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What is Collaborative Law?

In 1989, Minnesota lawyer Stu Webb, disappointed with court-based outcomes in divorce and disillusioned with legal practice had an “Aha!” moment. By creating a structure that removes lawyers from the adversarial model and turns them into problem-solvers, they could help their clients achieve better results. He developed the concept, and in 1990 Collaborative Law was born. 

Since that humble beginning in 1990, Collaborative Law has expanded across the United States and internationally, with over 10,000 professionals trained in the process. Collaborative Law is a dispute resolution process where all professionals have the sole objective of working with the parties to reach resolution. When clients choose the Collaborative Law process, their lawyers are hired as settlement-only lawyers and are disqualified from representing the clients in any adversarial process, whether court or arbitration. All professionals learn a new structure and skills for an effective process that helps clients reach lasting agreements while maintaining their dignity. Collaborative Law is especially suited to resolve disputes where the parties will have ongoing relationship (whether as parents, business partners, or family members) or wish to resolve their disputes while maintaining a high level of personal integrity.

What does Collaborative Law look like? Here’s a VIDEO.

Some of the benefits of Collaborative Law include:

  • The process is highly successful. Research shows a success rate of about 90% and that afterwards 78% of clients feel “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the process.
  • Collaborative law creates much less “collateral damage” to parties than an adversarial process does.
  • In many cases, the likelihood of future conflicts between the parties is significantly reduced.
  • Parties are more vested in the outcome and satisfied than with an imposed decision.
  • Professionals are often more satisfied, being freed up from posturing to instead working towards real and lasting solutions for their clients.

Oftentimes in Collaborative divorces, professionals work jointly in teams that include a lawyer for each party, and other professionals that include a financial professional, divorce coach/coaches, and child specialist, so that the parties can make the best decisions with solid professional support. Key features of Collaborative Law are:

  1. Each party has an attorney who is trained and qualified in the Collaborative Law process.
  2. The attorneys are retained for the sole purpose of helping the parties reach an agreement. If the process ends without reaching agreement, then both parties need to obtain new counsel. The attorneys are disqualified from representing the parties in any related adversarial proceeding.
  3. At the outset of the process, the parties commit to certain agreements, intended to enhance the likelihood of reaching agreement. Those agreements include refraining from certain behaviors to providing full transparency of information that might be material to the dispute to the role of counsel.
  4. The parties work together in dialogues facilitated by the professionals to systematically work towards agreement. The parties have full professional support at all times.
  5. The process is voluntary at all times and confidential.
  6. The professionals use a client-centered, facilitative conflict resolution skills in working with the parties.

Among the minimum standards for Collaborative practitioners promulgated by the IACP are training in Collaborative Law and in client-centered, facilitative conflict resolution, of the kind typically taught in mediation training (interest-based, narrative, or transformative mediation programs.) Our Basic Collaborative Law Training is the foundational training to get you started.

Questions? Contact us! We love to talk about Collaborative Law.

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