Managing Attorney Ron Skufca has been active in the Collaborative Law process for over 15 years, having received advanced training in this highly specialized conflict resolution process and being an active member in the NC Civil Collaborative Association and the Charlotte Collaborative Divorce Professionals organizations. Collaborative Law is often described in contrast to courtroom litigation, with the collaborative law approach being a way to save time, money, and preserve relationships (read more in some of our previous blogs: “Collaborative Law: How Does it Work and is it Right For Me” and “Collaborative Law: An Oxymoron or an Effective Approach to Legal Disputes?”
There are, however, other approaches to dispute resolution, such as Mediation, that are more like the Collaborative Law approach but with some key differences. Mediation as a form of dispute resolutions can easily be confused with Collaborative Law since both are touted as a way to resolve disputes in a more peaceful and cooperative way.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution process that is often used during the course of active litigation in a final effort to resolve the dispute prior to trial. In Mediation, a neutral third party is agreed upon by the parties & their attorneys to help reach agreement on the issues or claims that are the basis for the underlying lawsuit. The mediator helps identify the problems to be addressed, and acts as a go between or peacemaker between the parties and their attorneys who are advocates for their clients and their respective positions.
What is Collaborative Law?
In contrast, the Collaborative Law process starts by the parties entering into a contract that eliminates the ability for the parties to file a lawsuit. Thereafter, if the parties and their counsel utilize the services of a mediator to reach a mutual agreement, then it is in a forum where each party has an attorney trained in the Collaborative Law process working to obtain the best overall outcome that meets the parties’ respective needs and interests, instead of advocating for an outcome that supports their client’s position. In Collaborative Law, attorneys participate in a series of meetings with their clients and involve mutually agreed upon joint experts or professionals such as CPAs or other financial experts, mental health specialists, and therapists, and sometimes a mediator to assist in overcoming any stubborn sticking points standing in the way of reaching a final mutual agreement.
Both approaches can save parties time, money and help preserve relationships compared to courtroom litigation. Which approach to use depends on whether litigation has already been filed, and the ability of the parties to actively participate in obtaining a mutual agreement, as opposed to only advocating for a position.