Motivations for Working Collaboratively

Some thoughts about my own personal motivation for working collaboratively and how this motivation has been tapped to build my own collaborative practice.

I have feet in both the collaborative and litigation world.  Recently I have had a long-running collaborative case stall, and have had a litigated case taken out of the hands of the attorneys because the clients wanted to take control of their outcome. These cases together make me remember how strongly I believe that collaborative practice is, at its best, the superior mode, and that the clients themselves have great responsibility to make the most of the process. Educating clients to the demands of the work – asking them if they are really up to the challenge of doing it themselves, with the team as a guide, and not having a judge do the work for them – is essential in having as many collaborative cases end as well for the clients as possible.

I see in my attorney for children work the negative effects on children in litigation.  These negative effects continue and worsen after the divorce as parental hostility has only hardened and deepened through its exercise in litigation. This was an underlying motivation for me to move toward collaborative in the first place, but not enough of a motivation to stay the course in difficult collaborative cases without more. It is hard for me to really let go of the outcome. To let clients be where they are in the process and let them stay there (stuck, it appears to me) if that is where they need to be. So while my motivation continues to be doing good work, helping people to find the least toxic path for family dissolution and instead find interest-based solutions, it has broadened to helping clients to internalize the merits of the process to bring them to a positive conclusion, and to helping me understand better my role as guide.

Drawing in clients to the collaborative process is the easy part – it is exciting to describe something so positive. However, as the cases unfold, and get stuck and clients get frustrated, and wonder why they in are in the process in the first place, having clients with a learned collaborative core is a goal.  And having collaborative counsel without skin in the game, but with skin in the process, is another one.


Margaret Clark