Traditional Lawyering centers on a court-based, adversarial process that assumes a “winner” and a “loser” in every dispute. Because the parties and their lawyers are focused on who is “right” and who is “wrong”, everyone involved tends to establish positions early and hold them to the bitter end. Leverage and coercion are elevated to a negotiating strategy, while dialogue and understanding are marginalized. Clients wind up angry and resentful, and client satisfaction with their lawyer and the legal system plummets.
With Collaborative Law there are no forced court appearances and there is no trial. The goal of collaboration is to reach an out-of-court settlement that works for all parties. The focus is on interests, not positions, and lawyers promise they won’t take their client’s case to court. Each client has their own lawyer who offers personalized legal advice, recommendations, and guidance to their client throughout the entire process.
Clients are drawn to Collaborative Law because:
- Collaborative lawyers have special training. Special training in interest-based negotiation and teamwork gives parties confidence that the lawyers are providing principled legal support and guidance to help the parties negotiate in good faith.
- Lawyers are committed to settlement. All lawyers disqualify themselves from taking the case to court. This seals their commitment to working hard to reach a fair, durable agreement and not opt out when things get tough.
- Parties have access to specialists with special training. The parties may hire other Collaborative Professional Team members such neutral financial specialists, neutral child specialists, and coaches, all of whom receive special collaborative law training.
- Communications at the settlement table are confidential. The parties and both lawyers speak freely and explore creative options for settlement without worry that thoughts and ideas shared across the table will end up being used against a party in court.
- Collaborative Law is a private process, taking place over a series of private meetings in one lawyer’s office, and the details of the settlement are most often not filed with the courts.
- All information needed for decision-making is voluntarily shared. The parties agree to voluntarily disclose all information that is needed so each can make the best possible decision for themselves and their family.
- Lawyers use client-centered, facilitative conflict resolution skills. Through a series of meetings, the parties, their lawyers, and the rest of the Collaborative Professional Team identify the interests, goals, and values of each of the parties, including their children. This allows the parties to transparently build agreements that are acceptable to them and the courts.
- Children are paramount. The process is particularly effective at recognizing and meeting the unique needs of children during a difficult and turbulent time.