by Joryn Jenkins

I recently had occasion to invite several guests to a gathering of my practice group. As Program Chair, I had been discussing with these folks the possibility that they might be interested in presenting to us and I wanted them to see for themselves what a typical meeting would look like. Understand that these prospective guest speakers were all in professions unrelated (not directly, at least) to the practice of collaborative divorce. In other words, they were not potential members of any collaborative divorce team; they were not lawyers; they were not mental health professionals; and they were not in finance.

Instead, I invited a couple who were both “relationship experts,” coaches who specialize in helping couples who are married, who want to stay married, and who are also in business together, and who want to stay in business together.

I asked a speech therapist, who works with children in middle school, to join us.

I invited a gal who presents on how body language and forms of non-verbal communication infect our relationships and our abilities to convey our ideas and intentions precisely and well-meaningly.

And I called a paralegal who runs her own business, catering to lawyers who don’t typically practice personal injury law but who have a personal injury client that they don’t want to refer to another lawyer.

All of them accepted my invites with alacrity and they showed up.

Wow! Did that meeting open my eyes!

Lana Stern, a facilitator from Miami’s Florida Collaborative Trainers, presented that night, putting on her 90-minute program, A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing. This was a marvelous workshop that included breaking the room out into collaborative divorce teams, with family background and secret roles dispensed to each team player on all the teams. While the members of the practice group were all focused on figuring out which of them was playing the wolf hiding in sheep’s clothing on their team and how to bring that “wolf” back into the collaborative fold, our guests were not just playing their parts (the spouses getting divorced), but were also entranced by the opportunity to watch a model collaborative team in action.

Believe it or not.

This was a truly eye-opening experience for our guests as well as for the collaborative practice group members. Our guests added a dimension that was missing until that point in our meetings, a sort of neutrality grown from their ignorance of our standard collaborative process and from which our clients always suffer. At the same time, they all had an opportunity to learn firsthand about the collaborative divorce process!

And my practice group began to appreciate the beneficial side effects of sharing how the collaborative divorce process works with unconnected but ultimately interested professionals and laypeople.

Lesson learned? Invite professional guests who are not even tangentially involved in the practice of collaborative divorce to your practice group meetings and to your collaborative presentations. It’s a fabulous way to get the word out!