Do we over-screen?

At the Pod Liaison Officer conference 2019, Collaborative Working Group co-chair Ian Hawkins asked the question do we screen out some clients because it is too difficult or because we don’t have the answers?

Kathryn Ferris wrote up this report from the day.

This was the question asked by Ian Hawkins presenting the course. A reasonable question except that in his capacity as an IFA he is rarely, if ever, involved in the screening process. Who better though to put a room of collaboratively trained lawyers on the spot for an explanation as to why more, if not all cases, could be considered suitable for collaborative. For this exercise we were asked to pretend all lawyers were collaboratively trained (hopefully one day!). Ian began by asking us to consider why collaborative law was good for us and for our clients. We all agreed that less stress and hostility, more control, cost-effectiveness and speed could all be answers to this question and this list was not exhaustive.
We then moved on to consider the characteristics, behaviour or situations we would consider to be the perfect collaborative client. The client who wanted to be fair, had a good relationship with their ex and was willing to work openly and honestly was presented as the type of person we all look out for. We then had to describe the client or situation considered unsuitable for collaborative. Sadly this question was a lot easier to answer producing a long list of scenarios including domestic violence, unwillingness to disclose and emotional vulnerability.
The final element was to think about what safeguards could be put in place when dealing with the scenarios on the previous list to turn them into a collaborative matter. For example, we discussed how the use of Family Consultants/Coaches can help when dealing with cases involving domestic violence or emotional vulnerability. Involving an IFA to complete a due diligence exercise on the financial disclosure may help increase the trust between parties. Thinking about the timing and length of meetings when dealing with clients with addiction problems may be simple steps that make the process work for them.
The conclusion of the session was that whilst there will always be cases that don’t necessarily appear from the outset to be the perfect collaborative case we shouldn’t dismiss it too quickly. We all want to do more collaborative work and could be denying ourselves that opportunity if we don’t think outside the box and get creative about the way in which we screen. The final question posed to us and food for thought, in the scenarios originally considered to be unsuitable why would going to Court be better?