This article is from Kevin Fuller, founder of Dallas-based Fuller Mediations, a firm that provides a range of mediation services to settle divorces and other disputes, and a former president of the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas.
In the last two and a half decades, we have taken Stu Webb’s simple concept of a better way to divorce -- a concept called collaborative divorce -- and wrapped it in all kinds of rules, processes and procedures. We added mental health professionals and financial professionals into the process. We created state statutes and uniform laws authorizing, defining and regulating the practice and process of collaborative law. The IACP (International Association of Collaborative Professionals) has grown from a few dozen impassioned souls to a membership of over 5,000. In Texas, the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas) has grown from a brainchild of Larry Hance and John McShane into a membership in excess of 400 lawyers, mental health professionals and financial professionals.
Even though we've gone through 25 years or growth and development, we still debate the "right" way to do collaborative law. The questions range from how many people should be involved, and which people in particular should be involved, to questions about what shape the table should be -- round or square?
Despite the past (and future) debates about how the collaborative process should work, we have arrived at some core concepts. Lawyers acting as “settlement only” lawyers can be very effective in resolving disputes more constructively. When the contributions of mental health professionals and financial professionals are added to the settlement process, this increases the possibility of better, more durable and constructive resolutions for families.
And yet, if the collaborative process is going to continue to grow, we’re going need to continue to strive for effectiveness, efficiency and affordability in the process. In any endeavor, being effective, efficient and affordable, all at the same time, is an extremely difficult thing to do.
The core concept of the collaborative process remains its best concept – to resolve disputes without the lawyers or the parties going to court. The who, how, why, when, where and with what details are just details, as long as we keep the core concepts intact, and continue to work on making the process even more effective, efficient and affordable than it is now.