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Article Title

Collaborative Family Law

Document Type

Symposium

Abstract

Collaborative Law appears to meet significant needs both among family law clients and among the lawyers who assist them through divorce. As will be discussed more fully below, clients appear to want the advantages of a contained, settlement-oriented, creative, private, respectful process without sacrificing the benefits of having a committed legal advocate at their sides. For that reason Collaborative Law appeals to clients who may hesitate to commit to a dispute resolution process facilitated solely by a neutral mediator. And, while many family lawyers suffer considerable professional angst as a consequence of their awareness that family law courts are neither safe nor effective places for clients to resolve divorce-related disputes, the decision by a family lawyer to become a mediator instead of a litigator in order to work in a more positive conflict resolution modality with clients requires an immense and difficult step: leaving the practice of law. Because collaborative legal practice, unlike mediation, allows family law attorneys to represent clients in the role of advocate, continuing to practice law and to be bound by all ethical mandates for lawyers, the switch from conventional lawyering to collaborative law is not a leap out of one profession into another, but rather a short step through an open door into a different approach to lawyering. As collaborative practitioners, lawyers who have become disillusioned with what they can offer clients in adversarial family law practice can embrace an identity as a member of a "helping profession" while maintaining their chosen professional identity as lawyers. Collaborative lawyers often report that the process of retooling from litigator to collaborative lawyer involves integration of personal and professional values into a coherent identity that brings a professional gratification previously absent from their work as lawyers.