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Does the Court System Work for Anybody Really? Collaborative Practice Makes Sense
Let's look at it from the lawyers' perspective. Do lawyers have the life they went to law school to have?

Some go to law school for money, some for rank, some to help people. I wonder how many lawyers get satisfaction or fulfillment in those areas.

After interviewing about 50 lawyers, I identified different categories of lawyers. Some categories were as follows. There are those who are struggling to build a profitable practice.

Those who have built a successful practice, feel trapped by their practice and are looking forward to retiring and not having to practice anymore. And those who are working for a large firm, either don't have time to think about or don't think about the future of their practice that much. I rarely found an attorney who gained satisfaction from their profession.

Let's examine why that is. If you ask anyone, what matters to them most in their lives, they would probably say it is their family, their relationships, their health, quality of their life, and peace of mind.

How does being a litigator impact these areas? Most litigators know that to be "winning" in court, they need to be faster, more skilled, competitive, and strategic in the process of litigation, planning the case, conducting discovery, motions, pretrial preparation, and be prepared for attacks.

The stress of litigation is destructive to the areas of life that is most important to lawyers as people. 1 in 5 lawyers suffer from alcoholism or drug addiction. "Attorneys have the highest rates of depression and suicide of any profession" Life at the The time it takes to be a great litigator to be prepared and timely in all aspects of the case, sometimes leaves barely any time for family, relationships, exercise, eating healthy, and quality of life.

Being adversarial and competitive and ready for attacks does not stay in the office or the courtroom; it naturally follows them home to their loved ones.

What people don't know is that what brings fulfillment and satisfaction in life is making a real difference in life of others. Most attorneys agree that litigation does not make life better for people. Therefore, litigation ultimately is not satisfying for lawyers, causes stress, and is damaging to the important areas of their lives. The money earned through this process is not as valuable as it seems after the factoring the harm by that way of practice.

Does the system work for clients?
People facing a legal problem need to consult a lawyer. Lawyers are generally trained to take sides which promotes adversity and competition between the parties. The "best" lawyers are known by reputation of being the most aggressive and competitive in their practice.

Unfortunately, the aggressive, adversarial, and competitive nature of litigation process is the most damaging and destructive to the parties. People with legal conflicts are naturally very emotional; scientifically it is known that people dealing with conflict lose their ability to problem solve.

Parties are not treated as respectable adults in the court system. They are told how much to pay, how long it takes, and what they will get. In a divorce case for example, if the parties were asked individually what REALLY matters to them, they would find many things in common. Their children are probably at the top of their list, their health, finances, peace of mind, etc., all of which get compromised and damaged in the traditional divorce process.

If parties look at their issues intelligently and calmly, they would know that the litigation process makes no sense. They are partners in raising their children, whether they like it or not. Adversity inevitably weakens that partnership. Their money is for their well-being as well as the well-being of their children. The most precious thing that they have is time. And the litigation process usually takes an unpredictable overwhelming amount of money, unpredictable overwhelming amount of time, unpredictable and overwhelming amount of damage on their children; it is most often a humiliating and stressful experience, and for what result? Totally unpredictable outcome; there is no control and no guarantee.

Does it work for the Courts?
"For many years, our family courts have attempted to make the most effective use of the resources available to them to meet the increasing needs of California's families. While the number of cases has steadily increased, the resources devoted to processing and hearing those cases have not. In 2005, the equivalent of 175 full-time judicial officers statewide were responsible for approximately 460,000 new cases filed in family court, as well as ongoing cases from previous years that were still pending before the court." Admin. Off. of Cts., 2006 Family Law Judicial Officer Survey: Judicial Officer Background, Judicial Resource Needs, and Challenges (2009), FLJOResearchUpdate_Final10-6-09.pdf.

"This translates into an average caseload of over 2,500 new cases for each judicial officer in addition to the unresolved cases that were filed in prior years. The Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) has estimated that the family courts need 449 judicial positions to meet the needs of litigants." The 2008 update of the AOC's judicial need study estimated the need for 2,348 judicial positions statewide (See Report to Judicial Council: Update of the Judicial Workload Assessment, October 8, 2008;; of those, 449, or 19 percent of the total, are needed to handle the family law workload.

The Collaborative Practice Works.

From the lawyers' perspective, the collaborative lawyers are a team supporting one another in focusing on win-win. The attitude is that no one wins unless everyone wins. The lawyers are also supported by the mental health professionals who help the parties deal with their emotions responsibly and focus on common grounds. The most difficult task of a collaborative lawyer is putting aside being competitive and adversarial and wondering about and being creative in solutions that satisfy both parties. The collaborative lawyers keep all of their clients' interest in mind. They use their legal expertise in exploring options. The clients' interests are not limited to what the law provides; but also interests that the law and the court cannot provide. For example in a family law case, a court cannot order college education for the kids or therapy for the parties.

A great practice is having the parties focus on the future they want and paint the picture of that future. The parties and the lawyers with the unbiased financial expert collaboratively come up with solutions that support each party in building the future they created. The parties less likely spend time and money on their complaints about each other from the past; as their focus becomes about their future.

Collaborative practice may be more difficult and challenging than litigation because it goes against a lawyer's competitive nature; however it is more fulfilling, rich, and peaceful. Lawyers practice listening and acknowledging both parties, which will be a great practice for the way they relate to their own family members when they go home.

Parties are respected and learn how to listen and communicate constructively. The outcome is reached with the parties participation, work, thought, and effort. Therefore, there is finality of issues and less likely, if any, motions to set asides, writs, or appeals.

There is a new Collaborative Practice Group in the Valley. The San Fernando Valley Collaborative Professionals, SFVCP, is a new association of 23 professionals, a team of experts consisting of collaborative lawyers, mental health professionals, and financial experts, all of whom are trained to practice collaboratively. They are a team of professionals who are 100% devoted to reaching a mutually acceptable outcome for the parties providing a process, which is cost-effective in time and money, during which process, parties' relationships get healed.

Provided by:
COMPLETION LAW FIRM , A Vision Beyond the Dispute
Michelle Daneshrad, Esq.
5850 Canoga Avenue, Suite 400
Woodland Hills, California 91367
Office: 818-991-0519
Fax: 818- 475-5336

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