Collaborative law was the most recent focus of The Stella Network in-which a practice session was held on what advisers need to know about the law.
The panel explained how collaborative practice between advisers, lawyers, accountants and coaches can work together to give the best client outcomes.
Used successfully in cases of divorce and other legal issues where it was imperative that the arguing parties maintained a relationship afterwards such as employee relations and neighbourhood disputes, collaborative law has been used for around 10 years in Australia and the number of professionals acting in the space is growing.
Nigel Nichols, principal at Blachfield Nicholls Lawyers, and Bernie Bolger, Bernie Bolger Collaborative Mediation, are both practitioners in collaborative law and say the process works because you have all parties in the room together and nothing is said behind another’s back that can halt or stymie the process. Typically, through collaborative law, divorces may take around six months to finalise and save tens of thousands of dollars in legals costs. In the case of divorce, having a financial planner in the room as the settlement is being discussed means that there is a professional there who can give advice on how the parties are able or not able to live on the monies agreed.
Collaborative law is also a used for prenups, estate planning and wills.
The session was followed by a short session on advisers and the law – when it’s against them.
Peter Bobbin, principal legal counsel at Argyle Lawyers spoke to 40 financial advisers in Sydney around what they need to know to keep themselves protected.
Mr Bobbin said that the single biggest issue he has seen affecting advisers being sued by clients is a lack of communication. Sometimes people take action they might otherwise not have, because they feel they have no choice. This commonly stems from a lack of communication.
On commenting on the trend to collaborative practice Mr Bobbin says, “As lawyers we can be known for focusing on the last 5 per cent and at times can miss the bigger picture. Financial advisers are very good at looking at the bigger picture, it’s what they do best. I’ve seen poor outcomes which could have been avoided had the clients practitioners all come together to nut out the issues earlier. So true collaboration between a client’s practitioners is really the key to provide the best outcomes for clients.
Mr Bobbin outlined his tips to ensure success and give clients peace of mind:
- Communicate and be open – There is no such thing as too much communication when it comes to client expectations. It sounds simple, but sometimes the simplest things can be the most difficult. Being open and communicating regularly and often with clients will ensure their peace of mind.
- Fulfil the necessary evils – Filing is hardly the least glamorous task, but is a must. Proper filing on behalf of clients can make all the difference in keeping them and you safe.
The Stella Network, formed in 2013 with more than 2250 members is an industry-wide initiative supporting women and diversity in financial advice.