June 14, 2009
Choosing a Legal Professional– Old Hawk or New Dove?
The dominant view in the legal community, currently, is that an attorney must practice litigation for years before they can become a qualified Collaborative attorney or mediator. Some attorneys say “a few years,” other attorneys say, “ten to twenty years,” to develop the necessary expertise in the law.
Yet there are good reasons to reject this view. One is, when looking for an expert in the law, reporters often interview law professors, not practicing attorneys. It would be hard to say that law professors aren’t “experts” in the area of law they study. There are plenty of resources to aid a Collaborative attorney or mediator in maintaining a professorial-level knowledge of the law.
Another is, there are successful mediators who are mental health professionals. They run successful practices helping clients with their conflicts, including mediating their legal settlements, without any legal background at all. Some of the most recommended mediation trainers for attorneys have mental health backgrounds, not legal backgrounds.
Finally, in other common law countries, such as Canada, Australia, and Great Britian, there are two tracks in law school and practice: barrister and solicitor. One goes to court and litigates; the other provides non-litigation legal services. Barristers, the litigating attorneys, do not have a lock on legal expertise in those countries.
It makes sense that the dominant view in the legal community, currently, is that a good Collaborative attorney or mediator needs to litigate first. Why? Because, almost all Collaborative attorneys and mediator-attorneys, themselves, litigated for years before offering Collaborative Practice or mediation services. The legal community is made up mostly of Hawks and Old Hawks. But the door has been opened with the emergence of Collaborative Practice and mediation to a generation of New Doves.