Collaborative Practice is a term encompassing all of the Collaborative Law models that have been developed, including those involving interdisciplinary teams of professionals trained to work together to help clients resolve their disputes respectfully without going to court.
Collaborative Practice offers a "solution-oriented" approach to resolving disputes. It involves negotiations focusing on the parties' interests rather than competing and divergent positions. In Collaborative Practice, each side retains a Collaborative attorney trained in interest-based negotiation and mediation. Unlike a mediator, each lawyer is a counselor at law for their respective client, responsible for helping the client identify and advance their own interests and develop options that work for both parties. Collaborative Practice focuses on settlement from the outset, negotiating an agreement on all issues, and resolving the dispute without litigation. Collaborative Practice is private, cost-efficient, and client-centered.
The process begins by the parties and their respective collaborative attorneys meeting together, commonly referred to as a "four-way" meeting. At that meeting, a Participation Agreement, or contract to settle, is memorialized and signed by the parties. The parties agree that if the process does not result in a settlement, both attorneys must withdraw as counsel - a large risk and motivating factor to stay in the process. In addition, because this process is client-centered, agreed-upon neutral professionals (e.g., economists, forensic accountants, and business consultants), also trained in the collaborative methodology, are frequently retained by the parties to assist them in getting through impasse and reaching resolution. The parties are free to terminate the process and litigate, but they are also free to negotiate in good-faith and achieve the best resolution possible without someone else deciding their fate.