Family law is often regarded as a battleground with winners and losers where the lawyer’s job is to fight for their client. Separation then becomes a battle of wills, strategies, tactics and power (in which money can play a significant part).
It is little wonder then that family lawyers (and lawyers in general) have a bad image when they are regarded by the community as “hired guns”. Has it always been this way? Does it need to be this way? To quote Warren Earl Burger (Chief Justice of the United States from 1969 to 1986):-
The entire legal profession – lawyers, judges, law teachers – has become so mesmerised with the stimulation of the court room contest that we tend to forget that we ought to be healers – healers of conflicts.
Robert Benham, the first African American to serve as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, spoke about three fundamental professions found in all civilised societies:-
Medicine – which heals the body;
The clergy – which heals the soul; and
Law – which (properly understood) heals breaches in the social fabric.
What a different way of looking at family law and family lawyers! This approach is so relevant to a family separation. It strikes at the heart of what we should be doing when there is a separation and especially where there are children involved – helping to heal the conflict and to move the family through the transition from a single family unit in to a separated family.
We all know how much pain, stress and dislocation can be caused by a separation. It then makes sense to think that lawyers (and other professionals) should be there to heal and repair – not to cause further conflict and division.
The core and centre of collaborative practice is to heal and repair by achieving resolution in a way that is fair, dignified, respectful and focused on the welfare of children.
Collaborative practice is a significant advance towards changing the perception of lawyers from “warriors” to “healers”.