Friday, April 3, 2009

5 Ways Collaborative Law is Like the Space Program

We recently had another successful launch of a space shuttle, but you may not have noticed it. We are near the end of the shuttle phase of the U.S. space program, about to switch to other vehicles, and we don't tend to pay attention to take-offs and landings as much as we used to. It's probably not a good idea to take space travel for granted yet, but people have accepted it as a normal part of life. While there are still innovations to be expected in the future, we are pretty comfortable with how space travel happens now.

After the recent launch, I began thinking about similarities between Collaborative Law and the space program. That may seem like a very strange comparison, one that doesn't immediately jump to mind, but there are some legitimate common features. Here are some I noticed:

  • Both use old skills and equipment for new purposes in other fields. In the space program, a lot of the equipment was converted from wartime use to peaceful purposes, such as rockets and guidance systems. In Collaborative Law, we have begun to use neutral specialists from other fields to work with both parties to help them reach appropriate agreements.

  • In both fields, we converted former fighters into peaceful leaders. The original astronauts were trained fighter pilots in the military who converted into peaceful space pilots. Most Collaborative lawyers are former litigators who learned and practiced trial skills. Sometimes, attorneys have trouble converting their focus to a peaceful process, but it will happen with experience.

  • Both programs depend on a lot of cooperation and a blend of many different skills. The space program is a very complex system with many interrelated contributors around the world. Collaborative Law requires cooperation between two parties, their lawyers and usually some other neutral professionals. The process is effective because everyone works together and contributes some part to creating successful negotiations. Communication skills are improved by the use of mental health specialists. Financial and parenting decisions are improved though the use of neutral experts in each field.

  • The space program is a peaceful endeavor and peace is the essence of Collaborative Law. NASA is a civilian agency that oversees the U.S. space program and the focus has been on peaceful advances in science and transportation. One of the main attributes of Collaborative Law is that it is much more peaceful than the destructive processes inherent in family law litigation. Going to trial, cross examining the other parties and witnesses and focusing on events in the past are all elements of the litigation approach that places little value on kindness, civility and family relationships. Collaborative Law provides a safe, creative and effective way for both parties to achieve their most important goals without tearing each other up.

  • Some day, hopefully soon, neither space travel nor Collaborative Law will be a big deal. They will both be the norm. People will be able to travel to far away planets and it will become common. Probably sooner than that happens, we expect Collaborative Law will become the primary method of resolving disputes. Now, these are both considered somewhat visionary, but that will change before too long.

Stay tuned. Collaborative Law has been launched and is coming more and more into view!

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