Lawyers as peacemakers …
Yes, we can be.
Usually, it is those lawyers who are collaboratively trained.
However, there are a lot of lawyers who are collaboratively minded or they do restorative justice or they’ve also been mediation trained.
Extra conflict training tends to take lawyers away from a more traditional approach, and really look at the process of conflict resolution as a healing process rather than a process that has to be adversarial.
A lot of lawyers studied law to actually help people.
Resolving conflict is one way that we can do that.
Unfortunately, when we come out of the law degree though, we are then trained first into the adversarial system, which is sometimes far more damaging than the original conflict in the first place.
Approaching the conflict in the right way, in a collaboratively done way, with a team of professionals who actually help and support the people who are going through the conflict, can actually be quite healing.
What a collaborative process does is make sure that a whole lot of things that might have been unsaid can actually be said.
The collaborative process makes sure that the underlying issues can be explored, and that there can be a greater understanding between the parties.
The word “sorry” can be said.
It takes far more emotional intelligence to sit in conflict with a client and actually work through the hard stuff. Instead of having arms length, indirect conflict, which is really what the adversarial system is.
An adversarial approach is indirect – most of negotiations happens via correspondence, it limits what is said because a lot of things go unsaid. There’s a very formal process to follow through court procedure. And there are strict rules about who and how people talk when they’re in a courtroom.
Whereas in a collaborative process, there are very few rules.
The main rule in the collaborative process is that everyone agrees that they don’t want to go a court. They agree to resolve the process collaboratively.
The other rule is that we all support each other to get to a resolution, no matter what the process along the way looks like or how winding it is to get there.
The process where a team of professionals work their way through with a couple, or with a family, who are in dispute, it’s often the first time that the parties have seen good conflict resolution demonstrated.
It gives them the skills to be able to talk to each other about other things that will arise, because we’re not tearing families apart.
Families are the best candidates for a collaborative process, but you can also see that it could be applied for business partnerships.
Finding the right lawyer in the first place is so important. If you want the process resolved, and to actually retain a relationship with the person that you’re in conflict with, finding a collaboratively trained lawyer may be your best approach.