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Collaborative Practice & the C-Word

Every so often the scales or a waistband that has shrunk overnight (I swear – overnight!), thrusts me into weight-loss mode. Being well experienced in weight loss (and gain), I know the bridge between my desire to shrink my waistline and actually achieving and maintaining it is the C word – commitment.

I can go and buy all the latest books, read up on all the latest research, join a programme or pay for the latest exercise class but none of that will matter if I don’t have that one key ingredient, commitment. Daily commitment. White knuckle commitment. Without it, I just have a brain full of information I haven’t implemented (or worse, a pile of unread books or incomplete programmes), a lighter wallet and a new pair of larger sized pants.

The same is true of building our Collaborative Law practices. Without daily, regular commitment to developing our Collaborative Practice:

  • mindset;

  • skills;

  • caseload; and

  • community,

Our dreams and desires for a more beneficial way of helping our clients and a more satisfying way to practice will remain as elusive as that smaller pair of pants!

It takes commitment to stay on course when the changes in your practice are not happening at the pace you would like. Just as with weight loss, willpower and aspiration will only take you so far. Commitment requires knowing and reinforcing your WHY.

Why do you want to make this change in your practice? What will your life and the lives of your clients look like if you develop a thriving practice that doesn’t involve going to Court?

Take 5 minutes to download onto paper your own personal why’s and post them where they can be regularly visible to you  – on the wall by your desk, your computer's screensaver, your phone's lock screen, your bathroom mirror. I have a notebook I use for all my client meetings so I like to have my personal whys in there as a strong reminder each time I meet a new client.

Knowing why you want to practice using Collaborative Law, how do you commit to that daily when you have no collaborative cases and you are already so busy? You do so by taking small, bite sized actions. Each day. Every day.

Committing to working using Collaborative Practice isn’t an undertaking requiring large blocks of time. It is one requiring consistency.

What are some of the ways you can start to commit to consistently building collaborative practice every day in your own practice?

  • Develop a daily practice around reviewing your goal and your WHYs. It doesn’t get much simpler than this – you can do it in the time it takes to brush your teeth or wait for your coffee order.

  • Take a step towards drying your sponge to give you regular time to commit to implement the changes needed to get collaborative cases (and to have the capacity to take them on!). 

  • Schedule a recurring appointment in your diary every day to take one small action towards building your collaborative practice mindset, skills, community and caseload. For me, these are the four pillars to working in the way I want to and I consciously set about ensuring a balance between them. My tip is to make the appointment short - 10 minutes each morning is going to feel (and hence be) far more achievable than 60 minutes and by the end of the week you will have completed 50-60 minutes on building your collaborative practice. Boom!

  • Download some articles or bookmark some blogs to read about Collaborative Practice or mediation skills so that when you are on the train, waiting for your doctor or outside a courtroom, you have some Collaborative Law inspiration and information at your fingertips.

  • Take an action towards organising an inhouse education session about Collaborative Practice for your support staff so that they too can become raving fans of it.

  • Get up from your desk and take a walk around the office and have a five minute chat with someone about Collaborative Practice and your 'why' for endeavouring to incorporate it into your practice.Look at your appointments and to-do list for the day and develop some alternate actions – what is on your list that you can do differently or take a different approach on, using your collaborative skills?

  • Review your profile on your website – does it encapsulate your philosophy and approach to practice?

  • Write a social media post about Collaborative Practice.

  • Join a Facebook group of other collaborative professionals and post in it – others are bound to be having similar experiences and will be relieved to hear they are not alone (and will likely have wisdom to share!).

  • Review how your last new client intake went – what did you do well? How could you have done things differently to explain CP? Even if the case is not suitable for Collaborative Practice, how can you use your collaborative practice skills on it?

  • Design or source a resource to use when explaining Collaborative Process with your clients.

  • Take a small action towards organising a hub event.

  • Call a client you met with last week but want to better understand what is important to them moving forward.Review your intake process – where are changes needed?

  • Prepare for a new client meeting with a view to successfully helping them find the least intrusive and most supportive process for them – how will you present the options for dispute resolution and explain collaborative practice?

  • Attend a webinar or recording and schedule implementing some key action points from what you have learned.

  • If you are a barrister, take your instructing solicitor for coffee to discuss Collaborative Practice and how you are incorporating it into your practice.

  • Organise an online or in person meetup with other local lawyers to speak with them about Collaborative Law.

  • Talk to your local hairdresser, barber, café owner, real estate agent, doctor…anyone who is regularly coming into contact with people. You’re there anyway – you may as well use the time to build your commitment and get in some practice at sharing your message about CP.

  • Take one small action towards organising a get together of your local collaborative professionals to practice a key skill or phase of the process with some role plays or to implement plans for spreading the word in your community.

  • Email a colleague about a training...

My own experience is that an awesomely powerful thing happens once you start taking these small steps each day - your commitment builds, habits form, you get kick butt results and it becomes easier!

What are you waiting for? What’s your Why?

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