What Is Collaborative Law?
Collaborative law is a way of resolving a case without going to trial. In collaborative law, the parties agree at the beginning of the case to voluntarily disclose all financial documentation, to meet together with their attorneys and joint experts to try to resolve the issues in their case.
What Is Cooperative Law?
When you agree to use collaborative law, you sign a retainer agreeing that we will either resolve the matter collaboratively or end our representation. This means that if the case goes forward to trial, the client has to retain a new and different lawyer.
Our partners are trained in collaborative law. However, we have found that the requirement in collaborative law that we terminate our representation if the case does not resolve and goes toward litigation is burdensome and unworkable.
First, we believe this requirement is burdensome to our clients, since they must then pay for a new lawyer to review the entire file and proceed to trial. If our client has bonded with us, he or she will not want to go out and search for another compatible lawyer.
Secondly, we believe this requirement is unworkable for us, since we consider ourselves first and foremost to be litigators. This does not mean we push cases to litigation, but rather that we view our cases through the lens of what a court might or might not do on a given issue in the case. We believe that the expectation that the case may eventually go before one of our family court judges provides a settlement framework. For example, it is impossible to determine how much alimony or what kind of visitation might be appropriate in a given case without considering what a judge might or might not order at trial.
However, we believe that the other components of collaborative law are incredibly useful, and have incorporated many of them into our overall practice. When we take a case on as a cooperative law case, our immediate goal is resolution. We immediately set up meetings first with the attorneys, and then with the attorneys and clients. We also retain joint financial and custody experts when necessary. We take all of these steps before we begin formal discovery, since formal discovery can be expensive. If these efforts do not resolve the case, we then proceed toward formal discovery, including written Interrogatories and Requests for Production a well as Depositions, and ultimately toward litigation.
Cooperative Law Questions & Answers
How do I know my case should be handled cooperatively?
You cannot know this with any certainty until you meet with us. Because we try to avoid formal discovery when we do cooperative law, we believe that one of the first requirements is that both parties have full knowledge of their overall financial situation, including assets, debts and incomes. There must be some degree of trust between the parties to reduce the fear that one or the other is hiding assets or income. There also should not be a glaring power imbalance between the parties. This means that there are no allegations of domestic or emotional abuse or complete over-control by one of the parties.