Over the past few months our world has changed significantly.  We had to abruptly leave the physical proximity of our staff, our colleagues and our clients to enter a world of social distance.  What had once seemed commonplace became scary.  No more in-person meetings with clients.  No more in-person collaborative team meetings.

Collaborative professionals are by nature creative and innovative.  We seek those “out of the box” solutions that meet the interests and needs of our clients that may not fit within the framework of how things are usually done.  With baby steps and then broad leaps many of us moved into virtual meeting platforms to continue to provide collaborative services to our clients remotely that we previously provided face to face.  We found a new way.

Once again the world changed.  Florida has gone from “Stay-At-Home” to “Phase 1” of the reopening.  While not everyone has returned to their offices, in time that will occur.  Even though there is a natural tendency to drift back to the old habits and the old methods of doing things, these past few months have demonstrated that there is a world of opportunity to collaborative professionals who are willing and able to function in a virtual collaborative process.

We have a golden opportunity to expand the network of collaborative professionals with whom we work because for the first time we are not bound by the physical geography of our communities or of our client’s financial resources.    Regardless of whether you are a devotee of Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, or Google Meet, these platforms give us the ability to truly have a statewide practice.  There is no reason why a collaborative professional in Miami could not represent a client in Ocala as part of a team involving other collaborative professionals from Jacksonville and Tampa.  Since we have shown ourselves that it is possible to represent our existing local clients and shepherd them through the collaborative process remotely using these virtual means, there is no reason why we should not seek out clients statewide.  The benefits of the collaborative process can be offered now just as easily across the state as they can be across town.

A virtual collaborative process also offers the possibility of reduced cost for the participants and the professionals.  The time set aside on your calendar for the team meeting will no longer need to be book-ended with travel time.  That permits us to work on other matters in timeframes that might have been relegated to traffic.

Seeing opportunities is not the same as seizing them.  Just as we had to change our practice paradigm to adjust to the world of social distance, we will need to change our networking paradigm to move into this new virtual world of opportunities.

We should seek out local practice groups in other communities that are hosting virtual meetings.  These are opportunities to introduce ourselves to potential team members with whom we would not previously have had the ability to collaborate.  These opportunities operate in both directions.  We can participate in teams for cases occurring elsewhere and we can invite professionals from other communities into teams for cases happening in our locality.  Such interchange of ideas and experience benefits our clients and aids in our professional growth.

We should make use of the membership directory on the FACP website to find collaborative professionals in other parts of the state and invite them to a virtual coffee.  A phone call is only so good.  Face to face, even a virtual face to face, can help make connections that could lead to opportunities to work together.  And even if those connections do not ultimately result in new cases, you may still develop friendships so that when we are able to come together for statewide conferences there are more friends than strangers in the room.

These are not the only avenues.  We need to be creative and “out of the box.”  As one of my mentors used to say, we are only limited by our own creativity.

The future of collaborative practice now has a virtual component.  It is up to each of us to make the most of it.  I look forward to collaborating with you virtually.

Matthew E. Thatcher is a partner at the Solomon Law Group, P.A. in Tampa, Florida.  Mr. Thatcher is Board Certified in Marital and Family Law by the Florida Bar.  Mr. Thatcher is a Co-Chair for Next Generation Divorce and a Co-Chair for the FACP Outreach Committee.  Mr. Thatcher is also a Fellow in the Inaugural Class of the FACP Leadership Institute.