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Starting a regional practice group

June 22, 2023 Blogs

By Melissa Matthews – Mediator | Family Dispute Resolution Practitioner (FDRP) | Collaborative Practitioner | Conflict Coach

The People

Our group was created when we attended a business training day with Clarissa Rayward in Orange, NSW. The purpose of the day was to spend some time individually focusing on our own business development. The result was a collection of like-minded people developing our own individual business strategies but as we went around the room discussing our visions, a common thread of curiosity for collaborative practice quickly became evident.

Some of us were considering training in the next twelve months and some had already completed collaborative training. It became obvious that we had a core to form a group and before we left that day, in usual Clarissa style, she made sure we had scheduled a date and location for our first meeting, which was crucial. This day was the catalyst for the formation of our group.

The environment

Many of our group are directors or owners of law practices and finding time to work on our business, rather than in the business is hard. The physical time is hard to carve out but also the brain power to consider how we could implement the changes in our practice was also important. Another crucial learning from our inception was dedicating the time to get away from the office and mix it up a little. We chose Mudgee as the location for our first meeting.

The right activities

One of the core components of collaborative practice is trust. Another key learning from our formation was the conscious choice to share an experience so that we all had the opportunity to get to know each other better. Some of us were golfers so we kicked-on on the Friday with a round together with some special “collaborative” rules.

We commenced the Saturday with our first official meeting and then scheduled the afternoon to wander around a few wineries. This choice of activity gave us an excuse to dedicate spending time together where we would have the opportunity, importantly, to talk together.

We met up again for a casual dinner in the evening and by this point trust had started to build as some shared learnings to some of the challenges we face in business.

Traditionally, law firms are seen as competitors but there is so much value in sharing knowledge. I think working as a collaborative group allows us to share ideas about how we implement collaborative practices into our firms and the reality is, working collaboratively is a much more productive way of working which is more satisfying for all involved.

To be honest we probably chose the winery tour because we were going to be in Mudgee but we all were surprised on reflection at how spending time together advanced the formation of our group, built trust, and cemented working relationships.

The right time

We consciously chose for our meeting to take place over a weekend. We have reflected that devoting our time provided us the time and space to delve into what collaborative practice looks like but also importantly we produced an action plan for how to implement some of these ideas into our businesses on our return.

We also learned that it might not be as hard as we thought to make that change and build a community. The time together helped us to put up our hands to progress different areas of our community that aligned with our skills. Our time together has resulted in more efficient use of time as we all are confident in the goals of the group and spend less time meeting as we all push forward to achieve the goals set for the group.

The right headspace

An important part has been acknowledging and implementing wellbeing practices for ourselves and our firms as we transition from the often high conflict court-based work to collaborative practice which requires us to reflect on how we are personally showing up for the work at hand. Often the only difference between a collaborative approach and the traditional legal model is a lack of patience and giving someone the benefit of the doubt, which can happen when we do not prioritise our own wellbeing.

Collaborate – 1 September 2023

We have tried to incorporate what we have learnt from our inception into our one day “Collaborate” event in Parkes where we are bringing together a range of experienced professionals who are travelling out to Parkes to share their knowledge. The event will provide the opportunity for connection and networking for new and existing collaborative professionals and we hope we may even see the formation of other practice groups. Parkes is a short plane ride or the road trip might also be the catalyst your group needs to start building those working relationships.

Golf is one option for our wellbeing afternoon but if you are not (yet) a golfer we have a great afternoon lined up with the fabulous Edwina Griffin who will be taking the group through a range of options to taste test a range of wellbeing practices like breathwork and yoga and add or strengthen some tools in your tool kit. There might even be some music or other movement involved for the group to experience together, you will just have to wait and see.

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