collaborative law: how does it work and is it right for me?

Collaborative Law as a way to resolve legal disputes outside the courtroom, has gained a lot of traction, especially as a result of COVID-19 which forced courts to close and delayed most hearings.  With Collaborative Law, parties are not at the mercy of the court system to schedule hearings and trials, and reaching a timely resolution at a lower cost, is more likely. In addition to staying out of the courtroom, one of the key components of Collaborative Law is the focus on finding a SOLUTION to a shared problem, instead of being punitive for prior actions.  For this reason, the collaborative law approach to resolving disputes is particularly valuable when the parties have a relationship they wish to maintain. 

What is the key difference between a collaborative law vs a traditional litigation approach?

While traditional litigation of a dispute in a courtroom or arbitration hearing is an adversarial process in which each party seeks to prove the other party is at fault, collaborative attorneys, on the other hand, have specialized training to assist in the identification of each parties’ needs and interests, which is then followed by brainstorming to find a solution to the shared problem.  A few examples where taking a collaborative approach can be a win–win for the parties involved are when a dispute arises in a family owned business where there is both a business to run and personal relationships to protect.  Another example is disputes in the construction industry amongst contractors who can benefit from the ability to work on other projects together. In both examples, finding a SOLUTION, rather than placing blame in order to “win” the dispute, is key to not only resolving the problem, but maintaining and sometimes even strengthening a business and possibly a personal relationship.

How does Collaborative Law work?

In Collaborative Law, the parties take ownership of resolving their problems through the use of direct meetings amongst themselves and their attorneys instead of battling against each other in a win-lose hearing in front of a judge who would ultimately make the final decision.  Everyone works toward a mutually agreed upon solution to the shared problem. From the beginning of the process, the parties make a voluntary disclosure of all relevant information and agree upon the use of joint experts if needed.  The prompt disclosure and sharing of information is in sharp contrast to the time-consuming and expensive formal discovery process in litigation that takes several months and tens of thousands of dollars in expense to the parties.  Upon sharing the relevant information, the focus is to identify the parties’ respective needs and interests.

Collaborative Law attorneys have received specialized training to assist in the identification of what is truly important and necessary for the client at the end. The parties then discuss and brainstorm ways to meet the end goals and requirements of each party. The focus of the meetings and the parties’ efforts is to find a solution that will best meet each parties’ best interests.

Ultimately, solving a shared problem for individuals in a business relationship allows for the parties to continue to work with each other in the future instead of ending the relationship in a winner take all litigation hearing.  That same end goal can apply to individuals in a personal dispute such as a divorce where parents may have children and will be required to co-parent, or a family that may own a business together.  Collaborative Law is not the answer for all disputes, but it is an extremely powerful and efficient approach to resolving legal problems by being forward looking to reach a solution instead of assessing blame for what has happened in the past.

Ron Skufca, managing attorney at Skufca Law has over 15 years of training and experience in the Collaborative Law approach to resolving disputes, as well as over 20 years of experience in courtroom litigation. If you think you may have a dispute that may benefit from a Collaborative Law approach, please contact Skufca Law at (704) 376-3030.