One of the great things about collaborative law is that families are not handcuffed by the over-scheduled dockets of judges, nor are they bound by the confines of the overcrowded courthouse. This provides families and professionals with a lot of freedom on how, when, and where they make long-lasting decisions and resolve disputes.
Still, it can sometimes be daunting to organize meetings around the busy lives of spouses and practitioners. Here are four tools to help communication in collaborative cases, and the best part is that do not cost a dime.
One of the toughest initial tasks of any collaborative divorce case is to find a time that works for all of the professionals to plan out how to best help out the family. Similarly, carving a time that also works for both spouses for the first full team meeting adds two more calendars to consider.
Fortunately, Doodle provides an easy and free way to help coordinate schedules. Simply go to their website, provide some basic information such as title for the event, location, description, your name, and your e-mail address, and then fill out a grid for all of the proposed dates and times of your meeting. Next, provide the e-mail addresses of the people with whom you need to schedule, and Doodle will send out a message inviting everyone to fill out the grid. Every time someone responds, you will get a notification, and Doodle will indicate the date(s) and time(s) that works best for everyone. If no time and date works for everyone, simply create another Doodle.
I have found that in person meetings are generally the best way to communicate in collaborative cases. However, in person meetings are not always possible, and sometimes they are not desirable.
For those times, FreeConferenceCall.com is a great way to hold, well, a free conference call. When you sign up, FreeConferenceCall.com will provide you with a conference line that everyone can call into, along with a code they will need to enter to participate in the call. If no one feels like taking notes, the calls can be recorded and downloaded as an MP3 afterwards. When the call is finished, you will get an e-mail with a report of every telephone number that dialed into the conference, along with how long each number stayed on the call. This last part can be especially helpful for time-tracking and billing purposes.
FreeConferenceCall.com is a great tool for setting up a group call, but sometimes it is helpful to be able to see one another, even if you cannot be in the same room (such as in long-distance collaborative cases). For those times, Google Hangouts might be what you are looking for.
Google Hangouts allows you to set up a group videoconferencing. There are apps available so that participants can use either their desktop or an iOS or Android mobile device. With Google Hangouts, you can also text chat and collaborate in real-time on documents using Google Apps. Below is a video from collaborative attorney Brian Galbraith on how to use Google Hangouts.
Finally, sometimes you have had your meetings, teleconferences, and videoconferences, and a professional or client simply needs to sign a document to move forward. Further, a printer and scanner is not always available, so what are you to do?
Fortunately, there is a tool that can help you in these circumstances: SignNow. SignNow is a free app that you can download on your iPhone or Android device. If a document is e-mailed to you in Word or PDF format, SignNow will allow you to draw your signature on your phone, then place your signature in the appropriate place in the document. You can also insert text as needed, such as your printed name and a date. Finally, you can then e-mail the newly-signed document to whomever you need.
So there you have it. It is important in collaborative cases to keep open lines of communication among the professionals and the family, and these tools should help you do so.
If you or your family would like to know how collaborative law can help you get through divorce and family law issues, schedule a consultation with Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm at (813) 443-0615 or CLICK HERE fill out our contact form.
Adam B. Cordover is co-author with Forrest (Woody) Mosten of an upcoming American Bar Association book on Building A Successful Collaborative Law Practice. He is also a founder and principal trainer for the Tampa Bay Collaborative Trainers, as well as a member of the Research Committee of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.