With recent changes to the Justice system and the Court effectively closed and not likely to start scheduling conferences (except for emergency matters) until June 2020, what are the options for separating families and their lawyers?
There are many options open, including alternative dispute resolution, online mediation services, regular negotiation with lawyers and also working together using remote Collaborative Practice (CP).
What is Collaborative Practice?
There is a wealth of information available online about CP. Here are some of the highlights of CP:
- both parties hire their own Collaborative Practice lawyer;
- everyone agrees in writing not to go to court;
- you meet privately and in group talks with your lawyers;
- additional experts, such as divorce coaches and child and financial specialists, may join the process or are perhaps the first professional that you see;
- meetings conducted and designed to produce an honest exchange of information and clear understanding about needs and expectations, especially concerning the well-being of children.;
- mutual problem-solving by all parties leads to the final divorce agreement
Why Remote CP Meetings?
Obviously the Covid 19 is creating a new normal for everyone. People are working from home, quarantined, are self-isolating and social distancing. Public gatherings have been significantly curtailed.
Many professionals have been working remotely for years. The technology is easily available and affordable. Most smart phones can facilitate some degree remote abilities and new ways to communicate and conference. There are fantastic Apps and online programs that everyone now has access to for free or at a very low cost, including: Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts.
How to Conduct Remote Collaborative Practice Meetings
Our preferred platform, so far, is to conduct full CP team meetings via Zoom. All the same rules of a regular face- to-face CP meetings still apply. For instance;
- have an Agenda
- the professionals still conduct pre-meeting briefings and post meeting debrief
- follow the communication guidelines
- schedule and take breaks (restroom, coffee, or to check on the kids or pets, for instance)
- start and end on time
- take minutes of your meeting (Zoom enables recording, so minutes can be drafted after the fact)
- use break out rooms to meet with your client(s) private (Zoom enables this too)
- use the chat and share features to screen share, share documents and other items with your CP Team
- be mindful of emotions and the temperature of the meetings and take break if the meeting heats up
- the CP participation agreement and settlement documents can be executed digitally (there are lots of software options that enable this, please email us if your need more info)
It would be good practice to run a few test zoom meetings with your CP team to make sure you work out any kinks in advance and before introducing your clients to remote CP team meetings. We have had great success with this approach over the last few weeks and it is quickly becoming the new normal for many lawyers and CP professionals.
Best Practices for Remote Collaborative Meetings
Please watch our video to learn more, such as:
- how to improve your remote CP meetings
- examples of what works well
- tips for clients
- tips for professionals
- predictions for the future of CP
Remote Collaborative Meetings and Covid-19
Life goes on. Although the court has reduced hours, limited ability to file materials and are only currently dealing with emergency matters our clients have other, and many would argue, better options to settle their family law matters, resolve their separation and move on.
Remote CP is perfectly suited to help many families during the covid 19 pandemic. It ensures social distancing and helps protect the health and safety of our teams, our staff and our clients. As CP professionals, we have a proven formula and framework to address our clients’ goals and interests. With many lawyers and CP professionals experiencing a changing work load, reduced emails and few (or even no) in person meetings we are finding schedules are opening up.
Remote CP meetings can be very flexible and adaptable in terms of timing and scheduling. The CP teams we work have been “all-in” and we have been able to continue to serve our clients in a timely, effective and professional matter. We predict that when covid 19 subsides and the legal profession starts to return to normal, that remote CP meetings will continue to be the new normal. Perhaps a hybrid model will evolve but it would certainly be beneficial to replace the old school CP professionals phone calls with video conferencing. This serves to promote connectedness and team work which is what collaborative practice after all is all about.
We have more resources available at https://www.russellalexander.com/covid-19/, including a list of Zoom Meeting Etiquette tips and a video message from Stu Webb founder of collaborative practice.
At Russell Alexander, Family Lawyers our focus is exclusively family law, offering pre-separation legal advice and assisting clients with family related issues including: custody and access, separation agreements, child and spousal support, division of family property, paternity disputes, and enforcement of court orders. For more information, visit us at RussellAlexander.com