Working on materials for a collaborative law presentation and the applicability to the estate and trust arena. Collaboration requires lawyers and clients to open a dialogue about a legal dispute. Good collaborative lawyers, like mediators, identify the clients’ needs and try to meet those needs through dispute resolution.

The key in all dispute resolution is LISTENING. Listening to what the clients are saying but also what they are not saying. Why are they feeling uncomfortable about certain topics? What does their body language say when they speak on a topic? What is really the root of the issue with their siblings? Why are they clinging to a position on a worthless piece of tangible personal property? What resolution would honestly meet their needs? Does it involve money or something else? What is the client willing to part with in order to get to a resolution? 

Listening is not taught in law school and is rarely addressed in continuing legal education but I can’t think of anything more important when trying to problem solve for clients. How can you be of service if you really don’t know what is important to your clients? The legal position is important but it doesn’t matter at all if you have a winning position if your client seeks something else from the process. Lawyers have a tendency to think that they know best but that simply isn’t true. Our job is to advise and counsel clients on the law and their dispute, not to convince them of a certain position. 

My first boss always made the analogy to a captain and first mate. The client is the captain and ultimately decides the destination. The first mate is the lawyer that helps the captain navigate towards that destination. To be a good first mate, you have to listen to your captain. 

We have an opportunity to provide real guidance to clients by truly listening to them. This week, focus less on being heard and more on understanding your client and where they are coming from. I guarantee that they will appreciate it and likely write you a glowing review. Let’s do things different. If you need a guide, contact me today.