I discovered during my preparation for and attending the I.A.C.P. Annual Forum in Seattle last weekend that the collaborative principle of “the paradigm shift” has somehow been consciously or unconsciously downplayed in recent books and trainings concerning collaborative practice. I’d like to take this opportunity to reinforce this key element of collaborative work.

When collaborative law was originally conceived, it became apparent that practitioners, who were primarily litigators, would have to learn to operate differently when supporting clients in a settlement context. Pauline Tesler in her primary text did a thorough job of outlining the “shift” that needed to take place. She often compared the way practitioners needed to change to be effective collaborators.

In addition to outlining required specific behavioral changes and attitudes that comprised the shift, my summary teaching was to let go of learned zealous postures and just “be yourself “ and learn what attitude-of-being work around the collaborative table: to get better and better at adapting to higher core values. This was the challenge and hope that I set forth in my February 14, 1990 letter to Justice Keith.

And through the years I have seen that there has been a positive evolution in the development of the paradigm shift, as practitioners learn to “be who they are.” I now lay this out specifically to encourage all practitioners (lawyers, mental health coaches, child specialist & neutral financial) to see how they might move up on the evolutionary scale.
My current definition of the paradigm shift is to learn maintain your best level of consciousness as centered as you can without moving it to the level of the clients. Or as Rudyard Kipling said in the first stanza of his famous poem “IF”:
“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,” you’ll be a collaborator, my compatriot! (See the end for the complete poem, which is beautiful—and apt.)

By holding our level of consciousness, our presence, we transmit that to the conflicting couple and don’t conspire to join them in theirs.

Here is the process that I have learned to achieve the paradigm shift:
Itis progressive one, achieved by holding it, and losing it, alternately, as we learn from our mistakes. Any place you are on the scale is where you are in the learning/practice scheme:


1. Initial tentative shift from litigation to collaboration.

2. Noticing what works (and what doesn’t)

3. Noticing the shift between “holding it” and “losing it”

4. Practicing presence:

a. Centering just prior to meeting

b. Being aware of role of thoughts (& voice in your head)

c. Mindfulness (quieting the mind to be more present)

d. Serenity Space induction & practice (see my Serenity Space & how to navigate between holding it and losing it). Available digitally free on request).

e. **Waking Up process approaches
1) Who am I?
2) pointers
a) Lost your glasses
b) Video camera
c) What doesn’t change when everything else does?
d) Being Aware of Being Aware
3) books and teachers
a) Wake Up Now
b) Rupert Spira (my teacher)
4) Exercising “come home” presence “muscle”

f. Witness position (presence sees everything)

g. Conscious awareness (presence is everything)

** The Waking Up process is a radical “shift” in consciousness thought and mind. It’s generally a gradual learned process where your mind is clear of ego-induced negative thoughts.

I have learned a method to jump-start the awakening process that works for many people. Here it is:

Know and realize that EVERYTHING in your world is temporary—it all comes and goes and changes all the time: everything from thoughts, sensations, trees, mountains, buildings, and cars. EVERYTHING. Everything is groundless—comes and goes—–EXCEPT: one thing—there is a part of you that never changes and is there with you 24/7. This is not your mind or your thoughts. It is your AWARENESS; the sense of being present; or the sense that when you take a deep breath and exhale it quickly you feel it in your entire body; or the feeling of joy, safety and well being in your body when you say “Come Home”. It is your home, It’s your grounded self that is always there even when you forget it’s there. This “Coming Home” is the true paradigm shift—and you can learn with practice to live there. And when you find yourself caught up in concern or anxiety, you can just say to yourself “Come Home” and you’re there.

So remember the paradigm shift in practice and in your life. Just don’t think about it or believe your thoughts about it. In this context our thinking is our ultimate anti-paradigmshift!

And here’s the poem:

By Rudyard Kipling

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired of waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dream your master,
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve their turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them, ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and hold your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a true human, my love!”
(Last line edited from ‘you’ll be a man, my son.’

Love and Blessings,

Stu Webb
Founder of Collaborative Law