Tuesday, 19 June 2007
Getting your client's partner to collaborate.
Collaborative law and lawyers face an interesting challenge. On the whole we are a passionate bunch with a real belief in the potential that a different approach to dispute resolution can offer.
A by product of that passion and belief is that we would like to see more clients take up collaborative solutions. So why don't they?
My experience, and it is one that is shared by many, is that when we first meet with a client and explain what the collaborative process means that they are ready to sign up. The difficulty arises when we try to get the other party to engage.
The proposal is resisted for any number of reasons and we spend a great deal of time worrying about that.
I wonder to what extent the proposal is rejected just because it was us who suggested it rather than them.
A tricky thing happens in family disputes, you see, and it is this. Even the most reasonable proposal risks being rejected for the simple reason that the other side has proposed it. There is probably an interesting correlation in that the more reasonable a proposal is, the more it is to be suspected by the parties concerned. "He must be up to something" or "There must be something in this for them."
The problem stems possibly from the disappointment and hurt that follows in the aftermath of a relationship that has ended. The parties will very often feel the most profound betrayal or let down from the one person that they had invested the most in. As a result of that perception, anything that they now propose is to be treated as suspicious. No doubt, it is a defensive approach.
Compound that with the trauma of receiving that first letter from your partner's solicitor, and all that such an event confirms and stands for and perhaps it is not surprising that we see the suggestion viewed with skepticism.
So how can we overcome that and get greater take up? Perhaps the way, as it so often is, is to change ourselves rather than them.
So instead of our initial letters to the estranged partners recommending this process or that, perhaps we should be engaging with them in a different way. Would a similar approach to that set out below in the "An alternative initial letter to the client's partner." work?
What is the best way to get any disputing parties to agree and buy into a proposed solution? Make sure they are part of the solution design process.