The success of collaborative law worldwide

Since its inception in the 1980s, the Collaborative Law movement has spread rapidly to most of the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia. Over 22,000 lawyers worldwide have been trained in Collaborative Law and England and Wales has seen more than 1,250 lawyers trained since the 2003 launch, encouraged by both the judiciary and Resolution – the speciailst family lawyers’ organisation (previously known as the SFLA – Solicitors Family Law Association).

Supreme Court Justice Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore became the first member of the Supreme Court to publicly endorse Collaborative Law in a 2009 address to London family lawyers. Supreme Court Justice Lord Wilson of Culworth also reaffirmed his commitment to Collaborative Law and other Family Dispute Resolution Services in a more recent address on 29 November 2011.

National Collaborative Law organisations have also been established in other jurisdictions including Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Kenya, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland and Uganda.

Resolution has assumed responsibility for the training and accreditation of all collaborative professionals in England and Wales. A growing number of English family lawyers join a local practice group called a ‘pod’ upon completion of their Collaborative Law training. This group will meet together with collaboratively trained members of other professions on a monthly basis to discuss practice issues. This collaboration will enable these professionals to improve effectiveness when working together on cases.

Our collaborative lawyers are all active members of the Salisbury Collaborative law pod.

Participation Agreement – the key document in Collaborative law

Collaborative law enables couples who have decided to separate or end their marriage to work with their lawyers and other professionals in order to obtain a settlement which best meets the specific needs of both parties and their children outside of Court and without contested litigation.

Collaborative law is a voluntary process initiated when a couple signs a ‘Participation Agreement’, a contract legally binding them to the process and disqualifying their respective lawyers’ right to represent either in any future family-related litigation.

The parties and their collaborative lawyers agree that:

• all concerned will behave courteously and in good faith

• each party will freely disclose all pertinent information and not conceal any facts

• if the settlement process fails, the original lawyers must withdraw and the parties select new lawyers

• neither party will take advantage of mistakes by the other side

• the content matter of the settlement meetings remains confidential

Collaborative law can also be used to facilitate other family issues, such as disputes between parents and the drawing up of pre and post-marital contracts. In the case of the former, many couples prefer to embark on married life by drawing up documents consensually.

Since both lawyers would lose their clients if an agreement was not reached, it is in their interests to encourage them to cooperate and find solutions that honour the concerns of both parties. Other advantages are that it encourages mutual respect, provides for open communication, utilises a problem-solving approach and prepares individuals for their new lives.

New collaborative lawyer

We are absolutely committed to the whole concept of both family mediation and collaborative law. For those people who take a balanced view and you’re looking to secure a fair and sensible outcome for all concerned, we think that both mediation and collaborative law are the way forward – and we have no doubt that both approaches are going to increase in popularity as more and more people become aware of them.

That’s why were absolutely delighted that another member of our team has now become fully qualified as a collaborative lawyer. Kate Scammell, who is based in our Andover office [but who is also available to see clients both in Amesbury, Northampton, Milton Keynes and Rugby], is a specialist family and divorce lawyer and what’s more, we’ve got plans for her to qualify shortly as a family mediator as well.