Choosing a Professional

The following are some factors to consider as you decide which professionals will be right
for your case:

Personality
Among the most important factors in choosing a Collaborative professional is whether you feel that the professional is a good fit for your case.  At your in-person interview, ask questions of the professional.  Inquire about his or her practice, philosophy and experience.  Ask yourself whether this professional is someone you could see yourself working with, who will listen to and understand you, and whose advice you will trust.  Do not hesitate to interview two or more professionals, to ensure that you are comfortable with the advice given and the personality fit.  A Collaborative professional who is a good fit for you will help you feel calm and confident that a resolution can be reached that works for everyone concerned.

Budget
Ask direct questions about what a professional charges for his or her services and what you can anticipate the total cost to be.  Ask how the professional bills, how much he or she bills hourly, and how much will be expected as a retainer.  If you have limited financial resources, be honest about those, as well.  You need to feel confident that you will be able to afford the professional’s services if you retain them to be part of your Collaborative team.

Experience
There is no guarantee that a more experienced Collaborative professional will be the right choice for your case.  However, a more experienced Collaborative professional may be better able to guide you through the Collaborative process, and may be better prepared to assist you in avoiding the potential difficulties that can arise in any divorce, than a less experienced professional.  Should problems arise in your case, a Collaborative professional can call on his or her experience in helping you navigate difficult waters.

Education and Training
Collaborative law requires of its practitioners a different skill set, and a different way of approaching family disputes.  Most lawyers, in particular, were trained in school and by practice in the traditional art of position-based bargaining (adversarial negotiation in which each side advocates for his or her own needs and wants).  Collaborative law, on the other hand, requires that professionals and parties engage in interest-based bargaining (a method of negotiating that focuses on meeting the underlying concerns, needs or interests of the parties involved in the negotiation, and which encourages the parties to communicate what is important about an issue rather than arguing for a specific position or solution).  Look for professionals who have had basic or advanced training in Collaborative law, interest-based negotiation, interdisciplinary family law issues, and the other skills necessary to be an effective Collaborative law practitioner.  A professional who engages in ongoing continuing education shows an interest in improving his or her skills and ability to assist you in your Collaborative case.

Community Involvement
Those professionals who are active in local, statewide and international Collaborative communities will generally have a higher level of competence than those who are less involved.  Community involvement keeps Collaborative professionals up-to-date on new trends, theories and ideas.  Promoting Collaborative Law to the public shows that the professional is committed to the Collaborative process and convinced that this dispute-resolution method will produce the best results for clients.