I have always taken a sensible and pragmatic approach to my work as a family lawyer and I strive to keep matters out of Court as much as possible.
When I undertook training in interdisciplinary collaboration this year with MELCA, I initially considered that it might be enough to learn the skills and apply them to my usual practice. If I am completely honest, I was concerned that the financial advisor and family consultant neutral roles would somehow “step on my toes”. As family lawyers we are often the go-to person for our clients for all their questions and concerns and the idea of sharing this responsibility felt unsettling at first.
Collaboration felt completely different right from the start because there was no “opposition”. Instead, there was a team, consisting of the couple and four experienced professionals, dedicated to finding a solution that best fit this family.
I did not have to spend time “selling” the process because it had been chosen by the parties. I found that the parties were less anxious and I put this down to them having control over the process and the timelines. The matter, therefore, moved as quickly or as slowly as they needed, based on their emotional readiness and/or the time reasonably necessary to collate their financial information.
What I have found the most valuable through this process is the insight I gained into my client and the other party. The parties both talk to the psychologist and financial neutral openly and the lawyers benefit from receiving the feedback from those professionals. It enables potential triggers to be identified and issues around trust and communication can be ventilated in a safe space.
Not being my client’s primary source of information does take some getting used to, however, I have found that it enables me to concentrate on the law which is what I do best.
Most of us became family lawyers to help people. In my view, collaboration lets us do this in a way that better serves our client and their families.
By Chloe McGuiness. Accredited Specialist Family Lawyer