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How Deep is Your Lawyer’s Toolkit?

November 20, 2015

If you are going to use a lawyer to resolve a family dispute, here’s why you want to consider a lawyer trained in Collaborative Law:

By way of analogy, imagine a medical problem and only seeing a surgeon. Odds are that physician will only see a surgical solution to your problem. Same of lawyers. If you see a lawyer whose primary experience and training is in litigation, then the odds are you will be engaged in a process that includes court.

However, if you see a lawyer who has the additional training in collaborative law, then you have a lawyer with more strategies available to resolve your problem and where at least one primary strategy doesn’t involve court. Taking this further, imagine your lawyer was also trained in mediation or interest based negotiation or at least understood and held these approaches in high regard. These lawyers could more reasonably support these approaches to dispute resolution which tend to be forward focusing and do not rely upon trashing the other parent, which is never a good experience to be subject to for anyone, particularly knowing that what you put out is determinative of what you get back.

By going to a lawyer trained in collaborative law, even if the case isn’t run fully to the tenants of collaborative practice, at least you will have a lawyer who will be more mindful of the impact of the legal process upon the participants, even if this lawyer is to litigate.

Lawyers trained in collaborative law, tend to run their cases differently than lawyers whose only training or experience is in litigation. Whereas the litigator is apt to send a letter to the other side to initiate action and whereas that letter is apt to insinuate or actually blame the other parent in an opening salvo of demands, the lawyer trained collaborative law is apt to simply pick up the phone and have a civil conversation with the other lawyer. The other lawyer will likely be invited for a meeting to sort things out reasonably. How would you want your dispute resolution process to begin and which do you think has the better chance of getting off on a good foot?

Imagine two kids duking it out in the school yard. What would you expect the teacher or principal to do? Would you want them to send a nasty letter to the parents or would you prefer for them to help those children resolve their issues and learn to get along or at least peacefully co-exist?

It’s not that there aren’t times when you may need to go to court. However the disposition of the lawyers involved will contribute greatly to whether or not the case escalates out of hand or whether the matter can be handled tactfully and reasonably throughout.

Which lawyer do you think the judge will think more highly of? How might that in and of itself influence the outcome? Choose your lawyer wisely and consider the size of their toolkit when helping you. Ask if their training includes collaborative law and about their degree of knowledge, experience and support of interest based negotiation and mediation.

(Open as a PDF file for printing and sharing – lawyers-toolkit)

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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