16 Jun Tips for Choosing Counsel in a Collaborative Divorce
Scrolling through the Google results for my search of “Collaborative” divorce attorneys the other day, I found myself reflecting on how many of the attorneys listed were not individuals who I would consider thoughtful practitioners of the Collaborative model. It occurred to me that regular folks looking for Collaborative counsel would have a difficult time distinguishing between those attorneys who have been merely trained in Collaboration and those who have made a conscious decision to change their approach to divorce by embracing the Collaborative model. Thus, selecting Collaborative counsel requires careful consideration and may entail meeting with several candidates.
A Collaborative attorney will be one who has taken, and who continues to take, trainings on Collaborative practice. The best Collaborative attorneys will be those who, in addition to being trained in the Collaborative model, are qualified members of local Collaborative practice groups, and who regularly take Collaborative cases as part of their practice. Parties who are looking to participate successfully in the Collaborative process should be looking for attorneys who are respectful of each other and of the other party. A proven track record of settling cases, and of working together to help their clients reach creative, respectful solutions, is another factor to look for. With that in mind, here is a list of questions to ask before you hire your Collaborative attorney:
- How long have you practiced family law?
- What Collaborative trainings have you taken?
- How long have you been practicing Collaborative law?
- Have many Collaborative cases have you done?
- Have you worked with my spouse’s attorney in the past, and if so, was it in the Collaborative model?
- Were you successful in settling your Collaborative case with my spouse’s attorney?
- Are you a member of a local Collaborative Practice group, and if so, which one?
- Are you a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP)?
It is also worthwhile to find out how the attorney will proceed if the case falls out of Collaboration. Some attorneys will include an arbitration provision in their Collaborative agreements which will allow the case to be decided out of Court using the existing attorneys. Others follow a strict model and will not represent the client if agreements can’t be reached on all issues. The ones to avoid are those who say that they will continue to represent the client if the case goes to Court. This approach undermines the Collaborative process by allowing counsel to use the open information model as a tool to prepare for litigation and should be avoided. It just isn’t possible to be collaborative while preparing to fight a case in court.