In my experience, some domestic relations attorneys put on a litigious and combative front when dealing with opposing parties and opposing counsel, instead of approaching their client's case from an efficacious and cost-effective framework. Often times, the initial combativeness of many family law attorneys comes across as showboating or grandstanding. In reality, all the attorney could ever hope to accomplish by such behavior is to illustrate to the client that the attorney is an aggressive advocate willing to go so far as to alienate fellow colleagues just to make the client feel better about their case. Ironically, such actions simply mirror the underlying dispute between the two parties involved in the first place and are a dead end to reaching an out of court agreement. Unfortunately, subscribing to this type of lawyering is neither fiscally responsible nor healthy to the attorney-attorney or the attorneyclient relationship. As opposed to a pugilistic litigation strategy, perhaps all involved would be better served by undertaking an amicable alternative dispute resolution approach from the outset. One of the available ADR methods to accomplish an expedient and thorough negotiation is the use of collaborative law.
Collaborative law is a dispute resolution process that does not involve the courts. It is based on facilitative principles, similar to those underlying mediation, but is distinct from mediation in that the parties are represented by their own attorneys who facilitate the discussion in accordance with an agreement. Appropriately, collaborative law has gained popularity particularly in the divorce context, where the process is known as collaborative divorce. I have implemented this technique in myriad domestic disputes. The use of collaborative law usually occurs one of two ways. The first way occurs after a comprehensive review of all documents, when I place an introductory call to opposing counsel, exchange pleasantries, and then invite him/her along with his/her client to my office for a fourway negotiation session. This is a great way to set your tone for the case as amicable, approachable, and ameliorative. The second way occurs at the courthouse during a scheduled hearing date in one of the conference rooms connected to your assigned courtroom (this is why I prefer not to continue court dates, as the time is better spent moving toward settlement). Either one of these types of collaborative law tends to create good will between the attorneys, which in turn leads to better results for the clients and more efficient negotiation among all involved.
At first, the suggestion of approaching domestic relations disputes from an ADR collaborative law perspective may seem antithetical to divorce proceedings; however, the results often achieved at the conclusion of the case are preferable and more economical than the outcome of a trial. Furthermore, a party-driven agreement is usually preferable to an independent third party decision maker's decree. In the end, mastering the art of ADR will not only benefit the parties involved, but also increase the attorney's mental and physical well being by introducing a sense of togetherness otherwise not present in the dispute.