Wednesday, March 10, 2010

How it Works -- Putting a Team Together

Although some attorneys still work on Collaborative cases without a neutral mental health professional (MHP) and a neutral financial specialist (FP), most attorneys in North Texas routinely, and exclusively, insist that both neutrals be brought on board before the joint meetings start.

Putting together a team of professionals to work on a case usually involves the two attorneys meeting or having a phone conference to discuss which MHP and which FP they want to use. They end up with one or two or three candidates for each category and then find out who's available. The attorneys discuss who they have worked with before and try to determine if any special skill sets or experience are needed for the case.

For example, they may need to find someone who is strong on tax issues or financial planning or debt management. They may need an MHP who has worked as a parenting coordinator, or who has worked with special needs children or parents with certain emotional issues. The attorneys will try to find the most compatible professionals to work with the personalities and needs of the parties.

It is essential that the professionals be seen by all as being completely neutral, so they can not have worked with either party in the past. They likely would have worked with one or both of the attorneys previously, but that is disclosed and it's not an issue for their neutrality.

Once the attorneys have gotten commitments from the other professionals, all four join in a conference call to preview the case, discuss the potential issues and needs and then come up with an agenda for the first meeting.

Finding the right professionals is one of the most important steps in getting the Collaborative process started.