With the annual SBOT/CDT Collaborative Law Course less than seven weeks away, I began thinking about what the conference means to all of us and the significance of its commonly referred to name, “Spring Conference”. Spring is a season of new beginnings, and the collaborative divorce process contributes immeasurably to the way a family begins their new relationship. Collaborative Divorce helps each client transition to their “new beginning” in the most positive, transparent, respectful, and compassionate way possible. “Spring” also is a time to move forward after a long Winter. Isn’t that what we want for our clients going through a collaborative divorce? We want them to move forward renewed, with an eye toward the goals and interests of their family, not just end their marriage with some cookie cutter solution to their problems. We strive to give them the opportunity to shape their own future and the tools to be resilient. We strongly believe that the collaborative process is the best option to accomplish this.
As we headed back to our personal and professional lives at the end of Spring Conference on March 6, 2020, we did not have a clue how much or how long Covid-19 would affect our daily lives or the challenges it would pose. In the ensuing months, collaborative practitioners have shown the ability to adapt the process to the restrictions made necessary by the pandemic. We have helped our clients transition through their divorce, as we ourselves were transitioning into this new world of collaborative practice, from in-person meetings accompanied by a casual yet structured atmosphere, food, human touch and warmth to a process conducted through Zoom meetings. We have learned much during this period. This year’s virtual Spring Conference, themed “Building Better Collaboration”, is just one more opportunity to show off our adaptability and learn how to better serve our clients moving forward.
I was fortunate to have been given a sneak peak into what the Agenda for this year’s collaborative course will include. Like you, I am eagerly waiting for the conference to begin so I thought it might be fun to share this information with you as we await publication of the official brochure. It is obvious from even a cursory review of the topics that will be discussed, that the course directors and the planning team spent a lot of time and effort creating a course that, although different than years past, will continue to be invaluable to all attendees. This year’s conference will be much more accessible because it is virtual. The overall cost per attendee is lower than in years’ past because there will not be travel, lodging and extra meal costs. Attendees will be able to remain at home to handle their personal responsibilities as well as their crucial day to day professional ones.
The majority of the first day’s focus is on becoming better collaborative professionals. Virtual meetings are different, and it is sometimes a challenge to project empathy and make connections in a Zoom meeting. Therefore, it is critical that we continue to work on how to best adjust to this new normal. The skills we will learn at Spring Conference though aimed at virtual meetings will also serve us well when we return to in-person meetings. One critical presentation will assist us in identifying our own implicit biases, and once recognized, understand how to keep them from affecting our competence. This presentation will be followed by one that is a detailed dive into how to help a client understand financial issues and how to assist them in being better equipped to make crucial financial decisions. Finally, completing this segment of the course, and not to be overlooked in any discussion about being a better collaborative professional, is self care and how we can help make this professional journey more gratifying. If we understand our individual strengths and weaknesses and learn how to best use this knowledge, we are able to build a more complete team which helps our clients resolve their differences.
The next main topic of the course is building better collaborative practices. Many of us want to concentrate more on the collaborative side of our practice, but how can we accomplish this? The presentations in building better collaborative practices will educate us about growing our practices while also serving our clients better. How can we become more proficient with the technology we are using every day now, such as Zoom? The first day will end with instruction on how we deal with any existing mental health issues, so our clients are healthy enough to make sound decisions regarding their future and that of their children.
The second day leads off with a practical primer on the credentialing process, why hiring a credentialed professional might be important to clients, experiences of current credentialed CDT members, pragmatic advice on what an applicant needs in order to be credentialed and how to prepare for the credentialing application process. This is followed with a discussion on how we can use mediation as a tool to help break impasse and reach agreement. After concentrating on how to be better collaborative professionals and how to build better collaborative practices, Spring Conference turns to how we assist our clients as they create better agreements, whether they be financial, child related or both. Our mission is to facilitate crafting agreements that are durable and that have been reached from working together while trying to reach as much of each client’s goals as possible. To accomplish this, we know that we must keep interests in the forefront. We will learn the importance of and receive advice on how to help our clients more effectively manage third party information regarding their children, such as with the children’s school. After divorce, there is a larger need for both parents to be involved in day to day decisions. It is essential that any agreement considers the specific needs of the individual family. CDT has developed a comprehensive Parenting Plan to not only cover these issues but also assist attorneys in drafting the agreement that was reached. If any of the children are special needs, we will focus on why the clients should explore whether the family might benefit from a Special Needs Trust. In addition to developing plans on how to best manage agreements concerning the children of the marriage, it is essential that we continue to explore what needs to be addressed from a financial perspective such as what should be considered if there is an existing business interest and what should be included in any Collaborative Law Agreement which incorporates the agreements reached by the participants.
For the last several years, we have been so very fortunate to have Jack Emmott close our conference with an uplifting spiritual message from the heart and he will do so this year, as well. We are all striving to be the best collaborative professional and the best human being we can be. Having Jack share his love, light and wisdom is the perfect way to send us out into the world.
I hope to “see” you at Spring Conference.