What is Collaborative Practice?
Collaborative Practice is a consensual dispute resolution process in which parties settle legal conflicts without litigation.
In Collaborative Practice, the parties sign a collaborative participation agreement describing the nature and scope of the matter, and agree to voluntarily disclose all information which is relevant and material to the issues to be resolved. Communications made during the collaborative process are, by agreement and by law, privileged from disclosure in discovery or as evidence in a court of law or other tribunal. The parties agree to use good faith efforts in their negotiations to reach a mutually acceptable settlement. Each party is represented by a lawyer whose representation terminates upon the undertaking of any contested court proceeding; and the parties may engage mental health and neutral financial professionals whose engagement also terminates upon the undertaking of any contested court proceeding.
What are the core elements of Collaborative Practice?
In Collaborative Practice, core elements form the parties’ commitments to this process, which are to:
- Negotiate a mutually acceptable resolution without having courts decide issues.
- Maintain open communication and information sharing.
- Create shared solutions acknowledging the highest priorities of all.
Are there laws governing Collaborative Practice in Alabama?
Yes. On January 1, 2014, the Uniform Collaborative Law Act went into effect in Alabama. Ala. Code 1975 §§ 6-6-26.1-26.21 (2014). On February 9, 2015, the Alabama Supreme Court enacted the procedural rules which keep collaborative communications confidential. Ala. R. Priv. in Coll. L. Prac. 1-4.
How is Collaborative Practice different from mediation?
Collaborative Practice is similar to mediation in that both focus on information gathering, goal identification, and option development before solution. Both use interest based approaches to negotiation, and see client self-determination as a guiding principle. Both rely heavily on active listening, reframing, and emotional acknowledgements.
However, despite the similarities, Collaborative Practice differs from Mediation in several key aspects. Collaborative Practice has an express contract provision which requires full disclosure, and makes the collaborative professionals the guardians of the process. Collaborative Practice prohibits simultaneous litigation, an aspect which affects the leverage, options and type of discussion present in the process. Indeed, it completely aligns the clients’ interests and the lawyers’ interest in resolving the matter. Collaborative involves the inclusion of other collaboratively trained professionals, who are instrumental in dealing with communication, mental health and emotional issues. By using a team approach to manage conflict and achieve resolution, Collaborative engages the professionals with the appropriate skills needed to work through the issues presented by a particular conflict – legal issues are handled by lawyers, financial issues by neutral financial experts, and emotional issues are dealt with by the mental health professionals.
Where can I find a Collaborative Practice Professional?
You can find a list of professionals practicing in Alabama on the website of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (www.collaborativepractice.com) or through Birmingham Collaborative Alliance (www.birminghamcollaborative.com).