Stages and tasks in a collaborative case

The First meeting with the client;  Establish rapport with client, Explain collaborative law and the dispute resolution "menu", Achieve or confirm client "buy-in" to collaborative process and Elicit from client information about priorities and likely hot button.

  • Lay foundation for good faith interest-based bargaining
  • Confirm "contract" with highest-intentioned client
  • Confirm understandings about "shadow client"

2. FIRST “PRE-MEETING” BETWEEN LAWYERS

  • Establish rapport between collaborative counsel
  • Ascertain and confirm shared procedural protocols
  • (Especially agenda-management, conflict management, interest-based bargaining, information-sharing, withdrawal or termination for  bad faith)
  • Share information about client priorities without negotiating
  • Share information about client hot buttons without advocating
  • Confirm agenda-management understandings for first fourway
  • Confirm documentation to be used
  • Agree on first fourway agenda, location, duration

3. FIRST FOURWAY MEETING

  • Confirm collectively the foundation and "container" understandings about the collaborative process, especially interest-based bargaining, respect, timing, agenda-management for success (delaying issues until competencies and confidence are developed), full disclosure.
  • Invite statement of why each client selected Collaborative Law.
  • Orientation to stages in collaborative process and divorce process
  • Review and sign collaborative documentation including discussion of private judge option
  • Plan and confirm agenda for second fourway
  • Assign "homework" for second fourway
  • Schedule several future fourway meetings
  • Agree on location understandings, post-fourway memoranda
  • Review and highlight successes before adjourning


4. INTERMEDIATE FOURWAY MEETINGS

  • Begin by confirming agenda for the meeting (Usual sequence: collaborative documentation and container setting; stabilization of temporary needs; discussing priorities and concerns; "walk around the estate"; information gathering and exchange; involvement of neutral experts; brainstorming options; narrowing to solutions; preparing final documents; signing and concluding meeting.)
  • Review any homework assignments
  • Encourage clients to take the lead in sharing information, identifying priorities, discussing concerns
  • Consider "stage-managing" for negotiation of highly emotional issues (e.g., present and clarify concerns at one meeting, present and clarify proposed solution at another meeting, present and clarify "upgrades' at subsequent meeting)
  • Attorney role primarily agenda management, conflict management, ensuring good faith interest-based bargaining,-highlighting success, planning for use of experts, planning sequence of agendas for highest likelihood of success; ensuring good faith and forward movement; confirming progress via post-fourway memoranda

5. TROUBLESHOOTING AND PROBLEM-SOLVING

  • Aim for transparency to maximum degree clients can handle it
  • Attorneys reflect honestly on whether and how they may have contributed to problem
  • Pre-meeting between attorneys to share information and consider
  • procedural options for addressing conflict, apparent impasse-
  • Consider drawing in other professional resources: coaches, CD team, therapists, consultants, mediators
  • Consider where apology may be needed
  • Learn the lessons from the experience and make them explicit

6. FINAL FOURWAY MEETING

  • Ensure documents ready for signing
  • Review and sign     
  • Discuss likely future "speed bumps" .and confirm agreements about procedure for handling them
  • Review history of collaborative representation, giving praise and highlighting successes
  • Explain when and how legal divorce will be finalized
  • If appropriate, include ceremonial ending (Champagne toast?
  • Silent moment of appreciation? If given permission, some clients welcome opportunity for reading a poem, or a prayer. Re-potting plants? Other ideas?)
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