by: Brenda B. Shapiro, Esq. The Florida Probate and Family Law Firm, firstname.lastname@example.org
Clients often look for specific qualities when selecting their family lawyer. Some want a bulldog who will fight for them, preferably a pit bull. Some want a hand holder or a lawyer who holds your hand while gently punching opposing counsel with the other. Most want a smart negotiator who will outsmart the other side. When we studied family law we were taught litigation skills and in the third year of law school, when we had the most electives, some of us looking for an easy credit and a practical study, signed up for alternate dispute resolution. The class promised to teach us effective negotiation skills. The textbook was Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Yury the gurus most of us chose to follow.
Collaborative law doesn’t value pit bulls. Those skills are antithetical to collaboration. Nor does collaborative practice value the punching bag approach, no matter how gentle. Collaborative law values negotiating but it is the client who will do it, not the lawyer. The truly collaborative lawyer values getting to maybe. Therein lies the most significant difference. Negotiating assumes a position. Problem solving requires exploring options to construct a workable solution. Problem solving explores “what ifs” and “maybes” and is interest based, not position based.
Collaborative law is all about problem solving. It is the process that is paramount, not the result and the process requires exploring options. Once you identify the problem, exploring the options you have available to solve the problem assures the best result. As an example, the problem many divorcing couples face , “ What do we do about the house?” isn’t an “I keep it”, “We sell it” “You buy me out” problem with three possible solutions to negotiate. There are always several options to consider. Start by asking what are the options I have? Which of those options are in my interest? Which of those options are in the family’s interest? Together, the lawyers, the mental health professional and the financial professional are there to help you identify the options, the possibilities, and explore together which can work best for you.
When you are on an emotional rollercoaster which divorce is, you are rarely able to negotiate. The collaborative process assures that there are four professionals available to you to help you problem solve and explore your possibilities. And maybe, in the collaborative process you may hear possibilities, options you never thought of…..maybe. Let us help you get there.