We are all keenly aware of the harm that outside shadow advisors can do to the collaborative process. We vet our clients thoroughly and take cautious steps to minimize the influence these advisors may have over them. But there exists another type of shadow advisor: one in the room, but still covert, the “expert” client. This shadow advisor can be as damaging to collaborative resolution as any other one and we must all recognize and address them in a collaborative manner to limit harm to the process.
If a client holds an expertise in a field that can have a bearing on the process, it will most likely impact the process. How we manage that expertise can directly dictate the success of the case. Some are obvious, such as the client who is an Attorney, Mental Health Professional or Financial Planner. Some may not be so apparent. What about the client who has a degree or experience in a closely aligned field, a CPA, Comptroller, Nurse, Doctor, Teacher, Day-Care Worker, Real Estate Agent, etc.? In fact, the list is as varied as the issues unique to the clients’ lives.
We should take the time at the onset of each new case to really explore with our clients if they think they hold an elevated expertise on issues that will be addressed in joint meetings. If so, the team should develop a plan at the first team call as to how the team can tactfully address same and, if necessary, change the process to minimize any negative impact it may have. Waiting until the shadow expert client asserts their “expertise” in a joint session may well be too late.