2016 has been an incredible year of change for Collaborative Divorce in Texas. This year of change was designed to re-energize the movement in Texas and to move toward the goal of Collaborative Divorce becoming the preferred method of divorce in Texas. It has been a challenging and exhausting year for all of you and particularly your Board of Directors but thankfully, all our collective efforts are starting to show signs of bearing fruit.
Here are 8 major changes that took place in 2016.
#1 Our Name
In February, the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas became Collaborative Divorce Texas. The primary reason for the change was that the public didn’t know what Collaborative Law meant. The name didn’t reflect our primary area of practice, which was family law, and in particular divorce. The Board felt it was important to relate more to potential clients’ needs by “naming the elephant.” The result has been a much clearer identity. We hope that building that stronger identity, or brand, will begin to translate to additional cases in other practice areas, such a probate, guardianship, employment and business.
#2 New Website
With the new name came a new website. The site was streamlined to focus on driving visitors to members’ profile pages. The result has been that collaborative related web traffic has gone up 85% since the site launched versus the same time period in 2015. Google Analytics tells us that through the end of November, there have been over 47,000 visits to the CDT websites.
# 3 Social Media Campaign
In August, we began a social media campaign that has been building the awareness and brand of Collaborative Divorce in Texas. This campaign is focused on a different major city and the surrounding areas each month. The result has been huge increases in website visits in those areas. In November, the campaign ran in Austin, and Austin area website traffic increased by over 450% from October.
One of the long-time problems for our movement has been those who claim to do collaborative but simply use it as a marketing tool. In some areas of the state, this was a bigger problem than in other areas, but in the D-FW area, it is not uncommon for lawyers to market themselves as collaborative lawyers but who either have no or insufficient training, haven’t made the paradigm shift or never have any intention of doing the case collaboratively. It is not unusual to hear about lawyers who get people into their offices and say, “Oh, yes, I totally support collaborative, but your case is just not a good candidate for it.” Or, they say, “The Family Code authorizes any lawyer in Texas to practice collaborative—training is not necessary and those with training have no particular magic that anyone else who hasn’t had training has.” To meet this problem head-on, a plan for creating separation from those serious about collaborative was created. The result of the credentialing initiative was nearly 30 applications being received in the CDT office by the deadline in August. The ETC (education, training and credentialing) committee has been remarkable in their work on credentialing. The first class of Master or Credentialed Collaborative Professionals will be announced at Spring Conference.
#5 Monthly E- Newsletters
A monthly email newsletter was launched in July. The newsletter is edited by San Antonio’s Harry Munsinger and is loaded with valuable content every month. The result is that our membership is more aware of our organization’s activities and give them information and opportunities to leverage the work that CDT is doing into their practice.
#6 Collaborative Divorce Training Events
Collaborative Divorce training events were held in Dallas, Austin, Lubbock, Houston and El Paso during the year. Every training event was at capacity. The result is that more people are engaging or re-engaging with the collaborative movement in Texas.
#7 Collaborative Divorce Marketing Events
To help everyone learn about the importance and opportunities that come with marketing and branding Collaborative Divorce, Tim Crouch and Camille Milner have traveled throughout the state this past year and a half to share that information with Collaborative Divorce professionals. Tim and Camille together and separately have covered San Antonio, Austin, Houston, El Paso, Dallas, Collin County, Denton County, and Tarrant County groups. In addition to meeting with groups, countless individual meetings have taken place between the staff of the Crouch Group and CDT members who are learning about the new website and facilitating what I call “pings,” which means that every time there is a blog post on the CDT Facebook page, it can also post on the member’s page, thereby increasing the practice groups’ or individual members’ coverage about Collaborative Divorce without them having to do it all themselves. The result is a growing awareness of all that CDT is doing to grow the collaborative brand in Texas and to help our members get more cases.
#8 Membership Growth
One of the Board’s concerns was to reverse the downward trend in membership. The board has created new systems for managing membership renewals and inviting attendees to join during training events. The results have been a 12.5% increase in membership since June and a goal of topping the 300-membership mark in the near future.
Whew, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. I hope that you have already marked your calendar for Spring Conference in Dallas on March 2nd and 3rd. Julie Quaid and Rhonda Cleaves have put together an incredible lineup of speakers, including national headliners, and on Thursday night, we will have the annual Presidents’ Dinner, where all of you can come bid me farewell and the new President welcome for the coming year. There will be more information to share about all that is happening with the Collaborative Movement in Texas. The results thus far are promising as we work to make Collaborative Divorce the preferred method of divorce in Texas. Let’s make 2017 even better!
Camille Milner, President