10 Takeaways from Collaborative Practice Training CLE and NCBA Annual Meeting
Last week, CoLaw attended the Civil Collaborative Law Practice Training seminar and the North Carolina Bar Association’s Annual Meeting. Below are ten takeaways.
Collaborative law as a stand-alone dispute resolution process will be a vehicle for some general civil litigators to continue their law practices without sacrificing their emotional and physical well-being.
There was discussion about incorporating collaborative law dispute resolution clauses into corporate agreements; pending legislation that would expand the legislatively-sanctioned collaborative law practice to a broader civil litigation context; and the ongoing effort to engage and educate corporate counsel about the efficacy of collaborative law as a means of resolving disputes efficiently and economically. In some form or fashion, it’s coming. And a growing faction of lawyers want it (collaborative law) to come sooner rather than later.
There are 40 attorneys currently in the North Carolina Civil Collaborative Law Association and that number will increase two-fold by the end of 2020, with the greatest growth seen in general civil litigation practice areas.
Building on the previous point, the attendees had a palpable energy about the mere prospect of doing things differently, especially those with general civil litigation practices. Attendance was mixed, with corporate attorneys and non-lawyers present to learn more about the practice area. It appears a critical mass has been reached, so the second wave of adopters are on their way.
The collaborative law movement will inspire meaningful change in the general public’s view of a lawyer as a partner in problem-solving, rather than an instrument of destruction.
The general public’s view of a lawyer is (how to say it) . . . not good. That perception impacts a lawyer’s belief (or lack thereof) in the value he or she delivers to his or her client. (Sure, don’t be impacted by how others think of you. Easier said than done. Plus, save the lecture.) It will be interesting to monitor how the general public’s view of a lawyer improves if the lawyer is viewed in the context of someone who works to resolve disputes efficiently and economically (even if it means “working themselves out of a job” and the possibility of “leaving money on the table”).
As the collaborative law movement gains traction in general civil litigation practice areas, practitioners will be challenged by the urge to create rules for the process which they will balance with the client-directed focus of the movement (form v. function debate).
Rules create the appearance of certainty. The absence of rules create the appearance of uncertainty. Without rules, some lawyers will perceive the collaborative dispute resolution process with skepticism because they cannot predict the outcome for their clients. That skepticism will be met with a call for promulgating rules to guide the process. The challenge will be striking a balance with educating lawyers about the organic efficacy of allowing each dispute to take on its unique dispute resolution character.
Collaborative law is an opportunity to solve a part of the access to justice problem.
One of the pillars to access to justice is a person’s belief that the system, whatever system, works for him or her and not against him or her. Lawyers are trained to think objectively, without emotion, about the facts of a particular dispute, but clients live the emotional realities of the conflict. It’s easy, as a client may say, to sit in the cheap seats and stoically pontificate about the academic consequences of protracted litigation. (#guilty).
Collaborative lawyers, and their clients, on both sides of the v, have an opportunity to empathize with a party’s respective position. With empathy conveyed, a marginalized person is more likely to believe the system works for him or her. More practically, collaborative law is another alternative dispute resolution process that would unburden our overburdened civil court system.
The wellness conversation challenges the way lawyers have historically thought and talked about their careers as lawyers.
At the Annual Meeting, a colleague joked that his lawyer friends who did not attend the meeting were “living their wellness.” Ha, they’re not wrong.
Wellness truly is a way of life. It’s unique to the individual. Lawyers are challenged by well-intended, top-down narratives prescribing what it means to be “well.” Maybe that’s not the messenger’s intent; maybe our egos get in the way filtering the message through a me-first lens; or maybe we think about wellness in the same zero-sum context as a legal dispute. Whatever it is, the wellness conversation is just beginning. The Annual Meeting was a starting point. Lawyers must dig deeper in finding their purpose and have the courage to stay true to that purpose. Likewise, employers must dig deeper in understanding each individual’s purpose and evaluate whether their culture impacts a person’s pursuit of an actualized life.
Lawyers are thirsty for a more efficient way of running their law firms.
Lawyers sing a common refrain, lamenting process inefficiencies or workflow bottlenecks that undermine their capacity to produce. Law practice management organizations, consultants, and legal service providers continue to work on building trust with lawyers to deliver on an authentic value proposition. Every day is a winding road. It’s a long journey. A journey built on trust.
Lawyers are impacted when their peers do something creative that makes a difference.
For a group of people oft-characterized for their lack of creativity and risk aversion, lawyers have a genuine appreciation when a peer takes a risk and succeeds for the betterment of the whole. During Thursday night’s awards presentation, there was a palpable murmur in the crowd when a citizen lawyer of the year was recognized for starting an organization that hosts free, men-only, peer led workouts across the country. As the presenter concluded with the organization’s credo: “Leave no man behind, but leave no man where you found him,” you heard attendees collectively exhale and you felt a weight lifted from the room.
Lawyers who build a practice that is flexible, can be monetized from “anywhere,” and focuses on something they genuinely care about are a joy to be around.
People have the power to breathe life into other people. When you’re around people who enjoy what they do, it invokes introspection to ascertain how you can leverage your unique talents to create a life you love.
Being a lawyer would be unbearable without authentic connections to a peer group.
Yep, that’s right, . . . unbearable. The nature of the work is too tough and the measure of success too subjective. The value proposition is under siege. Lawyers want to do better. Faced with an ever-changing and unpredictable reality, lawyers find comfort in their peers, their families, their faith group, and their friends. Whoever and wherever your peer group is, thank them because the profession would be far worse without your support system.
So, that’s what we learned last week.
If you’re interested in learning more about CoLaw, email us. We start with space (workspace) and we go from there. So, for $300/mo., you can have a place to practice law with an organization (CoLaw) waiting in the wings when you need a little extra support. It’s still your firm. You call all the shots. We don’t split revenue. We don’t profit share. We just believe we’re better together.
We look forward to meeting you.