As family lawyer Diana Skaggs recently alerted readers, the nation’s leading divorce lawyers are finding more cases settled before trial. This trend in favor of negotiation over litigation in divorce may in part be attributable to the growing popularity of alternatives such as mediation and collaborative law which emphasize mutual gains, joint problem solving, and better communication between disputants.
In “Lawyers who mediate, not litigate: Collaborative law doesn’t have to be an oxymoron“, a column in today’s Christian Science Monitor, Boston-based collaborative lawyer David Hoffman traces the roots of collaborative law, describes its benefits, and assesses its risks. Its benefits are two-fold: for the clients themselves, who can achieve creative resolutions, as well as for the legal profession itself, since Hoffman sees collaborative law as a way to regain ebbing public confidence. Hoffman does so in the context of the ethics opinion recently issued by the American Bar Association upholding the use of collaborative law agreements by lawyers–an opinion which put to rest concerns among collaborative lawyers raised by a controversial advisory opinion by the Colorado Bar Association which declared collaborative law unethical per se earlier this year.
Although collaborative law — and other nonadversarial processes like mediation — may not be for everyone, many divorcing couples are electing these as a way to avoid the costs — monetary and otherwise — that litigation can produce.