Public Interest Law Careers Guide - Jane Libbis Testimonial

jane libbis

Collaborative lawyer: Jane Libbis

Organisation: Bayside Collaborative

Short biography: Jane is a partner at CE Family Lawyers and it's dedicated collaborative business, Bayside Collaborative, both located in Brighton. Jane is a passionate advocate of collaborative practice both within and outside the legal profession and is a long-standing member of the Executive of Collaborative Professionals Victoria.

What was your pathway into collaborative law?

My partners had undertaken the first collaborative practice training with Cathy Gale and so I was familiar with the concept from the time it first came to Melbourne. After undertaking a Graduate Diploma in counselling, collaborative practice seemed to be a logical step and so I did the Basic and Advanced training through the LIV with Cathy Gales and Tanya Sourdin was well as the team training at Melbourne Collaborative Alliance. 

What do you see as the main advantages of the collaborative approach?

For clients I see the main advantages as being the client empowerment and the focus on the needs of the individual family which provides an ability to generate options that would not be possible in a more traditional approach.

For the practitioner collaborative work is much more satisfying than other approaches.

What uses do you put it to?

I am a family lawyer and so I use collaborative practice to assist couples to begin their post-separation lives with dignity and respect and a focus on the needs of their children.

Because there are still only a small number of lawyers doing collaborative work, one of the biggest challenges I face is having all of the pieces fall into place to be able to commence a collaboration. Most clients are amenable to the idea of being able to resolve issues in a way that reduces conflict however they then need to convince the person from whom they are separating that this is the best approach for them. If the other partner has already seen lawyer the likelihood is that person will not be collaboratively trained, and so the collaboration is then not possible.

What advice do you have for students wishing to practice collaborative law?

Practitioners within the collaborative community are always open to talking to others about the work they do. If you are interested in collaborative work, contact the Law Institute to obtain a list of practice groups run through Collaborative Professionals Victoria and get yourself along to practice group meeting to start to meet some of the lawyers, psychologists and financial professionals doing the work.

What advice do you have for practising lawyers wishing to practice collaborative law?

Working collaboratively is a big paradigm shift for traditional lawyers. You need to be prepared to take more of a back seat. You become less of an advocate FOR your client and more of an ally to your client. Be prepared to open your mind to a whole new way of relating to clients.

What are the pitfalls a traditionally-trained lawyer should be aware of?

As collaborative work requires a new way of thinking, practitioners need to be prepared to engage in a new level of self-awareness. Collaborative practice cannot just be learned, it must be experienced and practitioners should expect to undertake a journey of self-discovery as they get deeper into the work. 

I want to convince my employer to include a collaborative component in what we can offer our clients  – how can I approach this?

Collaborative is a growing area of practice, so one approach could be to indicate that it would benefit the practice to be able to offer clients the collaborative alternative in addition to a more traditional approach to ensure that they can provide clients with full range of options. Presently most collaborative work is being done in the family law area so if you are working for a non-family law firm, it will be a more difficult conversation.

What things should a traditionally-trained lawyer be aware of when entering into collaborative practice?

Traditionally trained lawyers should not undertake training expecting to have a booming collaborative practice overnight. For the reasons mentioned above, it can be difficult for everything to come together to get a collaboration off the ground, so you should come to this work with passion and patience.

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