Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Take Two Aspirin

When a case is proceeding along the litigation track, instead of collaboration or mediation, chances are better than good that the client will receive requests for discovery.  For those of you lucky enough never to have been involved in a legal dispute, discovery is a scripted game in which each side has the right to obtain information from the other.  Some of that information may take the form of written answers to written questions.  Some of it is providing documents in response to written requests.  Some of it is admitting or denying written statements.  Some of it is verbally answering verbal questions.  The first three types are the most common, and the responses are due to the other side in thirty days, not a lot of time.  The client may be asked up to 30 written questions, and the number of documents that may be requested is limitless.  Needles to say, discovery is overwhelming and unpleasant.  What we have told our clients in the past is to break up the task into smaller chunks and do a little bit each day until it's done, because that will make it easier.  Turns out we've been wrong.
In Chapter 6 of The Upside of Irrationality, Dan Ariely discusses human adaptation.  His conclusion is that if you are doing something unpleasant, you adapt to the experience.  Once you take a break, however, two things happen:  first, the adaptation to the unpleasant event goes away; and second, because you remember it as unpleasant, it is harder to start the activity up again.  Actually, this is easier to explain when you look at it in reverse.  Imagine doing something pleasurable, like soaking in a hot tub.  Feels good, doesn't it?  Now imagine you need to get out to get a drink of water.  How does the hot tub feel when you get back in?  Does it feel like a continuation of what you felt when you got out for the drink, or does the deliciousness of the warm water on your cool skin feel even better than when you first entered the tub?  If you're like most people, getting back in the tub feels even better than it did at first.  You remembered the hot tub as a good feeling, but your body "forgot" exactly how it felt when you got out, so you were primed for it to feel even better getting back in.  With discovery, it stinks doing it, and stopping short of completion simply primes you for it to feel horrible to pick it up again.
Moral of the story is to just pick up that discovery and get it done.  Don't baby it, don't deal with it in small doses.  Just do it.  It will be less painful, and reducing pain is what we're all about here in the Trenches.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Good News and the Bad News

On this trip to visit mom and dad, I decided to bring (and read) more of the books I purchased at the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals Forum last month.  The winning tome this time was Dan Ariely's The Upside of Irrationality.  In Chapter 2,  he writes about the meaning of labor, and in particular the pain of wasted labor.  When I read it, I felt like I had been hit with a sledgehammer.  The pain of wasted labor is one of the most difficult parts of life here in the Trenches.  What most of us who work here know is that a good 98% of all family law cases settle without judicial determination.  That means that at some point  between the time the client first walks in our door until the moment the judge takes the bench to start the trial, the case will more than likely settle.  That's great news for our clients.  It's really hard for us who work in the Trenches, because we know that human nature being what it is, most of these cases won't settle early, but will settle on the eve of trial.  We can't count on that, however, so we have to prepare as if the case will be tried.  We have to make sure we know what witnesses we are going to use, prepare their testimony and prepare them to testify.  We have to choose our exhibits, copy, and premark them.  We have to prepare an opening and a closing.  We have to anticipate and prepare for our opponent's case as well.  We do all of this, knowing that in all probability, none of this work will see the light of day, and that much of the effort will have no correlation to the ultimate settlement of the case.  In short, it will be meaningless.  Do this long enough, and it becomes really difficult to find the motivation to prepare for trial, and it is all but impossible to find joy and meaning in it.  We do it, though, because our clients need us to do it.  We invent sayings such as "If you want to settle, prepare for trial" (sorry, Sun Tzu!), in order to give meaning and purpose to what would otherwise be wasted money and effort.  We take time off and indulge in hobbies (like blogging) that give us a sense of accomplishment so that we can continue to do our jobs  and provide our clients with the level of representation they expect and deserve.  Here in the Trenches.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Journey of a Thousand Miles

While I'm in Florida, I usually take time out to visit my longest term friends (I would say "oldest," but I'm thinking that wouldn't be appreciated).  Whenever we get together, even if it is the day after Thanksgiving and their refrigerator is full of leftovers, he makes his mouth-watering barbeque ribs, homemade baked beans and corn, and I make my milk chocolate frosted brownies (from Maida Haetter's Book of Great American Desserts, which is, sadly, out of print).  We always eat the same things, and even when we think of making something else, we never do.  It's a tradition, and it's comfortable, kind of like turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving.  Would we have just as good a time together with a different menu?  Of course we would (although those ribs really are fantastic); it just makes a good time that much better.  The interesting thing about this particular friendship is that we have been friends for 26 years.  We met in law school, where we were the Mutt and Jeff of our class.  His wife became a friend as well.  After graduation, we followed different career paths.  I moved away from Florida; he stayed.  I divorced, they've been married over 30 years.  We watched our children grow up.  We've remained friends - enjoying ribs and brownies and each other a couple of times a year.  I'm one lucky girl.
Of course, the longevity of our friendship makes me think about the Trenches.  Our clients' time in the Trenches is a period of tremendous change.  Their most intimate relationships are contentious.  The friends they had as a couple distance themselves, as if divorce is contagious.  Traditions disintegrate, in the way most people think of traditions:  no more Thanksgiving with the in-laws (which could be a good or a bad thing), alternating holidays with their children, and being alone at a time when they used to be with others.  Losing those traditions is hard.  It's especially difficult when our clients view the Traditions with a big "T" as the only ones that matter.  The clients who recover most quickly from their time in the Trenches are the ones who maintain and cultivate the little "t" traditions, and who cultivate new traditions for the next stage of their lives.  A tradition doesn't need to be a big deal with lots of hoopla and people; sometimes it's ribs and brownies, getting up at midnight to hit the Black Friday sales, or watching the ball drop in Times Square by Skype with your roommate from college.   At a time when all the big things change, creating a foundation of little traditions and pleasures keeps our clients (and all of us) grounded and hopeful for the future, instead of mired in pain and loss.  What is that saying form Lao Tzu?  "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."  If you're in the Tenches now, take a step, even if you don't want to do it.

Thursday, November 24, 2011


As you know, I am here celebrating Thanksgiving with my parents.  My parents, who first appeared in this blog here, are truly awesome, and not just for the reasons in that first blog.  What most of you may not know is that my parents have an age difference of 15 years.  That doesn't feel like a lot when you're 24 and he's 39, but when you're 75 and he's 90, it's huge.  As you might imagine, my dad is at a different stage in life than my mom at this point.  They're still active socially, and they still go places and do things, but now my mom does all the driving.  She makes sure he gets where he needs to go, and that he takes care of his health.  She takes care of him, and as a result, it has placed limitations on her doing what she wants to do.  What makes my parents different and awesome, is that my mom knew that this day would come way back when she married him.  When she decided to marry a man 15 years older than her, she thought ahead and weighed all the variables and decided life with my dad was worth what might happen 51 years down the road.  So, she's fine and they're still great.
A lot of couples with a large age disparity do well as they age and the tenor the of the relationship changes; but a lot don't.  The reason why is that, unlike my parents, they didn't think ahead.  They saw their personal chemistry and the lifestyle they enjoyed, and figured nothing would ever change.  They thought there would never be a time when her stamina wasn't the same as his, when he wanted to stay put while she still wanted to party, or when she spent her time going from doctor to doctor while he was still young and working.  When that time came, they were unprepared and resentful.  Those people almost always end up in the Trenches, because having an aging spouse with increased needs requires a dedicated caregiver, one who gives without resentment or anger.  People like my parents do it gladly; they feel fortunate they had a lot of years together before their age difference affected their lives, they find a balance in the circle of life, and most importantly, they love enough that the difference in their aging timelines is just part of the bargain.  People who didn't think about it, can't do it at all, and in that way they are like almost every other client in the Trenches.  Deciding to marry and deciding to have children are two of the most important decisions most of us make in our lives.  Why is it most people give more critical thought to buying a car?  It makes no sense at all - here in the Trenches.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Favor for Thanksgiving

I'm off to see Mom and Dad for Thanksgiving.  It's Dad's 90th Thanksgiving - WOW!  I feel so lucky to get to go home to see them.  Unfortunately, our Office Testosterone is not lucky in that respect.  Even though he has one TERRIFIC family (McIntyres and Pattisons, are you listening?), and I am sure they are doing everything in their power to make it a happy holiday, Office Testosterone is spending it in the hospital.  He's still trying to get his blood counts where they need to be for a bone marrow transplant.  Anyway, I wonder if I can ask all of you a favor?  It won't take long, and I know he'd love it.  Could you, would you please, either post well wishes for him as a comment here, or send him a message on Facebook (it's "Curtis McIntyre."  That's his profile picture, above).  If you feel so inclined, send him a joke (clean ones only, please) - laughter is the best medicine.  Thank you for helping our Office Testosterone have a good holiday and Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Downside of the Holidays

Not to be a downer, but today let's talk about the down side of the holidays.  Sure, the holidays are wonderful (Personally, I ADORE Christmas),  but for a lot of us, there is a flip side to all that holiday joy.  For me, it's Thanksgiving.  I love the holiday, seeing my family and having an excuse to eat a ton little stuffing.  Thanksgiving is, however, a time of year where some really not good and not happy things have occurred in my life (this is, of course, why I'm not surprised that if I had to have a car accident, it would be a week before the holiday).  Subconsciously, I kind of dread it, although consciously, I look forward to the holiday itself.  The interesting thing is that I'm not alone.  I can't begin to count the number of clients who walk in my door for whom the time of year in which they separated, decided to divorce, or suffered domestic violence are anniversaries of unpleasant events for them or their spouse.   Holidays are especially tough times, because it's at these times that we miss those we love who are no longer with us.
You know you've heard me say it before, but I'll say it again -  If you can avoid it, don't make major life changes at the holidays.  Many of my clients or their spouses don't follow that advice (and I am not talking about cases of domestic abuse, for which you need to get out whenever you can); the thought of spending even one more holiday season with a spouse they no longer love is too much to bear, so they separate prior to the holidays, with the thought that the stress of being with their spouse at the holidays is greater than that of being newly separated.  Usually, they're wrong, because separation brings its own stresses, and they're stresses my clients have never experienced, and that makes the stress feel so much worse.
If you have separated, and you are dreading the holidays, what can you do?  All the tried and true advice applies:  get enough sleep, exercise, and don't eat and drink too much.  Beyond that, make plans, make new memories, and most of all, avoid triggers for unpleasant memories.  If you always went as a family to the National Christmas Tree, maybe skip this year and try Mount Vernon. You can maintain family traditions of spending time together as a family doing special things without doing exactly the same things.  It's kind of like adding a little hot pepper to the vegetables - they're still the same vegetables, but with a twist.  Try something new, make new memories, and most of all, take care of yourself.  This too will pass, the sun will come out tomorrow, it is always darkest before the get the picture.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Tough Week In Court

Prayers and Positive Thoughts for
Our Office Testosterone
(Please Join Us!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I should never have mentioned that the Master thought I had a car crash yesterday, because today I did.  It was a rainy day, and I was heading home for lunch after settling a case (Hoorah!).  There's one spot that is kind of slick, and my little Honda doesn't handle the road well, so I go a bit slow.  Well, the car started to hydroplane, then to skid, and then I had a choice of whether to try to steer the car toward the right shoulder and the utility pole, or toward the left into oncoming traffic.  I chose the former.  The car is totaled. That's what they say when the front quarter is smashed in, the axle broken and he airbags deployed.   (I'm OK.  Thanks for asking.  Thanks also to the lovely young woman who stopped to see if I was all right and call the police, the volunteer fire fighter who also stopped to check on me, and the police officers who were just great).
As I sit here and the Advil is wearing off, I started thinking about how my car accident is like life here in the Trenches (isn't it always?).  Think about it.  Lots of marriages are like driving my car on a beautiful day:  smooth drive, good handling, enjoyable ride.  Add a little water or snow, maybe a deer running across the road, and some cars will handle really well, and others, like my car, won't.  They'll skid, they'll spin, they'll get out of control.  Then they'll crash.  Add a disabled child, a serious illness, a job loss or economic woes to a marriage, and some will weather the storm and be fine.  Others will spiral out of control and fail.  What's the difference between the ones that succeed and the ones that fail?  For some of them, the spouses really should never have married.  For others that fail, lack of attention and effort weakened them so that when adversity struck, they had no foundation left to support the marriage.  The ones that make it understand that sometimes marriage, like life, is hard and you really have to put forth some effort to make it through the tough times, and more importantly, they want to do the work.
For the ones that fail, the spouses, like the driver of a car, have a choice.  They can turn the car toward the shoulder, and try to avoid the utility pole, knowing that if they don't the only damage is to their car and themselves.  They can turn the car into oncoming traffic, perhaps avoid the cars (but probably not), and not only destroy their car but probably someone else's and maybe hurt other, innocent people in the process.  Divorcing spouses face the same types of choices:  they can minimize the damage to themselves and others by choosing collaborative or cooperative process or mediation, or they can cause far more damage and hurt innocent people (like their children) by choosing litigation.  How may rational people would choose a head on collision over steering toward the shoulder?  Not many.  So why do so many seemingly rational people choose litigation as their first choice for dispute resolution?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

A Good Reputation

Ever have one of those days?   I got up this morning, had a leisurely breakfast, checked my emails, got aggravated at what opposing counsel were up to, hopped in the car with plenty of time to get to my 10:00am hearing in Frederick.  Got to Frederick at 9:40am - 40 minutes late for my 9:00am hearing.  Oops!   Yes, I was flustered, embarrassed and stressed when I checked the docket sheet in the lobby.  I rushed upstairs to chambers, literally fell to my knees in front of the Master to apologize....and she said, "Thank God you're here.  I thought you must have had a car crash and I was worried."  No, she was not being facetious.  You see, when I'm going to be late, even 5 minutes, I call.  Every time.  It doesn't happen often, but because I call if I am ever late, the Master was worried when I didn't show up and I didn't call.  Another time, the docket was called at 9:00am.  Opposing counsel was not a regular; and her client was not there.  She had called him, and he was literally in the parking garage across the street.  The Master said he should have been on time, held the hearing, and by the time he showed up at 9:03am, we were done.  Ouch!  Fast forward in the same case, same Master, one month later.   The hearing was at 9:00am, but my client thought it was at 10:00am.  Calendar was called, and I represented my client was late.  No problem, said the Master, we'll pass the case until she gets here.  She did, completely hysterical (she remembered what happened the first time), and the hearing was held.  Why the difference in treatment?  Reputation.  I've spent a lot of time and effort making sure the court knows that I am always on time, and that I have enough respect for them to call if I'll be late.  What that means is that on the rare occasions like today when I screw up my calendar, they're worried, not angry.  It translates to my clients as well because I don't abuse it.
Reputation is built on other things as well.  I have a reputation with court neutrals of providing an even handed history of a case; whenever one of them is appointed in a case in which I represent a party, they call me first to get a feel for the history of the case and the lay of the hand.  I have a reputation with the court of dealing honestly and respectfully with the court and with counsel.  I don't play games.  I may kick your butt, but I'll do it honestly and according to the rules.  My clients benefit from that reputation, but my reputation outlives any case.  When clients hire lawyers, they hire for experience, knowledge... and reputation.  The good reputation of the lawyer is one of the intangibles in trying and settling a case, and it matters here in the Trenches, as in the rest of life.  It's fragile, and easily destroyed if abused.  A bad reputation is long lasting and difficult to change.  Don't ask us to risk a good reputation, because we won't - for anyone.

Monday, November 14, 2011


When did "ordinary" become a bad word?  After I heard her speak at the IACP Forum in San Francisco, I started reading Brenè Brown's work, including her blog (click on her name and it will transport you there). I bought her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, and it's thought provoking.  I had just finished the chapter on gratitude, in which she quotes from her other book, I Thought It Was Just Me (the story of my life):  "We seem to measure the value of people's contributions (and sometimes their entire lives) by their level of public recognition.  In other words, worth is measured by fame and fortune.  Our culture is quick to dismiss quiet, ordinary, hardworking men and women.  In many instances, we equate ordinary with boring or, even more dangerous, ordinary has become synonymous with meaningless."  What's really interesting about this statement is that Dr. Brown goes on to talk about the importance of the ordinary in all of our lives.  When you think back on it, what are the things we really remember?  It's the little things, like your father slipping in to your graduation ceremony just at the right time, when you thought he was stuck in trial and would miss it; it's the powdered sugar fight your daughter and her friend have while making Christmas cookies; it's seeing a deer run in front of you in the fresh fallen snow.  Sure, there are moments of public recognition, and they're important, but when you look back at what brings you joy, chances are those things are not in the top ten.
Our clients here in the Trenches are filled with fear, consumed by feelings of loss, and overwhelmed by the changes facing them.  It's hard to find joy at such times.  It is especially hard if you have to look for the extraordinary in order to create those feelings.  It is so much more manageable to think of something ordinary, just one thing that makes you smile, whether it's the way the sun shines on the water, finding a parking space right in front of the store, or getting the mail and finding no bills (and no junk mail!).  Little moments of joy in the ordinary are not so hard to manage, and they build on themselves and affect your entire outlook on life.  How you get through life in the Trenches and what you find on the other side depends on it.  Glass half full, anyone?

Friday, November 11, 2011


From the Veterans who served in 
World War I
(from which we first got Armistice Day, today) 
To Those Who Served in World War II
(That's my Dad in the back row, second from the left, with the crew of The Paper Doll)
To Those Who Served in Korea

To the Veterans of Vietnam
( This picture is of Khe Sanh, where my uncle Jim was stationed during the TET offensive)
And to all of the men and women who have served our country in
the military, in peacetime, in police action and in war....

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

You Say Tomato, I Say Tomahto

Some people are amazed there are so many disagreements in the world; I'm amazed there are so few.  If you really stop to think about it, I don't know how anyone agrees on anything.  Everything we hear, we hear through the filter of our own experience and internal dialogue.  Unless the speaker and the listener have identical experience and internal talk, they are never going to hear the exact same conversation.  It may be close enough for horseshoes, but it is not the same.  That may matter and it may not.  Where it matters most is when emotions are involved.  Today, I was reminded of no less than four occasions where it mattered very much; two involved me and two involved friends of mine.  Just so I don't "out" any of my friends unnecessarily, I'll use only mine.  A little over a year ago, I was involved in a very emotionally laden and delicate negotiation to bid on training contract for the institute of which I am a member.  We don't need to go into a lot of detail, but suffice it to say that it was really ugly and emotionally draining.  As the negotiations were ongoing, I kept our governing board informed and let them know how difficult and exhausting the negotiations were becoming (at least I thought I did...).  After we got the contract, I asked for additional help in planning the training itself because I was worn out - and got no reply and no additional help.  I was mentally and emotionally exhausted, but soldiered on, asking one of my good friends to help "unofficially." (You know who you are, and I do love you for all you do!).   I felt pretty unappreciated.  Fast forward one year.  When I was in San Francisco two weeks ago, I ended up having breakfast with two members of the governing board.  We started talking about what the negotiations were like a year ago, and how really difficult and tiring they were.  Mid way through the conversation, both of them said that they had no idea that things had been that bad, and they were sorry I had to go through it, and they really appreciated my efforts.  After I finished staring at them like they had two heads each, I started thinking.  Did I not express myself a year ago?  No, I did.  Was I clear?  I thought I was, but obviously what was clear to me was not clear to my audience.  I was too caught up in my emotional drama a year ago to check in to make sure what I said and what was heard were the same.  What was different in San Francisco was that I changed my internal dialogue, and it opened me to the possibility that they weren't uncaring but just didn't understand.   I was then able to express myself so that my audience could really hear what I was saying.  It took a year, but I felt heard and my efforts appreciated.   Really communicating is hard and takes lot of work.  That's probably why most of us do it so poorly - we don't really realize how important it is, and aren't willing or don't have the energy to make the effort all of the time.  If we did, there'd probably be less work here in the Trenches.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Whats and Whens of Settlement

My colleague, John Crouch, posted on his blog about the disadvantages of collaborative law.  What I love about it is that his post turned out to be more about the disadvantages of litigation.  I really like what he has to say about the disadvantages of litigation:   "you can use the timing and immense stress and fear of impending trials to get people to sign settlements they never would agree to if they actually had time to consider them."  That point is something that most people really don't consider in discussing litigation.  In litigation, the court decides how fast or how slowly your case progresses.  That the process moves too slowly or too quickly is really too bad:  the pace belongs to the court without any consideration of what works for you or your family.  In collaborative law, the process moves at a  pace which is comfortable for the parties. You progress when everyone is ready to do so.  I had a case where my client had a health issue, and in the middle of the collaborative process, her issue became critical for a period.  we were able to pause the process until her health recovered, and then picked it up again.  That couldn't happen in litigation:  you might get the court to postpone a hearing, but then again, you might not; and even if it was postponed, you would have no control over when the hearing would be rescheduled.  
     The other thing about John's statement is that even though most cases settle, many, many of them settle at the 11th hour.  Some settle the day before trial, some the night before, some at the courthouse before trial and some during trial.  The court has its schedule and doesn't have a lot of flexibility.  There's only so much time the court will allow people to work out a settlement when they are scheduled to hold a trial, because the court has scheduled a certain amount of time and no more, so they want to get it done.  That means there is incredible time pressure to negotiate and come to an agreement.  The amount of pressure that places on people is incredible:  they are preparing for presenting their evidence before a judge who will decide their future, so they're anxious to begin, and then you add to that the stress of having to analyze options and reach a decision.  A lot of clients melt down (their lawyers don't love it either), and they make decisions that are usually not as good as if they had the time to reflect and weigh options.  Some of their decisions are just bad, and driven by fear and anxiety.  In the collaborative process, people are given enough time to gather information, develop and weigh options, negotiate and reach conclusions that are acceptable to both sides to the dispute.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Holidays

The holidays will soon be upon us, and with them, all of the drama and angst that is our life here in the Trenches.  My favorite blogger, Gretchen Rubin, posted some tips for dealing with difficult relatives over the holidays.  I think those tips are great, and most people need them every once in a while.  Here in the Trenches, I'd like to add a few more.

1.  If you aren't separated yet, think long and hard before you decide to separate at the holidays.  Not only will you forever link the holidays with a stressful and perhaps unhappy time in your life, if you have children, they definitely will.

2.  If you're thinking of separating, please don't drink alcohol at holiday celebrations.  Alcohol lowers inhibitions, and if you're already stressed or spending time with people you don't like, you may very well do or say something you will regret, especially if you know you won't be part of that family unit next year.  Even if they already don't like you, why give people more ammunition?

3.  Especially if you have children, try to maintain family traditions as much as possible.  Children need stability and predictability and family traditions provide that for them.  Now is not the time to decide that you should have Christmas Eve at your house, when the children have always spent that evening at Aunt Tilly's.

4.  If you don't have your children with you on the holiday, find something else to do.  Wallowing in self pity never helped anyone.

5.  If you have your children with you on the holiday, don't spend your time crying and moaning the loss of your marriage.  The children feel the loss too, they don't need you to remind them.  They need you to show them that everything will be OK.  Even if you don't believe it, fake it til you make it - your children will thank you.

6.  If the thought of the holidays causes you to cry, hyperventilate, develop a migraine, shake uncontrollably, or want a drink, schedule some special time with your therapist.  Your family and those of us in the Trenches will thank you.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Just a Little Jet Lag
A Little Spring Cleaning 
(in the Fall- I have a back-to-school mentality!)
Enough Said!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Change, Change and More Change

Lots of changes going on in the Trenches.  Yes, we're searching for a new home in Frederick (still!).  "The staff" has supervised the annual clean up/bulldozing of my office.  But, biggest change of all is..... Erin is leaving us :(  After 7 years of part, part time, to part time, to full time employee, she is leaving us to work in the Montgomery County Courtroom Clerks' Office.  I know, she had to spread her wings and fly sometime, but I always thought "sometime" would be sometime far in the future - forever away.  Wishing makes it so, right? (Wrong!).  Her last day is November 29, which is coincidentally, my last day out of town with the folks.  That means my last day with her is - gulp - November 22.  That's less than 3 weeks away.  (Anyone have an Excedrin?)  
You all know we wish her well, send her off with our love, and make it a point to visit her for lunch every month or so.  If you talk to her before she goes, let her know you'll miss her.  I know Chrystal and I will.  What will Leeroy do?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Informed Consent and Collaborative Practice

Well, we did it.  Bruce and I taught our workshop on informed consent at the annual Forum for the International Academy of Collaborative Practice.  It was Sunday morning, the last workshops of the Forum, and we had six attendees.  Our room could only hold fifteen, and even the bigger rooms that could hold fifty or more only had twenty one people.  So, I think we did well.  As usually happens, you learn something from every seminar you teach, and Sunday was no exception.  When we asked our learners what they took away from the seminar, a lawyer from Canada said that she realized that although she routinely obtains informed consent from clients for the collaborative process, she hasn't really ever obtained the same for litigation.  A light bulb moment for her, and for us.  Even though I've always said that litigators never obtain informed consent to litigate, I was amazed that it was the take away piece at the IACP Forum, the annual conference for collaborative practice.  What an unintended consequence.  What we're about as collaborative practitioners is to help our clients make informed choices, both for their lives in  the future and for the process used to get them there, so unintended or not, I'm thrilled with the result of our workshop.  If more clients knew about the advantages and disadvantages of litigation, more clients would choose mediation or collaboration instead and retain control over their family's future.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Random Thoughts

Today is Random Thought Day.  So, if you needed any proof I was absolutely correct in what I said in my post about The Royal Wedding, check out Kim Kardashian's filing for divorce only 72 days after she got married in one of the most ostentatious weddings of the century.  Was she so caught up in wedding planning fever that she didn't notice that they were so incompatible that they couldn't even stay married 3 months?  Truly amazing.
Also, when I tell you something won't work, why must you keep on badgering me and insisting it will?  The Trenches have now spent three days telling another law firm that the way they want our client to execute a document won't work.  We say that because we know our client.  What we get in return is simply an insistence that things be done their way, and they will not entertain any other option, even though we've offered many to them.  When I say "no," wording the question differently will not change the answer.  So stop.
While I'm ranting, when a judge asks you what you want, tell them.  Don't talk around in circles, saying nothing.  If you have a plan, and they ask, tell them what it is. I spent 15 minutes in a hearing this morning with an unrepresented party who kept saying we were close to agreement (we're not), because he has a plan to bridge the distance between the two positions.  The judge asked him what his plan was at least five times, five different ways.  He wouldn't tell her.  So, instead of working toward settlement, we got to play 20 questions.  What a way to waste everyone's time.
Sometimes the Trenches are fun, sometimes they're satisfying, and sometimes they're just not.  They're frustrating.  Today is one of those days.