Collaborative Law/Collaborative Practice
Collaborative Law is a method of practicing law where the parties and the lawyers representing them sign a contract in which they agree to work towards settlement. If the parties are unable to settle and adversarial proceedings are to be filed, the lawyers are required to withdraw. New lawyers must be obtained for trial. In this method, the attorneys must focus on settlement and are free to use their creative problem solving skills. Communication is respectful and the process is future-focused. It works best if several lawyers in the community are trained in collaborative law so there are options for the clients and lawyers to work together.
Collaborative Law was created by Stu Webb, a Minnesota family lawyer. An interview with Stu is included on this site. In one Canadian community, Medicine Hat, Alberta, collaborative law has virtually replaced the adversarial family law system.
The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals [http://www.collaborativepractice.com] is a network of over 3,000 collaborative professionals and they have an annual conference.
Collaborative Law is suitable for many types of law and experiments are applying it to many civil contexts: probate, employment, medical error, and business. Still, it most often occurs in the domestic area. There are several different models of collaborative law. In some places, the prevailing model in the community is the two-lawyer model. In other places, there is a multi-disciplinary team approach using a counseling team and financial advisor to work with a family in a collaborative process.
You may also hear the terms Collaborative Practice, Collaborative Divorce or Civil Collaborative Law. Collaborative Practice is actually the preferred term since so much of collaborative law is actually interdisciplinary and it is more inclusive to say "collaborative practice". Collaborative Divorce refers to the full team interdisciplinary model of family law. Civil Collaborative Law refers to non-divorce applications of collaborative practice.
There is also an active and informative YahooGroup where over 700 interdisciplinary professionals discuss issues relating to Collaborative Law. See http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CollabLaw.