This month’s In the Yellow Chair column sees Tom Nash – also known as Mr Divorce Coach – look into the rise of ‘one lawyer, one couple’ models
In previous years, the idea of ‘one lawyer, one couple’ has been seen as unfeasible. Why do you think this has changed?
There are several factors at play as to why this is now feasible, both for clients and family lawyers.
Major changes to the family law process, such as no-fault divorce, will undoubtedly have had a positive impact and assisted a shift in perspective for many professionals to the “one lawyer, one couple” way of working. By lessening the blame game, we create an opportunity to come at this in a different way.
We have also seen progressive programmes and industry discussions around changes to language within family law, such as the Family Law Language Project. This is a fantastic initiative to humanise the clients we serve and remove the contentious language, creating a better beginning to the process of helping a client through one of life’s most emotionally and physically demanding experiences.
In my work with family lawyers, I see a real desire to bring around positive change; to shake up the system and truly identify new and innovative ways to help their clients.
The face of family law is changing for the better. The way clients want to work with their lawyer is changing too, and we need to reflect that. They are the client and it’s up to us as an industry to provide them with the resources they need and evolve with modern dynamics.
This industry is finally beginning to embrace change for the better, taking stock of what hasn’t been working, what has caused inefficiency, and what has depleted the professional’s ability to do a good job.
What do you think the benefits of the new model are for separating couples?
There are many benefits for clients, but also for family law professionals, such as better coping with emotional stresses to increased marketing opportunities, and of course a deep trust and rapport.
For clients, we need to consider: what are their fears? What do they feel is being threatened in their life? What worries and uncertainties will they have? What do they need from their family lawyer within this process? What positive alternatives does this approach potentially afford them? I have noted some key points below that have been put to me by both clients and professionals about their take on the benefits of “one lawyer, one couple”:
- Save time, money & emotional stress
- Help them to communicate better
- Potentially help them reach a settlement easier/more constructively.
- Lessen contention and fears of differing advice, eradicating the “my lawyer said”
- It could help them to avoid conflict on certain points before they arise
- Peace of mind, transparency & clarity of the process
- Equality in information
- Truly feel support by the system and legal expertise. Many who come to me for support do not feel supported by the system, even if they do by their lawyer
- Creates an opportunity to locate the best possible and mutually considered outcome for their family
- Increased efficiency: simplify and centralise the process
- Improved communication through all stages
- Reduced conflict. Not just with/for the clients, but with a challenging adversary on the other side
- Improvement to your mental health as a practitioner
- Better client satisfaction
- Deeper and wider knowledge of the case, and truly understanding their combined struggles/goals
- Increased trust from the clients
- Wider service offering and increased positive marketing opportunities
How might the model impact divorce coaches’ relationships with both lawyers and separating parties?
For the progressive and forward-thinking Family Law practitioners I partner with, I see this as an opportunity to build a deeper level of trust and clearer definitions between the work I do as a divorce coach and the legal professionals.
A divorce coach’s remit with clients, be that 1:1 or in a couple setting, is to assist in the emotional management, improving mindset and the real-life practicalities of living in, through and after this life-changing event.
My role is not to take clients away from family law practitioners. To the contrary, I am there to provide them with a more credible client they can and want to work with. A congruently thought through and future-focused client who is less emotionally charged and therefore their decisions are not emotionally inhibited or directed.
I am not there to advise on legalities any more than a lawyer is there to help unpack and decipher the deep rooted emotional triggers or provide cognitive behavioural coping techniques.
Lawyers, by their own admission, are not trained in these areas. Things like subconscious communications, how a client’s sub-modalities have encoded their values and beliefs systems, how to assist a client in areas such as neuroplasticity, shifting their perspective, building new conscious and subconscious strategies, and more.
I believe this has the potential to form a true and deep alliance between legal and non-legal professionals who are all in this industry to help others.
That said, the considered pitfalls are that lawyers may take on an even bigger quasi-mental health support worker role adjacent to their legal expertise, more so than they already do.
That can be hugely dangerous – both for the client and the legal practitioner. So, if you are embarking on this new offering to your clients as a lawyer, seriously consider the psychological and mental health impact this may have on your ability to fulfil your role without having the necessary background support for clients.
As the weight of expectations grow, pressures mount and we find those leaving the industry due to burnout and many stress induced reasons. We also speak of and hear the word “collaboration” a lot… Where is the action and behaviour that shows this actually happening? Stop trying to do it all! Look after yourself, as well as your client. Share the load with other professionals who are here to help you do a better job.