By Sheldon E. Finman.
Are you missing out by not practicing cooperative law? As a trained collaborative family law attorney, I first became a lawyer, practicing and training other professionals in cooperative law. After I became familiar with collaborative law and received training, my perspective allowed me to understand how I was able to expand my practice using both protocols.
The gap in how these two types of practices has become less and less over time. For example, use of participation agreements, interests-based negotiations and MHP facilitators/coaches are now in prominent use in cooperative practice. Both practice options utilize neutral witnesses and objective professional team members. Both practices emphasize problem solving, client-centered and children-focused solutions.
The disqualification of lawyers in collaborative law is still the main difference and unique quality, lending itself to a serious attitude and approach, with high stakes, if the case is not settled out of court. There is no doubt the potential disqualification of the attorneys requires significant focus and incentive to settle.
In cooperative law, the attorneys and any neutrals remain in the case, if judicial intervention is needed. The clients are not required to hire new lawyers, along with the attending period of transition and adjustments. The cooperative case may also be able to enlist the trial judge to assist with the cooperative process in the event of any procedural log jams or unreasonable behavior by one side and/or the other, which may include an award or withholding fees, in addition to several other judicial measures to aid in a cooperative process.
For those collaborative lawyers who screen clients and facts in order to try to avoid unnecessary problems and issues potentially blocking resolution, why not consider practicing cooperatively pre-suit or in a court process?