Saturday, April 15, 2017

How to Find an Experienced Collaborative Attorney

If you are about to start a divorce proceeding and are considering using Collaborative Law, or if your spouse wants you to consider Collaborative Law, you need to think about finding a good Collaborative attorney to represent you.

Referrals and searching on line:
Two obvious starting points are to ask friends, acquaintances or professionals for recommendations or to research on line.  If you get some possible names as referrals, you should naturally check them out on line.

What to look for on line?
  • Whether they are a Board Certified Specialist in Family Law.
  • Whether the web site contains helpful information on Collaborative Law.
  • How long the attorney has been practicing Collaborative Law.
  • Whether the web site clearly shows how and why Collaborative Law should be used.
  • See what groups they are members of.  It's a good sign if they are members of Collaborative Divorce Texas, the state organization, and the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, the international organization.  Both groups promote education and the practice of Collaborative Law and their web sites have good explanatory information about Collaborative Divorce practice.
Referrals and on line searches are good starting points, but it will still be necessary to meet in person with a prospective attorney. An essential element in choosing an attorney is chemistry.  You have got to have a good feeling about the attorney and part of that comes from how well the attorney listens and communicates with you.

In addition, you are probably better off if you work with an experienced Collaborative lawyer.

When you meet with a prospective lawyer, here are some topics you might discuss:
  • How long has the attorney practiced Family Law?
  • How long has the attorney practiced Collaborative Law?
  • How many Collaborative cases has the attorney handled?
  • Is the attorney Board Certified as a Specialist in Family Law?
  • How often does the attorney get continuing legal education in Collaborative Law?
  • Does the attorney speak at Collaborative Law trainings?
  • Has the attorney had leadership roles in Collaborative or Family Law organizations?
Those issues will help you find out if the attorney has been actively participating in Collaborative Law and for how long.

Fortunately, there are a number of good, experienced Collaborative attorneys around.  

Once you have found some with experience, you can decide based on your intangible gut feeling.  If you feel good chemistry and communication, it's probably the right person to hire.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Value of an Experienced Lawyer

Although it might seem obvious, an experienced lawyer brings a lot to the table that a less-experienced lawyer may not be able to match.  There are certainly very good less-experienced lawyers around, but here are some things to look for when you are choosing a lawyer to help with a Collaborative Law case.

1.  Knowledge of the law.  The experienced lawyer will thoroughly know the general Family Law provisions, but will also have a good working knowledge of Collaborative Law.  A less-experienced lawyer may not have had many Collaborative cases and may not be as comfortable in various phases of the process.

2.  Knowledge of what options to consider. An experienced lawyer knows what options are available and can help you decide how to proceed.  Collaborative Law won't work for every case, but it's always worth considering. 

3.  Experience with various approaches in the past.  There are slightly different ways to start a case and different ways to get the spouse to sign on to the Collaborative process. An experienced Collaborative attorney will know for different courses of action what the benefits may be, what problems may arise and what unplanned results may occur.  The experienced lawyer can't anticipate everything, but can help prepare for many things.

4. Comfortable working with the other professionals.  An experienced Collaborative lawyer will be used to working with the neutral professionals and understands their value.  That means the attorney is able to turn over portions of the work to the other professionals, knowing they will do a good job

5. Comfortable working with the other attorney in a non-traditional role.  In litigation, attorneys are strictly adversaries.  In the Collaborative process, they work cooperatively and that is difficult for some attorneys until they have enough cases that it becomes "normal".

6.  Knowledge of negotiating skills.  While some litigating attorneys are also   good negotiators, most often they are not well trained in negotiating.  They have to re-learn negotiating based on the interests of the parties, rather than by staking out extreme positions and negotiating toward a middle point, like car buyers and sellers do.  Focusing on the interests and needs of the parties can result in much more satisfying agreements for both parties.

7.  Knowledge of communication skills.  An experienced Collaborative attorney usually learns a great deal about communications.  It starts with how to analyze the situation, including the relations between the parties and their styles of communication.  The experienced attorney can help you learn what to say to your spouse, how to say it and what not to do.  It would have been nice to know that at the start of the marriage, but it also helps now because there will always be some connection between you and your ex-spouse.

When it's time to hire a Collaborative lawyer, you should shop around and find an experienced Collaborative lawyer you are comfortable with.  My next post will talk about how to tell if the attorney has good experience that will help your case be successful.