What is “collaborative law” or “collaborative practice?”
The term “collaborative law” was the term first used for a dispute resolution process in which two lawyers and their clients signed a participation agreement limiting the scope of the lawyers’ representation to negotiating settlement of a legal matter and requiring both parties to retain new lawyers if either party went to court to resolve the matter. As the process developed, and if the parties agree, mental health professionals, as collaborative coaches and/or child specialists, and financial professionals have become involved. With the introduction of additional professionals, the term “collaborative practice” has become more prevalent as a name for the process. Other professionals have historically been used in litigation. However, in collaborative practice, the other professionals are more than “designated hitters,” to use a baseball term. A mental health professional, as a collaborative coach, attends all settlement meetings. If the parties agree, a mental health professional, as a child specialist, and a financial professional may limit their attendance to meetings that focus on the reason for their involvement in the process.
The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) describes itself as an international community of legal, mental health, and financial professionals working in concert to create client-centered processes for resolving conflict. The IACP has over 5,000 members from around the world. The IACP describes itself as follows:
- The parties sign a collaborative participation agreement describing the nature and scope of the matter;
- The parties voluntarily disclose all information which is relevant and material to the matter that must be decided;
- The parties agree to use good faith efforts in their negotiations to reach a mutually acceptable settlement;
- Each party must be represented by a lawyer whose representation terminates upon the undertaking of any contested court proceeding;
- The parties may engage mental health and financial professionals whose engagement terminates upon the undertaking of any contested court proceeding;
- The parties may jointly engage other experts as needed.
The IACP identifies the “core” elements of the process, which are: to negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution without having courts decide issues; to maintain open communications and information sharing; and to create share solutions acknowledging the highest priorities of all.