This is an innovative method of dispute resolution in which both parties and their respective lawyers, trained collaborative lawyers, all work together for the purpose of achieving a fair settlement outcome without going to court. Indeed, the clients and their lawyers sign a Participation Agreement setting out the clients’ and lawyers’ respective obligations to each other and the collaborative process. The incentive is that in the event the process breaks down, the lawyers are disqualified from representing their collaborative clients in court proceedings. In this way, everyone invests in making the process work.
Issues are put on an agenda, discussed and eventually resolved during face to face meetings between all four signatories to the participation agreement. Outside of those four-way meetings, each client will have a two way meeting with their own lawyer and the lawyers will also engage in two way meetings between themselves to consider how best to progress a case.
Other professionals can be involved although not necessarily in attendance at meetings. Sometimes expert help is needed, for example, with respect to the treatment of pensions or if a client or their child is having difficulty coming to terms with the family issues, a therapist or counsellor may be brought in to assist. Eventually, when a settlement has been reached both lawyers can draft the formal legal document together and submit it to court for approval, without either client having to attend court.
Collaboration has the following advantages-
- Everyone enters the process in good faith so it is quicker and less acrimonious
- If things become difficult the Clients can be reminded of their obligations as stated in the Participation Agreement
- Clients set their own agenda
- Clients move along the process at their own pace
- There is full and frank disclosure so decisions are reached from a position of knowledge
- Collaborative process helps to keep the channels of communication open