In March of this year at the State Bar of Texas Annual Collaborative Law Conference I delivered the closing speech. This was the third time in a row I was asked to be the last speaker at the Conference. In 2020 I talked about The Power of Hope. In 2021 I spoke on Love in Time of COVID. In 2022 I spoke on The Love of the Game. I replayed videos of my interviews with divorced couples, divorce attorneys, and professionals in mental health and finance as to what they each loved about the collaborative divorce process.
When I was a baby lawyer back in the 1900s, I was trained to zealously fight to win victory for my clients in court. I wanted to litigate, show my courtroom skills and to get justice for the husbands, fathers, wives, and mothers I represented. There is an important role litigation lawyers, including me, have in resolving disputes between others. I am proud of the many trial lawyers at Gray Reed and my countless friends in Houston and around the State of Texas who dedicatedly, professionally, and honorably serve their clients.
In divorce and child custody matters, when mediation fails to reach a settlement, litigation is essential to end the conflict. In divorce sometimes one or both parties need for a judge or jury to tell them what they need to hear. However, I have often seen the damage caused to the relationship between parents by litigating and the harm suffered by their children. For over 20 years in my collaborative divorce practice, I have been given another tool or process to help couples with the assistance of a team of highly trained professionals find peace, do no further harm, and end a marriage with civility, dignity, and respect.
My views on winning, justice, and truth have been transformed. I still represent many clients who choose to or have no choice other than to litigate their divorces and child custody disputes. But, for me, one who is also a highly trained and experienced collaborative lawyer, I have found a very special place that at age 23 I could never have imagined at the University of Texas School of Law or envisioned as a young or middle-aged trial lawyer.
San Antonio’s Chad Olsen, my good friend, litigator, and collaborative divorce attorney at the same Conference said it well:
I entered the practice of law really excited about truth and justice. That was just something that was kind of exciting to me. Through a lot of my practice early on, I got to experience some of that and see what that would look like. One of the things that really surprised me about the early part of my practice is how we, as lawyers, can miss the human component of the practice of law, namely relationships. Relationships are always something that have been really important to myself and my wife.
In collaborative divorce, I had and have this unique opportunity and space where it’s okay for me to really value human relationships, to really value family relationships. Family law is about a whole lot more than justice. It’s about children and futures and memories. It’s just fun to be in a space where I can be mindful of the myriad of other things that are really important too…. things like happiness and future and relationships.
In that space that Chad speaks of, concepts other than justice and truth are important. A space where other things like relationships, forgiveness, empathy, understanding, and mercy have a place. A magical place and space where peace and hope thrive, where husbands, fathers, wives and mothers and a highly trained team of professionals seek out and find a different kind of truth and justice, the collaborative way.
Jack H. Emmott is a Senior Counsel of Gray, Reed & McGraw, LLP, a 145-lawyer full-service firm in Houston, Dallas, and Waco, Texas. He is Board-Certified in both Family Law and Civil Trial Law and is a Master Credentialed Collaborative Law Divorce Attorney.