I’m pleased to announce that at long last, West Virginia now has a local Collaborative Law Practice Group. I’m very excited, but perhaps you are wondering, what is that?
Collaborative Law is a new and growing way of approaching legal problems with collaboration rather than adversity. In the late 1980’s a number of lawyers grew skeptical that the adversarial process was the best way to resolve conflicts, especially those that involve families. This group of lawyers, lead primarily by Stu Webb, began to develop a new way of approaching conflict using collaboration. Instead of relying on judges to make the decisions, collaborative law allows the parties to work together to find ways to resolve the conflict. In other words, we work to build bridges to keep families together, even when the parents are no longer married.
In collaborative divorce, this is often accomplished through a series of meetings with the two parties and their attorneys. In most cases, the parties also include a financial neutral who works with the parties and their attorneys to find ways to maximize the resources available to the family. Some families also include conflict coaches or child specialists in their collaborative meetings.
One advantage of collaborative divorce is that it often produces superior outcomes, since the parties and not third parties, make the decision. Collaborative divorce also tends to be less expensive than litigation.
One of the difficulties with collaborative divorce is that most attorneys are trained in law school only in adversarial processes. The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals has developed training programs that build on those skills and retrain lawyers to work in this collaborative format. The training requires over twenty hours of specific training and continuing education on the collaborative process.
Prior to last winter, I was the only West Virginia attorney qualified to represent parties in collaborative law. I am a member of the collaborative practice group in the District of Columbia, but wanted to bring this opportunity to the Mountain State. Last winter, I was very excited when Martinsburg attorneys Mary Binns-Davis and Jeffrey Molenda joined the roster.
One of the hallmarks of collaborative law is that local groups of collaborative attorneys, financial neutrals, and conflict coaches, organize practice groups to improve their services. This fall, Mary, Jeff and I formed the first collaborative practice group in West Virginia. We have a very basic website that we will be developing over the next few months.
What’s next? We are working to develop workshops on collaborative law for both consumers and professionals. We will keep you posted as those are scheduled. Since we all have offices at The Hub in Martinsburg, we will be sponsoring a business mixer after work on January 7, 2016 at The Hub in Martinsburg. Refreshments will be served and guests will have an opportunity to learn about some of the great benefits of collaborative law. Contact us if you would like to attend the event!
I am very excited to be bringing this important legal service to our community and hope that you will consider collaborative law as a way to approach divorce or custody conflicts. Please contact me if you have any questions about collaborative divorce.