Why do lawyers, and particularly family lawyers, have such a bad reputation when it comes to costs and charging? Maybe it’s because of examples like these:-
- A partner who charged clients for more than 5,471 hours in a single year – about 15 hours a day every day.
- The lawyer who charged his clients for running air-conditioning during the weekend.
- The lawyer who billed more than 150 hours during a 2 week period in which he actually worked for less than 50.
- The lawyer who charged for 26 hours of work in a single day.
Thankfully these examples are from the USA but they are symptomatic of the image lawyers have which explains the reluctance of many people to approach lawyers at all unless they absolutely have to.
This is where collaborative practice is different. Firstly collaborative practice is underpinned by a set of ethics and values focused on the welfare of clients and their families which include:-
- Fairness; and
- Value for money.
The focus in collaborative practice is working together as a team to achieve outcomes which meet clients’ interests, needs and goals. The team comprises lawyers who advise, guide and support their clients and neutral professionals (psychologist and financial professional).
Another distinguishing feature about collaborative practice is that the costs are primarily incurred during the joint meetings when everyone is present and where the real work is done. This provides transparency and clients can see for themselves the progress that is being made towards resolution. In this way collaborative practice is efficient and we avoid significant charges for what is often unnecessary work – especially endless emails, letters, telephone attendances and other internal office work which does not create any real value. This works particularly well in family law but is also effective in other areas of law.
In the end it is all about value – lawyers need to create value for the work that they do. Collaborative practice lends itself perfectly to this objective and should be the way of the future in resolving family law disputes – and maybe even changing the image of lawyers!
For us at Bayside Collaborative it’s certainly not about the money! Visit our website at www.baysidecollaborative.com.au to find out more.