Attorney and Mediator, Holly J. Wanzer, a member of the Family Law Practice Group of Jocham Harden Dimick Jackson PC, recently presented a teleconference on collaborative law. The timeliness and quality of the content led the seminar to be selected as a webcast on West’s Legal Ed Center. While the teleconference and material is geared toward divorce attorneys and family law professionals, the information can be helpful for anyone who wants to learn more about this developing area of divorce law. Alternatives to litigation will become even more sought after by couples who desire to minimize conflict and resolve their divorces with less emotional and financial costs than traditional methods.
I. Overview of Collaborative Law
a. Definition of Collaborative Law
Collaborative law is method of practicing law which is focused on cooperation as opposed to adversarial litigation. The practice of collaborative law represents a paradigm shift in the approach of attorneys and parties who are most familiar with resolving conflict through litigation. The shift to the collaborative paradigm and away from the litigation paradigm focuses the parties exclusively on the work of settlement as opposed to the work of litigation practiced in court. While settlement certainly occurs in the litigation model of divorce, the spector of being “hauled into court” is removed from the collaborative process as the parties and attorneys commit themselves to the work of a purely negotiation based process.
The key to collaborative law is the commitment of the parties and attorneys to the settlement process and the abandonment of the litigation model. This is achieved through a collaborative contract entered by parties and counsel in which they all agree that litigation is not an option during the process. To the extent that one of the parties breaches that contract and moves the case into litigation, both attorneys who committed to the collaborative process must leave the case. Parties are then required to hire “litigation counsel” to replace their “settlement counsel”.
The practice of collaborative law requires a focus shift by both parties and attorneys. Retention of a collaborative attorney as settlement counsel does not change the nature of the attorney-client relationship, but instead changes the attitudes and tasks both lawyer and client take as they move the case to resolution. The focus on settlement as the ends and not as a means to avoid court requires parties to move out of their corners and into a discussion focused on peacefully changing the family structure in the most mutually advantageous way possible.
To read the complete conference text materials, please select the link: COLLABORATIVE_LAW_TELECONFERENCE_TEXT.pdf