While visiting Israel, I had a Jewish guide who was a Captain in the Israeli Army. As we were walking out of a Christian church, I asked him if he believed that Jesus had lived. He replied that Jesus probably lived, but he did not believe Jesus was the Messiah-furthermore, there will be no Messiah. He said that he wasn’t a believer in God. He referred to himself as a “Secular Jew.”

I suddenly realized that we have many types of “secular” people. One type is the “secular collaborative lawyer” (SCL). It is sometimes difficult to spot him since he may not be willing to admit it, or he may even be unaware that he is a SCL. One SCL type believes he is committed to the collaborative process, but he is not very comfortable setting aside all of the tools he used in litigation in exchange for trust. He fears transparency, and his uncertainty prolongs the process. Occasionally his lack of trust is passed on to his client who becomes fearful and may decide to terminate the process.

There is another SCL who is agreeable until things are not going the way she thinks they should. She figured out what should happen before the first face-to-face meeting, and it is not happening! Instead of discussing her feelings with the other lawyer(s), she goes into her backup style writing aggressive e-mails and subtly making threats of termination. Her client becomes confused, and once again, even if successful, the process takes longer than it should.

The third SCL really does not believe in the process. This one is only interested in getting a case and does not mind embellishing on her fabricated expertise. There are many more types besides the three mentioned, but there is not enough room here to address them all. However, it is important that we all recognize “secular collaborative” tendencies in ourselves and others as early as possible.

We are all concerned about screening our clients; conversely, we should also screen our behavior and that of the other professionals on the team. If there is no truth and transparency, trust cannot be built among the participants, and the process is going to take longer than it should. Even if the dispute settles, the parties will not be as satisfied or feel as comfortable with the results as they will if the three T’s, truth, transparency and trust, are present.

My guide was unaware that his candor gave me a new point of view on the collaborative process. Are you interested in Collaborative Law to address your disputes? Look to Attorneys Without Litigation for lawyers who are open, honest, and willing to share their beliefs and feelings.

For more information, contact Sherrie Abney.

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