Tag Archives: Collaborative Law

The benefits of collaborative family practice

J. Nick Augustine, J.D., is the principal of Pro Serve Public Relations, a PR firm for law, finance and small business in Chicago and Naperville. Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition based on his experience in law, legal marketing, public relations and his Secured Solo Practice™ model. Nick shares career growth strategy and experience with legal job seekers.

Many Chicagoland law students who live or work in the city and suburbs encounter family law opportunities. In DuPage County I launched my legal career working for some fine family law firms. The experience exposed me to some of the less than fine firms as well. Not all family law needs to involve screaming lawyers and clients and law suits over fees. I am happy to share the Collaborative Law Institute and collaborative family law with you.

5 reasons you should consider collaborative family practice:

1.       There is added value in staying out of court. In collaborative family law the parties hire lawyers but sign an agreement not to go to court. The team of professionals includes the lawyers, mental health experts and neutral finance professionals. When you help parties learn to work together toward the future instead how to prepare for battle, a favorable outcome is likely.

 2.       Lawyers can more effectively spend client retainers. When legal fees are not spent on court appearances, you can focus on research, advice and counsel. Too often representation of your client and children’s best interests take a back seat to trial practice. I say spend the billable time researching, drafting and negotiating a good settlement and parenting agreement.

3.       Reduced ARDC risks are good for insurance. Family law attorneys, especially the ones who sue clients for fees, get inquiry letters from the ARDC at a higher rate. If your practice is largely or wholly collaborative, I say you are less likely to encounter discipline and you should make an argument to your professional liability carrier to reduce your premiums accordingly.

4.       The Collaborative Law Institute offers educational opportunities. I know many fellows in the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois and have attended their events. The opportunity to learn savvy practices and meet other professionals is refreshing. I’ve attended many family law events and most attorneys spend their time telling war stories – which is good – meeting new people who can send referrals is better.

5.       Happy clients with met expectations are better referral sources. One of the elements of collaborative practice is a meeting of the minds regarding expectations at the outset of representation. You can meet your objective goals when you aren’t sideswiped by 201(K) letters, motions to compel, and custody depositions and hearings. The result: happier client who tells their friends about you and refer new clients.

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Nick’s five picks for practice area growth

J. Nick Augustine J.D. is the principal of Pro Serve PR, a public relations firm serving law and professional service firms. Nick advises and assists attorneys in transition based on his experience in legal marketing, public relations, and practice management. Nick shares career growth experience and innovation with legal job seekers.

Coming up on 10 years since I graduated from law school, I have seen shifts in practice areas. Some are due to economic conditions and others likely follow a lawyer’s interests and values developed through experience in practice. One thing I learned from lawyers who shifted to different practice areas: Just do it. Allow me some editorial then I will share a few practice areas that seem to be growing.

What do you really know about different practice areas? Do you get most of your information from word on the street? Did you consider the factors that come into play when someone tells about their practice area?

Most of us make initial opinions on reports from others. Often we do not dissect the information or fact check people in polite conversation. If you wanted to cross examine popular word on the street about various practice areas, consider a few of these questions: (1) Do you have enough work in your practice area, so much that you don’t want my competition; (2) Do you complain about how difficult and stressful your practice area is, and fear I will realize it is not that bad; (3) Is your impression of your practice area affected by the years you have spent there?

Some of the most successful lawyers I know say, “There are plenty of clients out there who are looking for good lawyers.” I suppose the best advice is being good at what ever practice area your chose. If you become knowledgeable, pick up a lifeline colleague to phone in a question, you should be ok. The people who do not do well fail to learn the ins and outs and take cases outside their practice area proficiencies without assistance.

Here are a few practice areas I would recommend for future growth:

(1)    Collaborative Practice

There are several uses of the word collaborative. For purposes of this example, I suggest that attorneys working in a team-like setting with other professionals and with the client is a practice model more clients will be seeking in the future. Some quick research on collaborative practice in various underlying practice areas will lead you to groups and associations who certify collaborative practitioners. Another good collaborative practice is to delegate reasonable tasks to clients and help them participate in litigation. Many clients enjoy saving money on making copies and organizing bank records. Some dislike the idea of a client getting too close to the work. I think it depends on the situation.

(2)    Intellectual Property

As the call for efficiency increases, business and technology will continue shaping our presence in the marketplace. For many, the intellectual property focus areas such as trademark, copyright and patent will continue increasing with the ease of electronic communication and collaboration. More and more businesses launch with cloud-based operating systems, tablet pc’s and smart phones. The lower the cost of entry makes low-overhead business start-ups easier to get off the ground; many come with IP needs.

(3)    Information Technology

Think about the potential list of defendants on in information technology lawsuit where the project management team alone could fill a room. The IT bus is in motion and picking up more passengers with complex software issues and various agreements, and addendums to keep a perceptive IT lawyer busy. The online networking opportunity is ripe here where you find several IT professionals actively participating in LinkedIn discussions and chat boards on various topics.

(4)    Corporate Litigation

Economic change challenges small to medium sized businesses.  Flexible companies survive these economic transitions when they can reorganize to meet new market demands. During reorganization, there are new agreements to draft, old agreements to sever and everything in between. I anticipate plenty of growth in the business services legal market so long as the number of businesses increases.

(5)    Commercial Real Estate Finance

The economic changes I reference also affect residential and commercial real estate, affecting local and state revenue; an empty building sitting is no good. Economic shifts offer the opportunity for some to move around and improve upon their surroundings. Many financing agreements require work at several times in an agreement’s life cycle.