Nearly every client only wants what is “fair”. Clients also want the pain of their divorce to be over as soon as possible. Lawyers who wish to meet the expressed goals of the consuming public have found that Collaborative Law is a process by which they can help clients determine for themselves, what is “fair”. The unfamiliar, uninterested and over-worked judge will have nothing to do with the outcome. Because fairness is so subjective, lawyers and judges who do not know the clients or the dynamics of each particular family or every case coming into litigation, will not put in the necessary time to attempt to fully vet all of the relevant facts. What a court believes is relevant may not be what the client believes is relevant. Frustrations over not having a day in court to explain a story often set in and clients often believe that, “…so much time has been wasted and no one even listened to me.” Moreover, procedures must be implemented to govern the judges and lawyers to make sure the process itself is fair in addition to the result. This added layer of required, formalized procedure gives litigators and warring clients even more material to fight about.
All of this can be avoided in an extra-judicial Collaborative Law Process. Meetings are scheduled at the convenience of the parties. Lawyers and clients contractually bind themselves to mutually agreeable procedures and mutual promises of full disclosure. There are no rules of evidence and everyone’s goals and interests are heard and considered. Both time and money are saved by directly meeting the clients’ issues and problem solving around a common goal of settlement. The context is safe because the lawyers have been hired for the sole purpose of settlement. Once a Collaborative Participation Contract is signed, the lawyers are disqualified from ever litigating on behalf of the two clients. This is called “limited representation” as the lawyers will using their negotiation and mediation skills in the collaborative setting, but not their litigation skills.
In this age of the Internet, with free access to all sorts of information, transparency is a highly valued commodity. The Collaborative Process is all about transparency. It resonates with the public. No longer are the legal professionals the exclusive keepers of legal information. I tell my clients, “It does not take a rocket scientist to divide assets by two. What is needed in the case of divorce, are experienced family law attorneys who can help clients make reasoned and emotionally sound decisions in a caring setting, with a focus upon what the client deems to be important.” This is what true collaboration is all about.