I became a Solicitor because I enjoy problem solving: in Family Law there is tremendous personal satisfaction in helping clients resolve their personal problems. In my traditional capacity, a typical family client seeks specific answers and solutions to questions such as; What ground can I use for divorce? How much will I receive in my financial settlement? What time will we each be able to spend with our children? I use my knowledge and experience of the law and Court system to advise clients and provide them with the best technical legal advice and guidance that I can.
Collaborative practice developed in the UK in 2004. I trained as a collaborative lawyer in 2010. I can only describe this training as a breath of fresh air. I was taken out of my comfort zone, and shown an entirely different approach to representing family clients in their cases.
The collaborative process involves the parties actually talking to each other in a series of meetings together with their respective collaborative solicitors. The purpose of these meetings is for the parties to take the lead and set their own agenda, and to work on the issues between them with the assistance of their legal advisers. Any legal or non–legal issue which the parties need to resolve can be discussed and worked through within meetings.
The test for me as the lawyer and adviser is that my advice and help is no longer limited to the technical law. There is a need for me to assess the client’s general wishes and feelings together with their priorities for the future. These issues then have to feed into the collaborative meetings which I play a part in managing. I have to allow my client and their spouse or partner to lead the meetings. I have to be flexible and adaptable. There is always an element of uncertainty in the meetings as you are never sure how they will progress and in which direction. This is challenging and hard work for both me and my clients. There is of course an emotional dynamic to this work, which often in the traditional aspect of my job is often left untreated whilst a legal solution is sought.
Conducting collaborative cases I am consistently impressed by the pleasant and amicable way in which parties manage their separation. Whilst collaborative law won’t work for everyone, I believe it has much to offer – the overall objective is for the parties to reach amicable and long standing solutions together. This is essential where parties have children whom they will need to co-parent in the future.