Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Value of Off-Line Meetings

When people learn about Collaborative Law, they often focus on the joint meetings where we work through the steps of reaching an agreement.  We call it the Roadmap to Resolution around here.  We determine the goals, needs and interests for each party. Then we gather information.  After that, we identify issues and brainstorm solutions.  We follow that with an analysis and comparison of options until we reach agreement.  It's actually a pretty logical progression. 

A lot of the work happens in joint meetings, but significant preparation is also done outside of the joint meetings.  Everything comes together and stays together because of "off-line" meetings.  Here's how.

  • Before the joint meetings, the attorneys will usually meet with their client.  Sometimes, those meetings are a day or a few days before the joint meeting.  Other times, the meetings will be for a few minutes just before the joint meeting.  Those meetings are important for the attorney and party to update each other and to discuss what to expect at the joint meeting.  The result is a more productive meeting and a client who feels more secure in the process.
  • After the joint meetings, attorneys usually meet with their client briefly, at the meeting site or sometimes later by phone or in person.  This meeting is to review and discuss what happened at the joint meeting. It helps attorneys find out how their client was feeling about things and it helps the client better understand what happened at the meeting.
  • Between joint meetings, the parties often will meet with the other professionals to gather and review financial information, discuss options, work out a draft of a parenting  plan or do other preliminary steps.  This informal work is less stressful for the parties and allows the professionals to answer questions and follow up efficiently on requests for information.  As a result, a lot of preliminary work gets done without the cost of having the attorneys around.  The professionals work in their specialized areas, saving time and money for the parties.
  • Also between joint meetings, parties will meet with their attorney as needed.  It is in a private, confidential setting and the attorney can answer questions, give advice and help their client to prepare for the joint meeting coming up.    
  • A final type of meeting between joint meetings is a meeting or conference call involving some or all of the professionals in the case.  Occasionally, a problem or crisis will come up in a case, and it would be helpful for the professionals to discuss what's happening in the case.  Sometimes, only one professional knows about it, but the activity can threaten the success or change the direction of the process, so it is important for all the professionals to know about it.  That way, they can come up an appropriate response to keep the process on track for a successful conclusion.
The Collaborative process involves a lot of communication between the parties, between the parties and their attorneys, between the parties and the other professionals and between all the professionals in the case.  The enhanced communication helps make Collaborative Law a much more effective, efficient and safe way for people to resolve family law issues.

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