyers, collaborative family law is not about ‘winning’ or ‘losing’. Instead, it is about open communication that allows a couple to reach a compromise that, where possible, meets the needs of both sides fairly. Therefore, as opposed to a process that encourages point scoring in a battle to secure the best outcome, collaborative lawyers encourage their client to move away from positional negotiation to interest-based negotiation.

In other words, collaborative legal training teaches lawyers to look at what the whole family needs both now and in the future, rather than solely fighting for interests of the individual they represent.

‘Soft skills’

Collaborative training is highly focused on teaching family lawyers the skills they need to practice successfully, many of which are soft skills such as empathy, communication and negotiating skills. In addition to their financial needs, collaborative lawyers are taught to be aware of their client’s emotional needs, wants and fears, the importance of building up a relationship of trust with them, and ultimately assessing whether or not the client is suitable for collaborative practice.

For example, any couple choosing to take a collaborative approach must still be on good enough terms to agree to work together, over multiple, often emotionally fraught meetings, to come to a solution they can both agree on. It would therefore be unsuitable for couples in which there is a history of domestic abuse, those where trust has broken down completely due to infidelity, or for couples where one partner has instructed a lawyer who is not collaboratively trained and is unwilling to change.

Keeping negotiations on track

As opposed to the courtroom, where the lawyers speak on behalf of their clients and the couple are not obliged to talk to one another, the nature of collaborative law obliges ex-spouses to be in the same room together to confront their issues head-on, which can be difficult for both partners. Therefore, as well as advocating for their client in terms of children and finances, collaborative lawyers need to be constantly on the lookout for emotional triggers, helping their client to deal with these effectively and keep the negotiations on track. The process can be hard, but can also be extremely rewarding for what it gives you in the future.

Creativity and flexibility

Collaborative training also encourages lawyers to think outside the box and come up with creative solutions which work for individual families, giving them the best chance of moving forward successfully. Over the course of many meetings, collaborative lawyers get to know their client and their family situation intimately, allowing them to come up with more flexible solutions than a court order could manage.

A compassionate, caring approach

Our highly skilled collaborative lawyer, Karen Wallace, is a divorced mother herself who has spent many years assisting couples to divorce as painlessly and with as little hostility as possible. Her caring, compassionate approach comes highly recommended by her many satisfied clients. To contact Karen, please call 0203 871 0147 or email karen.wallace@attwaters.co.uk.

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