Collaborative Law is a dispute resolution tool based upon these key elements:
• Confidential, voluntary disclosure of information necessary for the parties to reach an informed decision about settlement;
• Interest-based negotiations rather than positional bargaining;
• Joint engagement of any appropriate experts; and
• Dedicated settlement counsel working solely to help the parties achieve a mutually acceptable settlement of the dispute.
The collaborative approach to settlement negotiations originated in the family law arena in the 1990’s and has proven to be very successful in resolving divorces and other family law cases quickly and cost-effectively. It is now being employed in other areas of the law, including commercial disputes, construction cases, and partnership disputes, and is proving successful there as well.
Collaborative Law is especially useful where the parties have important relationships that they don’t want to disrupt or destroy through litigation or arbitration. Examples include disputes involving:
• Customers and vendors
• Partners and joint venturers
• Franchisors and franchisees
• Principals and agents
• Employers and employees
The collaborative settlement process differs from mediation in several respects. In the collaborative process, the parties do not begin negotiating a settlement until they have exchanged the documents and other information they will need to make an informed decision on whether and how to settle. They conduct negotiations over a period of weeks or even months, exchanging information, working together and with jointly engaged experts to develop a range of options, and then evaluating each option against their business goals and objectives. The parties’ business representatives negotiate directly with one another, aided by their counsel, rather than looking on while their attorneys negotiate through the mediator.
Collaborative Law fits very well into contractual dispute escalation clauses, in which the parties agree to negotiate towards a settlement before moving into mediation, arbitration, or litigation. It maximizes the benefits available from such clauses, because it allows the parties an opportunity for “due diligence” discovery without litigation, enables the parties to explore a range of options without prejudice to their abilities to seek maximum relief from a court or arbitrator, and affords them the opportunity to narrow the issues for any litigation that may ultimately prove necessary, thereby potentially reducing litigation costs.
For more information on Collaborative Law, please go to the Global Collaborative Law Council website, www.collaborativelaw.us.
Collaborative Representation and Training
The Law Office of Anne Shuttee can provide the following types of collaborative representation and training services:
• Anne will represent clients working to resolve business disputes using the collaborative process. As collaborative counsel, Anne will help her clients identify their goals and objectives for the negotiation, exchange and evaluate relevant evidence and documents, and develop and assess options for the resolution of the dispute.
• Anne will provide on-site customized training in the collaborative process for in-house counsel so that they can use the process to resolve disputes without having to engage outside collaborative counsel.
• Anne will negotiate dispute resolution clauses that include provisions for the use of the collaborative settlement process.
• Anne will act as a neutral mediator-facilitator for parties and their collaborative counsel who want to use the collaborative process to settle a dispute or lawsuit but believe that the assistance of a neutral will be helpful in the negotiations.