Challenging Times Call for Collaborative Family Lawyers

Report by: Ma Gabriela Domingo Corpas

We are in a historic moment -unfortunately historic- because of the tragedies that this crisis has brought about at all levels. We have been left with no option but to pull together in our professional environment. It is no time for litigating, but in a few months, the scenario will be no better.

We, as lawyers, have to reinvent ourselves. We cannot continue to believe that we will all file through the same tunnel, which is becoming increasingly narrower and more obstructive, without any real exit on the other side.

There are other paths -motorways even- but we still insist on travelling down the old road and through the same old tunnel.

Now we are facing a real paradigm shift for the legal profession in general, and the family lawyer in particular. There will be piles of cases on our desks when this is all over. The system will not have the capacity to process them all, and we can -we must- contribute towards seeking solutions.

We have defended the fundamental role of the specialised family lawyer for their knowledge and speciality for some time now, but now, more than ever, we need something else in terms of procedure. We need to consider specialised negotiation and, in particular, collaborative practice, once and for all.

Most of us have already been including toned-down collaboration -the classic negotiation that has worked for us so far- but from now on, we have to improve this if we want results. We need to train and gain insight into the grandeur of this new route that can only deliver benefits to those who choose it, be it the client or the law professional.

These are no times for slow-paced cases or distant justice. We need to roll up our sleeves and do our best for our clients, striving for consensus, for solutions to conflicts, achieving results that, while they might not be “the best”, they are “good”, thus resolving most of the cases entrusted to us.

Let’s exhaust the possibility of amicable agreements and consensus; it is often in the hands of lawyers to achieve this.

We do not provide a good service to clients by wearing them out in long and unbearable legal proceedings with a very uncertain and more-often-than-not late conclusion.

Let’s teach them not to take chances in Family Law. It is better to opt for what is reasonable, to give in a little, before exhausting everything along the way and leaving the children exhausted.

It has to be a real commitment, like the one assumed in collaborative practice.

In essence, the formula is as follows: Collaborative lawyers are fully engaged with the client and the other party’s lawyer to reach an agreement. The possibility of litigation must be ruled out, as if negotiation falls through, the participating lawyers would not be able to represent their clients further, and none of the participants would be able to reveal everything they have learned about the case during the course of the negotiations.

There are many advantages, but you have to want to cross this threshold, with the sincerity, loyalty and good faith that the process requires. What’s more, all participants have to come together to seek the best solution for this particular family (not just for the client), always with the children’s interest at heart – networking with other professionals when necessary (mediators, coaches, psychologists, experts, etc.).

The advantages for the clients are also many (in these times even more): obtaining a much swifter result than following the judicial route, achieving lasting solutions which do not involve family emotions or end up with broken relationships, since the children will always need both parents. We need to embark on a new path in the face of problems that may arise in the future.

For professionals, it is a great satisfaction to see that one can collaborate with the other party to make a suit tailored to the family; maybe it is not of their preferred colour, but the result is in the same range. Lawyers must explore new horizons, see new perspectives for the profession and become more competitive. Lawyers must update themselves, go with the times, leave behind the garb of the last century and dress in line with the new trends. Law professionals offer much more quality of work and collaborate in achieving a therapeutic justice, a justice for peace, which should be the main objective of family lawyers.

I encourage all fellow specialists in Family Law to further qualify themselves and newcomers to this speciality to approach this way of seeing Family Law, which the new times already require of us. Together, we will be able to provide a better service to our clients, Justice and society.

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