What is collaborative law? | Part one

Lisa Foley, managing director at DA Family Lawyers, practices in all aspects of family law, including parenting disputes, property settlement, child protection, domestic violence matters and international child abuse.

As a trained collaborative lawyer, Lisa works with other family law firms to resolve her client’s family law needs. She explains what collaborative law is, and what it means to her.

What is collaborative law, exactly?

Both parties need to agree to the collaborative process. It is a confidential process and involves full disclosure of all information between the participants. At DA Family Lawyers, the first step is to meet with the client individually to assess whether the process is suitable for them and then, if so, prepare them for a face-to-face meeting with the other party and their solicitor. If the parties agree, they will sign a collaborative agreement. That will be followed by identifying the interests and issues in the matter and then all the parties, including the solicitors, will work together to decide what steps need to be taken to advance the matter towards settlement.

Part of the collaborative contract involves an agreement by the parties and solicitors to say that if the matter does not resolve within the collaborative law process and requires court intervention, then the solicitors cannot be involved in the court proceedings. This adds pressure to resolve the matter within the collaborative process. The focus on the collaborative process is therefore on settlement, rather than on litigation.

How does the DA team practice collaborative law?

Lisa is a collaborative lawyer, and her view on collaborative law is that any good family lawyer is, in fact, a collaborative lawyer. What she tries to do in her own practice is, identify if the formal collaborative law approach is right for the client and if not, for whatever reason, identify where a formal but still collaborative approach is the right fit. If there is ever a matter where she can pick up the phone rather than write a letter, she tends to do that. “I feel like it takes the sting out of things because legal letters are formal by their very nature and other parties who receive letters from lawyers don’t often have a warm, fuzzy feeling after reading them — they can come across quite offensive,” explains Lisa.

Whenever it is possible to collaborate, Lisa and her team try to do so because that’s usually what is best for the client. “Just because the clients might be fighting or arguing, does not mean that their solicitors need to take that same approach, because it hasn’t worked for them. If the solicitors take the same approach and are arguing and are in conflict, how is that going to work towards a settlement?” she says.

For more information on collaborative law or to arrange a consultation, please get in touch.