July 11, 2014

The Principle of Empowerment

501218767I have been studying the Collaborative Law model to try and discern what it is that has made it so successful. My focus has brought me to looking at principles that are embedded in this practice, and that has me considering a very strong principle – empowerment.

Having been involved in the creation and evolution of what has become a paradigm shift in providing services to divorcing couples, some things become apparent that weren’t when we were first putting things together.

One of the commitments we made at the onset was that parties considering divorce should have the option of choosing a process that would not use the traditional adversarial court until they had put together an agreement resolving all issues. That agreement could then be submitted as a stipulated default. We knew from experience that a good number of cases were settling prior to trial, even at that time, so it didn’t seem like much of a stretch. We knew the parties themselves were the best people to know how things should be resolved, but once the court got involved in the mix communication often broke down, and the parties were less able to maintain control of the process.

The simple step of providing the space within which parties could negotiate their agreement without interference by the grand institution of the law was profound. In the twenty-four years since that idea was germinated, the evolutionary process has morphed this idea into an even more profound possibility.

Power is an energy formed by intentions. But how that energy is formed makes a huge difference. The usual concept of power is power over others. As the collaborative community grew, powerful people from various professions came together, not to control one another, but to co-operate, to collaborate with one another for a greater good.

I don’t know about my colleagues, but the term ‘empowerment’ never came up in our discussions that I can recall. But a lot of things happened on the way to the dance. My own personal development has progressed a great deal since 1990.

One of the powerful things that happened was that there were a good many attorneys and other professionals ready for change. Once mental health professionals and financial specialists became aligned with our process the conversation enlarged dramatically. We moved from a process dominated by attorneys to a process shared by many minds. All of the professionals became “empowered” to have a voice at the table.

We were quite fortunate to be the right idea at the right time. Much has been written about the myriad ways in which the world is changing – and it is not all for the worse, as it sometimes seems. Transformational thinking has a way of springing up in numbers of different places at the same time. We provided the genesis for change that was quickly embraced by other kindred souls.

What happened in the development of collaborative law here in Minnesota mirrored what was happening in other jurisdictions that stretch entirely around the globe. As I watch this process unfold, I see the empowerment it spawned reflected again and again. It is as though the entire movement has attracted like minded people who have been captured by the concept, enrolled in its possibilities, and consistent in its application.

Everyone has the opportunity to become invested and influence the creation and enhancement of the product. I see no gender conflicts, no professional conflicts, no age and experience conflicts, just relentless growth and maturity.

In my next post I will focus on how the principle of Empowerment benefits parties who choose to employ collaborative practice.

Bruce Peck

Bruce is one of the founding members of the Collaborative Law Institute.
Back in the Wonder Years, this small group was trying to figure out what a new way of practicing family law might look like. Today the collaborative law concept has exploded, not just throughout the United States, but also internationally. For over thirty years Bruce has continued to hone his skills to provide the highest quality of services to family law clients. He helps good people make tough choices during difficult times.

Bruce is a laid back and easy going person who listens well to others. He is a shameless optimist who can always see possibility and opportunity. Being very curious by nature, he is a voracious reader. His love for words has drawn him into being an avid poet.

Bruce’s skills supports clients interests without alienating their spouse. When the parties reach agreement, it is not under duress. They have the time to discuss all decisions with their attorneys before signing the agreement. Once completed, the stipulated divorce is filed with the court for a default hearing in which neither party, nor their attorneys, ever have to set foot inside a courthouse. Learn more at www.BrucePeckLawOffice.com

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