Are we listening? What clients say they want. (Part 7 of 8) -- The Puzzle Pieces of Client Needs and Interests and Self-Expression

By Louise E Livesay Member IACP Research Committee

Continuing to highlight key findings from the 2015 IACP Research Study of clients’ satisfaction with their divorce process, this issue focuses on the puzzling finding that a significant percentage (almost half of our clients) are very satisfied with their opportunity to express self in the process while a moderate percentage of clients were very satisfied with the attention to needs and interests.  The puzzling thing is that client satisfaction with the Collaborative Process is more highly correlated with attention to needs and interests. Why might this be?

A hallmark of the Collaborative Process is identifying client goals in the commencement meeting.  This is an exercise that helps clients realize so often that they are not at odds with their spouse in what really matters to them in the divorce process.  And when there are differences, we know what they are and can still work towards meeting the goals. Because we talk about meeting their needs and interests throughout the process and highlight that doing so is an overarching goal of the process, we are often times stressing that the Collaborative Process has the higher likelihood of meeting both of their needs and interests.  By doing this, we help our clients connect this process factor with the idea of a successful process.

I find that Collaborative lawyers make an effort to not get “hooked” into their client’s story, and understand that a story always has more than one side to it.  This awareness by the lawyers may impact the client’s level of satisfaction with their needs and interests being met because we don’t “feed their story.”

Yet, because the professionals encourage clients to speak for themselves in productive ways, rather than professionals speak for the clients, it is understandable that they feel a higher level of satisfaction with the opportunity to express self.  Our process fully supports people doing that. But it is easy when things get hard and emotions increase when clients are trying to express disagreement with an idea, to quickly jump to problem-solving. If we practice in a lawyer-only model, we may try to steer away from those emotional moments because we don’t feel equipped to manage the emotions that come along with clients expressing themselves and meeting their needs and interests may actually get short-changed.  Practice tip: If you have a tendency to use a lawyer-only model, think about using other professionals as well. This can help you shift from always trying to fix the problem to spend some time peeling away the emotional layers that may be getting in the way of a more nuanced settlement that really meets clients’ needs and interests.

Louise Livesay has been practicing Collaborative family law for over 14 years in Minnesota when she started her practice and focuses only on out-of-court settlement. She has been actively involved in the Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota throughout her family law career, being president of the organization twice and receiving the Stu Webb award for her efforts in advancing Collaborative Practice. She trains professionals in the Collaborative Model, Attorney Discernment Counseling, and is a regular presenter at the IACP Forum on a variety of topics. Louise is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and has served on the Research Committee, Professional Development Committee, Training Advisory Committee, and participated in the Leadership Academy.