Collaborative Practice is an innovative means of dispute resolution that was born in the USA 25 years ago. It is especially suited to people who wish to avoid the uncertainties of court and instead design their own solutions. Collaborative Practice allows parties to set both the pace of the process and the detail of the outcome supported along the way by legal advice and input from other professionals.
What is different about Collaborative Practice?
All parties are supported by a collaborative team
The team is always comprised of a lawyer for each party. Depending on the needs and the subject matter of dispute other Collaborative Professionals can be part of the team to support the parties in the process towards a mutual agreement. In family cases this could be family specialists on hand to assist with the emotional fallout from the end of a relationship and to keep the collaborative process on course. Financial advisors can provide input with the collation of financial disclosure, preparation of budgets and helping to identify options in considering the financial outcome. In a construction dispute the team may comprise of lawyers for the parties and an architect as a neutral expert. The team works together in the interests of the parties.
Parties sign a participation agreement
This cements the parties’ commitment to the process and prohibits their lawyers from issuing court procedures. This provides a safe space for discussions and serves to focus minds on settlements and, in consequence, the success rate of collaborative process is high. Another aspect of the participation agreement is full disclosure of all information and documents that are necessary for the parties to make an informed decision.
The collaborative professionals meet in advance to prepare an agenda after input of the parties. They also discuss and prepare for issues which could make an agreement difficult. All meetings with the parties are conducted in person and in accordance with the agenda. Parties are often set homework tasks. Subsequent meetings are only arranged when sufficient information is available to make meaningful progress. The parties are in control of the outcomes. The professionals are facilitating the process.