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LIV President's Blog
July 15, 2011

Into the future with Collaborative Law

Two international collaborative trainers will join a local lawyer and an academic to run intensive and multi-disciplinary workshops in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney early next month. The workshops at Monash University will feature licensed professional counsellor Linda Solomon and financial planner and divorce financial analyst Scott Clarke from Texas, as well as LCA president-elect and collaborative practitioner Catherine Gale and author of the Australian Collaborative Practice Guidelines Professor Tania Sourdin.
Proof that we lead the way in Victoria in this field is that we have the strongest community of collaborative practitioners in Australia. Within the LIV we have established a Collaborative Law Section, with approximately 200 members. Collaborative Professionals Victoria has about 70 members trained in the discipline, and I can predict this will continue to grow steadily as more people learn about the value of this type of practice.
The Collaborative Practice Section is committed to offering all legal professionals the necessary skills and training to enable them to use collaborative law in their legal practice.
That is why we have joined in presenting these two-day interdisciplinary workshops on 2 and 3 August.
Our profession is being encouraged, legislatively and by our clients, to look for alternatives to litigation. Given the overlap with alternative dispute resolution, the skills and training offered by these workshops are not confined purely to family lawyers.
We as lawyers are learning a new bag of skills, and within our skill set we must be able to work cooperatively with a suite of inter-related professionals, including financial planners, taxation advisers, psychologists, child experts and mediators.
This training – “Your Collaborative Solution to Family Conflict Resolution” – is a Continuing Professional Development event.
I know from experience the benefits of ongoing collaborative practice training. I would like to encourage you to join me on this journey.
If you mention this blog when you register, you will qualify for the early bird savings.
What do you think of collaborative law?

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Caroline Counsel
I noted Robert Cudlipp’s comments with interest and invite all who were initially trained in Collaborative Practice but have not managed to build a practice to attend the complimentary practice group meetings which are held of the second Tuesday of each month at 7:30 am at the offices of Hogg and Reid Solicitors, Level 7 555 Lonsdale St Melbourne, the third Wednesday of each month at 5:30 pm at the offices of Caroline Counsel Family Lawyers Level 2 362 La Trobe Street, and the fourth Thursday of each month at 5:30 pm at the offices of Catherine Gale, Resolve Conflict, Level 2 22 William St Melbourne. We are currently exploring a suburban practice group meeting place. The location will depend on numbers interested in meeting outside the CBD.

The ONLY way to build a practice and to grow this area of your practice is to attend the practice groups. The training is just the beginning.

Becoming a collaborative practitioner is a challenging undertaking as we are changing habits of a lifetime in the law. It can be a slow process. The purpose of the practice groups is to share the experiences of how others have incorporated collaborative practice into your existing resolution options. It is also vital to remember that the introductory training is the start of a whole body of new learning. I attended several introductory trainings, then the advanced, then I attended several annual international conferences at the IACP (International Academy of Collaborative Training). The LIV recently invited two major international trainers from Texas to review skills in the multidisciplinary process of collaborative practice. Those attending were able to import these new skills and lift their practices to the next level.

So in short, the training required is an on-going process and this was made clear to the Victorian practice group by Diane Diel President of the IACP when she spoke to a group of professionals at a recent free event at the LIV. This was publicised by E Legal to the Collaborative Practice Section and on the LIV website.

Making the shift with your initial collaborative client can also present challenges. I was able to implement collaborative practice in the first week after my training. I had no one to refer to as it was a new process. I had to change the way I interviewed with clients as taught in the training. I had to introduce the “process options” discussion with my clients. Without these changes, I would not have been able to attract a single client to the process.

I do not consider those working in this area to belong to a clique. I am looking to expand the group of practitioner to whom I refer and who may refer work to me.

In relation to not being able to quote with respect to collaborative practice, this is not my experience at all. In fact, greater financial certainty is possible and I quote clients all the time. Meetings are limited to two hours. Most matters settle within 4 to 6 and in some complex matters 8 weeks. Meetings are usually scheduled two weeks apart. There is no unexpected costs ie discovery, letter writing, urgent documents, unscheduled court hearings. There is some preparation work usually 30 minutes with the client and 30minutes with the professional team in between meetings. So I quote my hourly rate x 3 for each meeting x 4 to 6 meetings. Given the twists and turns that can happen in litigation, Collaborative practice has a greater degree of certainty.

We also talk in front of the clients with greater transparency about costs. We also get them to commit to how they intend to pay for the process.

As to take up of Collaborative Practice, approximately 80% of all new clients self-select into this process. They do not always translate into collaborative matters due to the other lawyer not being trained or not having sufficient training to be confident enough that this process can work.

I can assure all members that whenever I have an opportunity in the press to mention collaborative practice, on behalf of us all, I do so. We are looking to expand the LIV Executive and the Sub Committees in the Collaborative Practice Section. Many of Robert’s ideas are presently ideas we have been considering and we as a Section are working hard to promote the concept so that all may benefit.

We were also told by Diane Diel that this is a transformative process and that change takes time. If anyone has a desire to help hasten the change please contact Laura Muccitelli at the LIV,
15/08/2011 1:02:09 PM

Robert Cudlipp
The comment by Jane, whilst helpful, in large part merely replicates the perceived benefits of collaborative legal practice.

Some 5-7? years ago, I participated in a 2 day seminar and workshop in Collaborative Law. This was done on the basis that Collaboraborative Law would experience the same day to day and mandated - if this is not a contradiction in terms- that had been the case with Mediation.

However, I have not had one approach from any of the participants from that weekend, or recommendation to act for the other party in a collaborative manner.

It seems, from the outside looking in, that the most active collaborative lawyers comprise a relatively small pool who share the work around their group, dare I say clique. It may not be a clique , but seeing those espousing the greatest activity in the area , tends to make me feel that this is the case.

Also, clients almost universally want a "quote" of their potential in a family law matter when attending for the first conference. This is prohibited in collaborative law.

What I have found though, is a greater number of clients coming to me with "done deals" settled between the parties themselves, without any legal involvement.

Whilst Marguerite Picard was lucky enough to score a good article on p3 of the Age, I think the LIV should go on a general marketing drive advising the public , with guest spots on morning TV, paper and TV advertising of the benefits of this type of legal practice.

I think that those most actively involved have an unrealistic view as to the ( lack) of general take up of this form of ADR.
12/08/2011 1:35:25 PM

Jane Libbis
As a young(ish) practitioner I have found that including Collaborative work in my family law practice keeps me enthusiastic about what can be a very emotionally hard area of law.

Clients who resolve their matters collaboratively are empowered to think outside the square and to solve their issues in a way that preserves relationships for the future which is especially important if they have children.

The collegiality and respect in working collaboratively with your counter-part lawyer brings real satisfaction and the opportunity to work closely with financial advisers and mental health professionals is also very rewarding.
15/07/2011 12:32:09 PM

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