Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How to Prepare for a Collaborative Law Case

I recently read a post on a business news blog that discussed how to deal with the distractions presented by the Internet. The article described the common problem of starting out researching one topic and then drifting from topic to topic, but I digress. The writer had some interesting suggestions on how to stay focused on what you are looking for, and I thought the ideas, simple as they are, were equally applicable to Collaborative Law cases. So, with a nod to the Harvard Business Blog, here are some common sense things anyone and everyone should do to prepare for, and work through, the Collaborative process.
1. Sleep well: We all know that we operate better physically and emotionally when we are well rested. If you are having trouble sleeping, get some help so you can be alert when you need to be.
2. Eat well: A lot of people lose weight going through a divorce, but they often do it by not eating because they have lost their appetite. While that is often normal, you know that you cannot operate at top efficiency if you are hungry or if you are not eating properly.
3. Minimize stress and anger: One reason we bring in a neutral mental health professional is to help both parties deal with the stress and the variety of emotions they experience. We recognize that Collaborative Law is a difficult process and you should keep in mind that it usually doesn't always go smoothly or easily. Everyone starts out wanting to be nice, but people can get tired and frustrated as we go through the process.
4. Watch out for time wasters: We try to have an agenda for each joint meeting and we try to stick to it. Some of the worst problems that arise in Collaborative cases occur when the participants get off the agenda and start on topics that were not planned for in advance. Staying on the agenda means that everyone can be prepared for the discussions and actions that need to take place. It also means that the meetings can end on time.
5. Work smarter, not longer: There are good reasons why we normally schedule meetings to be 1.5 to 2 hours long. The parties sometimes ask to extend meetings so we can finish up the process sooner. We have occasionally worked longer than 2 hours in a session and my experience is that those meetings often become counterproductive because everyone becomes tired. Once people start to get tired, they either shut down or (more often) become argumentative and angry. We not only lose momentum, but we sometimes lose the progress we had been making. We are better off coming to meetings with an organized agenda that we are all prepared for.
We have to keep in mind that Collaborative Law is not a one-meeting, quick process. There will be a series of meetings and everyone will get tired during the process. The more prepared and relaxed we are going into the process, the easier the process should be for us. As you can see, there's no magic here, but you will benefit by trying these easy steps.