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Workplace Conflict Solutions

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On Thursday, July 9th, the Sovereign Health Group in Culver City hosted an introductory workshop to Workplace Conflict Solutions. This workshop has been developed over the past decade by the conflict professionals at the Law Collaborative. The assembled mental health professionals gathered enthusiastically to learn more about conflict resolution strategies, tactics, and techniques for conflict avoidance and dispute resolution through the application of imaginative and creative tools developed and designed for the specific needs of family oriented businesses.

The Law Collaborative primarily handles family law and divorce, and the tools we’ve developed in an effort to settle these sometimes high conflict cases are extremely effective. The trials and tribulations so familiar to family settings are no stranger to the TLC team. Communication errors are common. Misunderstanding seems to be a normal part of every day life. So what do we do? How do we manage the emotional meltdown in a way that lessens loss and maintains productivity? The purpose of the workshop is to teach those skills and provide those essential tools. What do you do when there is a meltdown? What do you do to prevent a meltdown? How do you handle conflict, combat, and competition in the work place?

These are very important questions that are discussed and answered in the 90 minute workshop I gave at Sovereign Health. Please contact me if you think this workshop would benefit your company. I’d be honored to present to your staff, co-workers, and colleagues.

Very truly yours,

Ronald Melin Supancic
Certified Family Law Specialist
The Law Collaborative, APC
T: (888) 852-9961  F(888) 852-9962 

Are Your Legal Affairs in Order for the New Year?

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A friend recently and unexpectedly died.  His wife had asked him many times if he had written down his last wishes.  He assured her that he had, but they never discussed where he kept this document.  It has been several months since his death and the document he claimed to have written has not been found.  Neither his accountant or business manager had a copy.  Drawers, books, computers, and the safety deposit box were searched without luck.  As a result, his estate was sent to Probate which has caused unnecessary delays, added legal fees, and unnecessary taxes.  That was not what he wanted.

Have you expressed your last wishes clearly?  Are these intentions written down?  Where do you keep your Health Care directives and your Estate Planning documents?  Where do you keep your Will?  Where do you keep your Passwords?  Do you have a single place in which you store all your vital information?  Does your spouse or executor know where this is? 

Now is a good time to make sure these steps have been taken; review your Estate Plan, update your information, notify your heirs of your wishes.  If you haven’t completed these tasks, call us today. 

For the remainder of this month, The Law Collaborative is offering a free, 30-minute consultation as a way of helping you move forward with handling these important affairs. Feel free to call us directly and schedule your appointment.

Your friend,

 

Ronald Melin Supancic
Certified Family 
Law Specialist
The Law Collaborative, APC
T: (888) 852-9961  F: (888) 852-9962 

Once In a Lifetime, a Book Comes Along That Changes Your Life

14-06-11 Ken Cloke Book Review

The Dance of Opposites, a new book by Dr. Kenneth Cloke, will change your life. You will never view conflict the same way again. If you only read one more book on the theory and practice of conflict resolution, make it this one. Dr. Cloke’s explorations in mediation, dialogue, and conflict resolution systems are revolutionary.    

Dr. Cloke quotes Albert Camus, “The purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself.”  It is clear that his new vision for conflict resolution intends to do just that. 

The chapter, “Elements of a New Vision,” takes us on a journey toward a comprehensive conflict resolution system that constitutes a fundamental transformation in the way we disagree and resolve our differences as a species. His imperatives are inarguable as we look upon today’s world to observe the senseless killing that is characteristic of so many cultures on our planet. It is not surprising that this book comes from the same person who founded Mediators Beyond Borders some years ago.

The “Elements of the Language of Conflict” chapter leads us into a clear understanding of why it may be inevitable that our species’ troubles frequently begin with thoughtless use of language. Misinformation, misunderstanding, confusion, and incorrect interpretation is integral to the language of conflict that is a style of communication based on combat. We must rethink the whole essence of our ability to communicate.

Dr. Cloke offers clear and convincing evidence of both the problem and a proposed solution that will be of immense interest to practicing attorneys who usually regard themselves as masters of communication. My experience is that most lawyers must continue to study skillful communication styles. 

From language, Dr. Cloke moves into the narrative structure of conflict. His illustrative stories explain the “20 Ways to Transform Conflict.” This chapter alone is worth the price of the book. He clearly sets forth the process for building bridges between the psychology of conflict and the implications for the mediator who must  learn to navigate the crucial distinctions that typically separate parties engaged in conflict. 

The conflict resolution questions in Chapter Five, “10 Steps to Transcendence” in Chapter Six, and “Heartfelt Communications in Conflict Resolution Systems,” discussed in Chapter Seven, are capable of forever altering our approach to working with families. Solutions come by way of study, insight, understanding, and awareness. The author provides clear, express, concrete tools to accomplish this. 

This is a must-read for AAML Fellows working in this most difficult area of conflict resolution. The final chapters on Mediation, Law, and Justice are superb. Dr. Cloke’s experience studying Chinese mediation techniques in the eastern hemisphere offer amazing insights into that culture, as well as valuable pointers to the practitioner for improving quality of service. His understanding of both process and protocol have guided him in this new direction that is worthy of our study and consideration.

One hundred years from now the present process used to resolve conflict will be recognized a obsolete.  Dr. Cloke’s book will help us move forward to create a positive difference in our contemporary culture.  That is the message.  That is the challenge.  That is the opportunity.  Read the book The Dance of Opposites.

Your friend,

Ronald Melin Supancic
Certified Family Law Specialist
The Law Collaborative, APC
T: (888) 852-9961  F: (888) 852-9962

Divorce Court: What the Judge Wants to See and Hear

14-03-12 Newsletter Divorce Court

Recently my son and fellow attorney, Ty, accompanied me to a dinner hosted by CPA firm White, Zuckerman, Warzavsky, Luna, Wolf, and Hunt, where the Honorable Judge Lloyd C. Loomis was the guest of honor.  Judge Loomis shared his “Do’s and Don’ts” for clients and lawyers; in other words, What the Judge Wants to See and Hear.  Whether you are an attorney, client, or other professional, I believe this will be a valuable read:


In court, deadlines are of the essence.  The party who has filed timely obtains a distinct advantage in the courtroom.  Clients sometimes put off filling out Income and Expense declarations; there are very good reasons why your lawyer asks you to fill out forms, and the sooner, the better.  Also, honesty is absolutely necessary. 

Judge Loomis suggests that lawyers can do a better job of educating their clients about what to expect when they appear in court.  In his experience, it is not unusual for the parties to seem confused and frustrated by the process.  Such feelings are natural when parties are under stress, but having information will make the process easier.  If you have questions about court, ask your lawyer.  They will be happy to answer them.  What exactly is a ‘Meet and Confer?’  Judge Loomis finds that it’s something many lawyers ignore, and many parties object to.  Meet and Confer provisions are part of the Code of Civil Procedure.  Before appearing in court, lawyers and parties ought to meet and confer with each other in a sincere effort to settle matters.  Failing to meet and confer in good faith inevitably leads to a waste of time and legal fees.

When dealing with child custody, Judge Loomis puts the well-being of children first. He wants to see co-parenting plans that emphasize frequency and regularity of visits for both parents, and he believes it is healthier for siblings to stay together rather than be split between parents.  He appreciates custody plans that plan ahead; too often the plans seem designed only to solve an immediate problem and not to address changes and challenges that may appear in the years ahead.

Most importantly, civility, between lawyers and between parties, is important in court.  Some clients wonder why their lawyers are being friendly and polite to each other and to opposing party.  The California State Bar “Guidelines of Civility and Professionalism” require this behavior, and so does our society.  Judge Loomis wants to see those rules followed in his courtroom.  In a divorce case, a lawyer who observes these rules sets an example for those he deals with.  Face it, as a society, we need more civility.  If you’re curious, the Guidelines can be found in the “Civility Toolbox” in the Ethics section of the State Bar Website.

Your friend,

Ronald Melin Supancic
Certified Family Law Specialist
The Law Collaborative, APC
(: (888) 852-9961  F(888) 852-9962 | 

The Raging Bull of Van Nuys

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I had an interesting nickname for the first 20 years of my law practice, and I’ll occasionally meet an attorney who may reference my original, aggressive style of litigation. The following should bring some clarity:

Years ago, I appeared on an initial Request for Orders in the Van Nuys Superior Court. A typical Request for Orders involves custody, visitation, interim child and spousal support, attorneys fees, and temporary restraining orders.

The attorney on behalf of the responding party was from Orange County, and introduced himself to me. He was cordial and polite. I invited him to go to the cafeteria to talk about an interim settlement. He agreed, and we asked the court to put the matter on second call. We went to the cafeteria, and, with the help of our clients, settled the entire case. We then returned to the Northwest Department to declare that we had completed the matter: in those few hours in the cafeteria we had worked out a Co-Parenting Plan, an equitable division of assets and liabilities, and permanent support orders to complete the case.

As we waited for the court to take the bench to hear the stipulation, the attorney remarked that he was very surprised. I asked why. He told me, “I’ve never appeared in Van Nuys before. I wanted to get a line on you and your reputation, so I called a friend of mine from law school. He told me you were called ‘the Raging Bull of Van Nuys.’ Imagine my surprise when you extended your hand and invited me to the cafeteria; even more so when we proceeded to settle the entire case.” I responded, “You’re reasonable, intelligent, and you didn’t demand anything to which your client was not entitled. You made a case for your client, and it was reasonable and fair. That’s the best we can ever hope for our clients.”

I’ve thought many times since about that dubious reputation for being a “Raging Bull.” I had certainly never intended to be a raging bull, but I was passionate, and vigorous in my advocacy on behalf of my client. I practiced “take no prisoners” litigation for the first 25 years of my career because, at the time, that’s what law schools taught. However, I was always aware of the damage and destruction caused by the traditional litigation approach, to the families, the clients, and especially their children. I was a child of divorce, so am very aware of the pain that children feel.

I served on the Executive Committee for the San Fernando Bar Association Family Law Committee. The cases in Superior Court were backlogged for up to two years at the time, so we put together a volunteer attorney pro tem program, in order to give relief to the courts. We planned to do small claims appeals, default judgments, and much of the administrative work that prevents judges from hearing trials in a timely manner.

Our committee approached the supervising judge in 1976, the Honorable Charlie Hughes, who listened patiently to our pitch for a volunteer attorney pro tem program. His response: “No. But I’ll tell you what we do need. We need you to create a volunteer mediation project.” Our reaction? “What’s mediation?” It was the first time any of us had heard the word used. (At that time I’d been practicing law for six years.) He explained the process, and we, in turn, created the project. Mediation proved to be so successful in that community that our program was copied in Santa Monica, where it proved equally successful. The supervising judge in the Central Department got wind of the success in Van Nuys and Santa Monica, and wanted to know more. Thus the program was extended to Central, and then to all of the 14 branch courts in L.A. County. That Volunteer Attorney Mediator Program is still in existence today.

I liked what I learned about mediation, because consensual, cooperative problem solving is a kinder, gentler way to solve disputes like divorce. I originally trained as a mediator in 1981, at a California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists conference in San Diego. In 1997, while attending an International Alliance for Holistic Lawyers conference in Santa Fe, I had the opportunity to meet lawyer Stu Webb. He told me about the work that he was doing in Minneapolis through the foundation of the Institute for Collaborative Law. I brought the message of Collaborative Law back to Los Angeles County and I, as well as my clients, have been reaping the benefits of consensual dispute resolution ever since.

Subsequently, I’ve attended many Advanced Professional Skills Programs, such as those held by the Pepperdine University Law School, Strauss Institute for Dispute Resolution, as well as spending several summers training with the Harvard Insight Initiative Project. I believe that Mediation education will never be complete – there are always new skills to learn.

I respect and trust the collaborative approach, cooperative problem solving, and alternative dispute resolution, consensual dispute resolution, interest based bargaining, principal negotiation, and teaching lawyers all of the skills that have been developed through the Harvard Programs of Negotiation:

“Getting to Yes,” “Getting Past No,” and “Difficult Conversations.”

At The Law Collaborative, APC, we approach every case by first reaching out to adverse counsel, to invite him or her to sit down to talk solutions. Sadly, and too often, some lawyers are so caught up in their own personal agendas, that they use their client’s case to attempt to solve their own emotional strife. On those occasions, I may have to let the Bull out of his pen. We can still do it the hard way, but only when it’s in the clients’ best interests.

Thank you for reading,
Ron Supancic, CFLS
The Law Collaborative, APC
T: (818)348-6700
F: (818)348-0961

The C**P That Makes You Want To Stay Home From Work, Keeps You Up At Night, Makes Your Life Miserable

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Dear Friends,

This month, I’m addressing the c**p that makes you want to stay home from work, keeps you up at night, makes your life miserable: Conflict.

Let’s start out with the philosophy that conflict is normal. Conflict is good. Conflict opens the door to innovation, revelation, opportunity, understanding, and improved communications. That is, it can open those doors. But – we must each open our own door.

Recognizing that it’s our job to open our own door is the important first step in moving toward the opportunity to turn our relationships around. We don’t become Masters overnight. This endeavor requires time and patience, dedication, determination, and consistent follow-through.

Here is an Introduction to true Conflict Avoidance. And truth be told, it is not really about Conflict Avoidance.

The only people who avoid all conflict are in the cemetery. Living, breathing people who interact with other people experience conflict daily. Some even go out of their way to create conflict. We don’t have trouble finding it.

What do we do when we do? We all need help. We all had models of conflict engagement as little people. Some of us even had good models. Unfortunately, those positive models are in the minority.

What models did you observe in your home of origin?
How did that influence your reaction to conflict?
How do you deal with conflict now?
Has there been growth?
What changes still remain to be made?

Here is an exercise to explore with someone you trust. Take 5 minutes in some quiet place with a pad & pencil in hand. Write brief answers to the 5 questions raised in the paragraph above. Not more than a line or two. Take another 5 minutes to discuss your reply with your partner.

Be brief. Invite your partner to go next. Same protocol. After you’ve both shared, open a discussion about what you have learned. Write down your insights. How you will use them in the future to improve your approach to conflict management?

I hope you find this email helpful and that it puts you in the mood to converse. We only truly learn through discussion and, ultimately, fearless self examination.

Your friend,
Ron Supancic
The Law Collaborative, APC
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
T: (818) 348-6700
F: (818) 348-0961

The Impact of Collaborative Law

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I’m honored to be featured as the lead author in this great series published by Thomson Reuters Westlaw. If you want to learn about the early history and beginnings of Collaborative Practice, this is a must read! My gratitude goes out to Isabel Kunkle for her foresight and vision in putting together this important compendium.

Reducing Your Legal Fees

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REDUCING FEES- What the client needs to know

The dissolution of a marriage often comes at a time when a family is going through a financial as well as emotional crisis. Sometimes the emotional crisis can make the financial one worse by increasing the attorney’s fees incurred and costs expended. For example, if a spouse is vindictive or just plain upset, he or she can refuse to negotiate in good faith, or act in such a way as to provoke numerous court appearances or otherwise delay the proceedings. When this happens it is usually beyond our control, and we have to cope the best we can though the mechanisms provided by the court. Frankly, it can be extremely expensive and frustrating.

However, you can help to keep your fees and costs to the minimum for your case by following these simple rules:

Read the rest here…

Rob, His Family, and the Tree

Protect your assets - prepare an estate plan

Most people contemplating divorce don’t consider the sad reality that one of the parties may die while going through the process. When this does happen it results in chaos for the survivors. I’ve witnessed this several times during my practice, but one of the most poignant was early in my law career. I represented a young man with three children who rode a motorcycle to work every night. Rob worked the night shift as a machine technician at a local trade school. He was responsible for the necessary cleaning and repair of the machines that were used each day by the teachers and students. During the day, Rob happily packed lunches, took the children to school, and attended school functions.

He was married to a woman who wasn’t very interested in marriage or family. She was home at night while the kids were asleep, but spent that time entertaining various married boyfriends. During the day, she also had a very active social life. When the decision to divorce was made, she agreed that most of the property should be put in trust for the children, and that Rob would have physical custody. She also agreed to accommodate Rob’s work schedule by continuing to care for the children at night while they slept. But before we could finalize the divorce, Rob lost his life in a motorcycle accident on his way to work one night when he was cut off by a drunk driver and hit a tree.

Rob was a great father but he failed to prepare an estate plan. Despite my advice that he prepare an interim estate plan during the divorce process, he chose to wait – he believed that he had plenty of time. He had not taken his wife’s name off of his life insurance. She was the sole beneficiary. He had not taken her off his retirement and pension plan. She was still the joint tenant on the real estate, the vehicles, the bank accounts, free to use and spend everything any way she pleased.

Most of us act like we’re going to live forever, or like we can predict our death. We deny the truth. Statistics show that only half the lawyers who are married and have children also have an estate plan! That’s among a population that should be most informed and knowledgeable about the need. I do not know the statistics for the general public, but I know that most people have not made even the most basic arrangements for the allocation of their estate.

Don’t make the kind of mistake Rob made. His wife, not his children, inherited everything. Nothing was set aside to provide for the children and she probably squandered it all as she continued the self-indulgent lifestyle that ended her marriage. Act now to ensure that your assets are protected and go to the right people. We are here to assist and support you. We can help you set up a plan, or make any changes that need to be made to an existing plan. Please let us know how we can help.

Best wishes,

Ronald M. Supancic, CFLS

Guess the leading cause of divorce?

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Check this great NY Times article here:

When you’re done reading that, click here for more information regarding Prenuptial Agreements and how they can help protect a future marriage.