The trauma often presented by the breakdown of a marital relationship presents a fight (can I win?) or flight (can I escape?) reaction. The fight can be moved from the bedroom to the courtroom easy enough; the flight, however, can be a transformative journey. The change can be embraced or it can be resisted. A respected mentor has often reminded us that the devil we don’t know is often scarier than the one we do know.
Sometimes I feel like a pebble being washed by the ebb and flow of time towards the great expanse. I assume most couples facing the abyss of separation and divorce feel similarly; lost in a dark vortex. In my work, however, as a Collaborative attorney, I feel most alive when I'm taking a risk by “putting my self out there”, interacting with people, creating, working in Nature, exercising, discovering anything.
Several years ago, a fellow Collaborative lawyer and mediator who, through our countless hours of collaboration with one another, has become a most trusted and dear friend, advised me to follow my heart and understand from whence my inner peace flows. She encouraged me to fully commit to peacemaking and the Collaborative way, and to leave my litigation practice behind. I was faced, it seemed, with having to pull the sword from the stone. I have, however. found my inner peace and my passion. Until we change our appearance, and see the world from another’s vantage point, as the wizard changed young Arthur’s, and we see the world in a different light, we often cannot see what is our true reality and our own strength. I have never looked back.
What makes humans beings different from other creatures, is that we are endowed with free-will. We have the ability to make decisions and judgments that take our past, present and future into consideration. Sometimes our decisions work out for the best, sometimes not so good. As sure as day follows night, one decision follows another, however, and the sum of them will define who we are at any point in time and in the end, what our life and our time on this Earth have stood for. Have we left the world a better place than we found it? Have we been kind? Have we used our talents to make life better for our fellow time travelers? Do our families, friends and clients love us? Attorneys, mental health professionals and financial planners in our field are involved in heady work. Work, that finds us in a subjective interpersonal space that can be either good or bad. This place can either be a place of healing and safety, or a place of fear, helpless and surrender. A place to take a deep breath, compose oneself, gain insight and awareness, or a place to extract revenge, impose guilt and waste precious time and money.
I have committed to a Collaborative Law practice. I have made a choice to abandon litigation. I have not abandoned my knowledge of the law; my negotiation skills; nor my creativity, I have found a passion and I have chosen to do what I believe is good and just. I do it from a place of safety. The disqualification clause in every Collaborative Participation Agreement is my protection from what I know is antithetical to resolution of family conflict. This protection provides me with safety and my clients are derivative beneficiaries of the strength I find in that safe place. The moment my clients sign the same Participation Agreement and commit themselves, and their energy and their money, to meaningful resolution of conflict, it is a decision that has the potential for re-defining their family and their lives. While not always the case, the choice is an expression of the hope that always exists for a better way. Some say this is unrealistic; I say life is too short, and too special, not to try.
All of our experience and training in undergraduate colleges and universities, law schools and graduate programs, courtrooms and conference rooms; hospitals and counseling sessions; mediation training and Collaborative Law seminars have been meant to enable us to calculate the risks and potential rewards of choosing Collaborative, both for ourselves and our clients. If one wishes to reap the greatest rewards certain amounts of risk must be undertaken. A choice between a process designed to give couples control over their own lives and their own families or a choice to encounter the risks and rewards of divorce court litigation? Where is the value for the client?