What is collaborative law? | Part two

Collaborative law relies on a level of trust between all of the parties involved in a matter.

There are, unfortunately, many matters that have to ultimately go to court, but when the team at DA Family Lawyers first meets with their clients, they try to exhaust all of the available options before even entertaining the idea of going to court. Court proceedings are an expensive process and can be emotionally very taxing. Additionally, court processes and outcomes can be very difficult to predict, so the team tries, as much as possible, to offer their clients alternative resolution options. Read on to find out more about collaborative law and when it works best…

Is collaborative law for everyone?

While collaborative law takes some of the formality out of resolving a matter, it is still a structured process. Because it involves preparing for and attending multiple meetings, it can be quite costly for clients. Also, clients don’t always feel comfortable within the formal collaborative process. While the team at DA Family Lawyers will employ many methods to try and make their clients feel comfortable, some people still don’t want to sit across the room from their former spouse and talk about what they want to achieve in a family law context.

Is it possible to collaborate informally?

The team at DA Family Lawyers collaborates with other family law firms a lot, but these collaborations do not necessarily always fall under the formal umbrella of collaborative law. In many cases, they will find a way to resolve a matter more informally, particularly when there is a level of trust between parties and it is possible to achieve a result that everyone will feel comfortable with.

In a recent collaboration between DA Family Lawyers and another local family law firm, the process started with conversations between the solicitors about their clients’ expectations. By avoiding minute-taking at meetings and formal letters, the process cost less than a formal collaboration. In fact, the process involved just one formal letter, while all other communication occurred as conservations between the solicitors with the consent of the clients. It is important to note that there was a level of trust between the parties, and both parties were willing to take each other at face value. While the clients occasionally became side-tracked, the solicitors worked to bring them back on track, reminding them what they hoped to achieve and why they had engaged in the process in the first place.

In the case of informal collaboration, it’s not only important for there to be trust between the parties — there has to be trust between the solicitors as well. Each solicitor needs to trust that if they put in an offer orally, for example, it’s going to be properly received and not used against them in future correspondence. Without this trust, the entire process would unravel, so it’s critical that there is a good and trusting working relationship between solicitors.

Why does the collaborative approach work so well?

As much as possible, the solicitors try and keep things as amicable as possible throughout the collaborative process. Although every matter has its difficulties, it is possible to navigate communication between parties without the use of formal letters, that may cause offence. The process tends to keep any animosity under control because the nuances of a matter can be discussed in conservation between the solicitors. When there is a good working relationship between the solicitors, each solicitor can trust that any information they share will be used to benefit both clients as much as possible. All information that is shared is, however, recorded and eventually formal documents are prepared to give effect to the agreement reached, so that it all falls within a legal framework.

One of the main benefits of the collaborative process is that it allows for open, frank communication. The result may not always be optimal, but in many cases the collaborative process allows relationships and trust to be preserved in way that court proceedings don’t always allow. In trying to give formality to a matter, there is often the risk of losing trust between parties. It is important to note, however, that not every matter is suited to an informal approach. The approach that is taken will depend on the parties involved — some people benefit from the involvement of a judge to be heard in a certain way, while others need to be held to account in a court proceeding.

 

In the first meeting with a client, the DA Family Lawyers team will identify whether a less formal but still collaborative approach is suited. If you would like to arrange a consultation with the DA Family Lawyers team, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.