As you become more familiar with Collaborative Law and collaborative professionals, you will likely see a pattern: most Collaborative Lawyers have a list of potential team members whom they like to work with.
It’s important to know why:
Simply put, functional teams are more successful. When a collaborative professional is able to work with familiar team members, they know what to expect and have some idea of how the team will navigate challenges that arise. That means that they can focus more energy on addressing the clients’ needs and less on the potential of challenging team dynamics.
However, opening the “team door” to new or less experienced certified collaborative professionals is critical to stimulating growth of Collaborative Law (and to creating useful team chemistry options for future cases). As with most human endeavors, working with a balance between familiarity and “new blood” is key.
What Does a Strong Collaborative Team Look Like?
- An atmosphere of mutual respect, compassion and cohesion is modeled among all members of the team and towards all clients.
- There is open, honest and trusting communication between all members.
- The team easily schedules consistent and frequent team meetings.
- Team members feel equally valued, regardless of experience.
- Team members like one another and trust each other’s judgment
- Each member is self-aware and able to reflect on how they affect the team dynamic
- The sense of responsibility is balanced among all members.
- The team ecosystem is one of growth and learning.
- Team members have the same understanding of what collaboration is (read more on this from Mark Baer).
Strong Teams Aren’t Perfect
You may have an idea that a strong collaborative team should be virtually perfect, but it’s important to recognize that even though the collaborative process should give you hope, it can’t give you a neat and tidy journey to the solution. You’ve likely entered the collaborative process (or are considering it) because you are in a messy situation. The collaborative process is going to reflect that, to some degree. Whenever you deal with people and personalities, challenges arise. Even a strong team will face challenges, but it’s how they navigate a challenge that counts. You can expect to see:
- Tension among members
- Moments of discouragement
- Clear differences of opinion
- Communication efforts that need clarification
Additionally, if a particular client dynamic is very stressful and contentious, the dynamic of the team professionals can be challenged.
How You Can Help Support a Strong Team
It should go without saying that the stronger your collaborative team, the better your chances at a sustainable resolution. Here are a few ways to help ensure you have a strong team:
- Choose a Collaborative Lawyer (CL) whom you trust and who demonstrates attentive communication from the get-go.
- Ask your CL about their network of collaborative professionals and seriously consider their referrals. Encourage your soon-to-be ex to also choose someone who is part of that network.
- Pay particular attention to how the team members interact at the initial meeting and do not be afraid to bring up concerns at the appropriate time.
- When you’ve settled on a team, do your best to cooperate and communicate effectively. Also, be responsive to requests that help move the process forward.
- If you see challenges arise, don’t panic. Recognize that it is a natural part of the process.
It’s easy to idealize Collaborative Law, because it really does provide a better way to navigate divorce and other challenges. Understanding what a strong team looks like will help you to use it to its best potential.