Collaborative law is a process in which both parties are represented by counsel, but the parties and their attorneys agree, in writing, to attempt to settle the matter without litigation or even the threat of litigation. They promise to take a reasoned stand on every issue, to keep discovery informal and cooperative, and to negotiate in good faith. If either party seeks intervention from a court, both attorneys must withdraw from representation.
Is collaborative law less expensive than non-collaborative law? On average, collaborative law cases tend to be less expensive for both parties than cases handled without collaborative law. This is particularly true when collaborative law is compared to cases resolved in court. (Statistical studies of collaborative law are not yet available, because collaborative law has been in use for just over ten years, but empirical data from experienced collaborative law practitioners are consistent in finding cost savings.)
What are the pros and cons of collaborative law? Collaborative law allows parties to negotiate with a lawyer at their side but without the imminent risk of the case proceeding to court (with the outcome thereby removed from the control of the parties). The downside is that, if negotiations fail, the parties will be put to the additional expense of hiring new counsel. The upside is that those potential costs provide a powerful incentive for the lawyers and clients to negotiate productively.
If I choose collaborative law, will my rights be protected and, if so, how? In a collaborative law process, each party’s attorney has an absolute duty to represent solely his or her client’s interests. The collaborative law process does not mean that an attorney can or should be anything less than 100% on the side of his or her client. What is unique about collaborative law, however, is that the CL attorney takes responsibility for advancing the client’s interest in settlement (as well as other interests), and therefore zealous advocacy in a CL negotiation is focused on finding a mutually agreeable solution.
What if I am interested in a collaborative solution but the other party is not? Collaborative law is not appropriate for every case and every situation, and collaboration cannot succeed if one or more of the parties is unwilling to participate. However, our experience has been that even lawyers who are unfamiliar with collaborative law are often willing to try it if the idea of using such a process is presented to them by a knowledgeable and experienced practitioner.