Meet the team: Lisa Grimmett, Associate Solicitor & Collaborative Lawyer, Family Department, Shrewsbury

Tell us a bit about your career background…

Following a Law Degree and the Legal Practice Course, I trained in the West Midlands and qualified as a Solicitor in 1996. Since 2001 I have been with Lanyon Bowdler and specialised in Family Law. I am an accredited member of the Law Society’s Family Law Panel.

What is your favourite aspect of the Collaborative Law process?

Enabling a couple to achieve tailor-made solutions. It is so much more satisfying to facilitate positive outcomes for separating couples, than get drawn into past difficulties and areas of conflict. 

What item could you not live without?

My tea cup - preferably full!!! 

What is Collaborative Law? Why is it important?

The Collaborative Law process is a relatively new but tried and tested option for divorcing and separating couples or civil partners to resolve disputes respectfully and equitably without going to court. The aim of Collaborative Practice is to help the couple focus on their most important goals, especially the children, throughout the process. The end result is a more effective, targeted and productive way to resolve disputes.
In a recent survey by Resolution, it was reported that 83% of cases settled on all issues, avoiding court proceedings. 

What are the benefits of seeking alternatives to court?

In the Collaborative Law process, you and your spouse or partner, agree not to go to court. This gives you and them control of the process and outcome. In the court setting, the judge makes the final decision. In other words you both decide the outcome rather than having a total stranger decide it for you!
Instead of a win-lose court setting, the entire collaborative team ensures that both parties work with each other, not against each other, towards mutually beneficial solutions for critical issues.
One barrier in trying to resolve matters in court is a lack of effective communication between couples. In the collaborative process, couples learn a framework for effectively communicating their concerns and goals. 

Under what circumstances would you recommend clients make use of Collaborative Law? 

Where there has been openness and trust in the relationship, including in financial matters, also when a couple agree on fundamental aims, such as continuing to do their best for the children and work together to achieve the best solution for the whole family.

What's the difference between Collaborative Law, mediation and arbitration?

All three are forms of alternative dispute resolution which aim to promote respect and keep clients in control of the process, rather than engaging the court process.
In mediation the mediator provides information but not legal advice for which parties have to return to their respective solicitors. 
In the collaborative process parties have the support of their lawyers at all meetings enabling them to progress rapidly and demonstrate openness of legal advice, promoting trust and confidence between the parties.
Arbitration enables parties to obtain a binding adjudication from the arbitrator upon a specific issue without being tied to a formal application to the court. The latter would otherwise require observation of general procedural steps often irrelevant to the parties. Once an adjudication has been given, parties may return to mediation or the collaborative process to continue to negotiate other aspects of their matter. 

Can you give us an example of a case where Collaborative Law made a really big positive impact on a client's life? 

I would say the Collaborative Law process has had a really big positive impact upon the lives of each of my clients who have undertaken the process.
Separation is a life changing event for anyone. To be in control, managing the process constructively, directly and collaboratively empowers couples. It enables them to focus on achieving their specific goals and then move on from the breakup knowing they dealt with it fairly, maturely and in the best interests of the whole family. Of course, as collaborative clients have no experience of any alternative process, they cannot say how it compares.
However, in the 20 years that I have been practising family law I believe it to be the most civilised, cost effective and constructive method for resolving separation and related matters and would endorse it wholeheartedly. 

Are there any noteworthy trends relating to your area of work that you have noticed recently?

Awareness of Collaborative Law has been increasing amongst local people and professionals in the last 18 months. Clients are seeing the benefits first hand and spreading the word about this dynamic solutions-focused process that enables them to resolve their issues sensibly, speedily and cost effectively. 
More lawyers are training to enable them to offer the process to potential clients. In the last 3 months two more local solicitors have qualified as collaborative lawyers. This has boosted the local contingent to 10 lawyers in 8 different firms. Accessing the most innovative methods of conflict resolution on their doorstep is really positive for local people and supports local businesses too.