Friday, August 22, 2014

Collaborative Law: We Invite Your Participation!

By Christine L. Derr

I am pleased to be co-chairing the Collaborative Law Section of the Hillsborough County Bar Association for 2014-2015 with Jon Wax. The Collaborative Law Section has many goals for this year. We are developing networking opportunities, enhanced public awareness of the benefits of collaborative law, lawyer training, and continuing education, as well as providing education to the judiciary about the collaborative process as an alternative dispute method. We invite your participation!

There has been a cooperation developing between our collaborative community and the HCBA Collaborative Law Section, only beginning its third year, and it is gaining steam. One of our primary objectives is to expand the education of professionals and prospective clients to the alternative that is available through collaborative law. Although locally, collaborative law has made the most progress in the family law arena, the collaborative process may become a significant alternative dispute resolution process in other practice areas.

In the family law setting, collaborative law is growing rapidly. Each year, more Tampa Bay family law attorneys, financial experts, and collaborative facilitators have been trained in the process and have developed the skills necessary to manage these cases effectively. Collaborative cases typically cost less, take less time, cause less stress, and open up possibilities that are not available in a traditional litigation-based setting. By taking a cooperative approach, rather than an adversarial one, parties can resolve difficult issues that would otherwise lead to expensive and time-consuming litigation.

We have courts that support the philosophy that the interdisciplinary collaborative practice model may be a suitable alternative to full-scale adversarial litigation in family law cases if the parties agree to such a model. Although the collaborative law bills introduced for Florida’s 2014 legislative session did not pass this year, the Family Law Section of The Florida Bar has a standing position supporting the statutory recognition of collaborative law as a form of alternative dispute resolution in family law cases and the establishment of a privilege regarding the disclosure of information related to collaborative proceedings.

One of the benefits of being a member of the Collaborative Law Section is sharing information, knowledge, and materials with other members. The synergy between our local and statewide collaborative practice groups and the state council creates an environment ripe for growth. We plan to work in partnership with the two collaborative groups in the Tampa Bay area: the Tampa Bay Collaborative Law Group and Next Generation Divorce. Many members of the Collaborative Law Section are members of both groups. We invite interested members of the HCBA to join the Collaborative Law Section for our luncheons on October 22, December 18, February 25, and April 22. There will be a charge for lunches, but there will be no section dues, so those interested in joining will not have to pay extra to participate. Non-lawyer affiliate members of the Bar interested in collaborative law are also encouraged to attend.