Collaborative Law was first established in the UK, approximately 10 years ago. It originated in the USA and its success quickly spread to Canada and Australia as an alternative way to resolve disputes upon the breakdown of a relationship.
Through the support of Resolution in the UK, family solicitors in this country began to train as Collaborative lawyers. Initially, the process was limited to certain areas; such as Cambridge and Bath, but, over the years, more solicitors from all over the UK have trained and the process has spread.
Most regions of the UK now have trained Collaborative lawyers and each local area should have a practice group of Collaborative professionals called a POD, where the professionals involved meet regularly to support each other in running collaborative cases, to raise the profile of Collaborative law and to provide ongoing updates and training to those involved.
Up until summer 2012, the High Peak did not have such a group. However, with the establishment of HOTPOD, a collaborative practice group for High Peak, Oldham and Tameside, these areas can now access Collaborative services.
Collaborative Law is one of the best ways to resolve disputes upon the breakdown of a relationship, as the process puts all of the control with the parties involved. The lawyers are there to advise and support their clients but they are also there to work together, to reach the best outcome possible for both of the couple involved. It is hoped that the process allows the couple to emerge with dignity and respect for each other and the ability to have a civil relationship in the future. This is particularly important when there are children involved.
Being either a trained Collaborative Lawyer, or one of the other professionals involved in the process such as a Financial Advisor or Counsellor, has great benefits for the professionals and firms involved. The POD establishes a place where good and trustworthy relationships can be formed, so that when everyone comes together to work on a case, they are all able to work to the highest of their abilities and they know that they can gain support and guidance from others involved in the process who have expertise in other areas. Collaborative Law is also able to provide the clients with the whole package.
Each year, more and more family solicitors are training as Collaborative lawyers. In a recent survey of family solicitors conducted by accountancy firm Grant Thornton, 90% of those responding stated that they supported the Collaborative process and 58% of the response group had trained as Collaborative lawyers. This had lead to an increase in cases being dealt with collaboratively. However, in light of the many positives of using Collaborative Law, the number of Collaborative cases is still not reflective as many of the solicitors interviewed felt that clients still were not willing to try it and that there was still a lack of awareness.
Therefore, as a Collaborative lawyer, my job now has to be to raise awareness of the process and its benefit, so that when clients come through our doors, they are coming to enquire about the process, rather than raising it as a possibility with them. HOTPOD and other similar groups in the North West are working very hard to spread the message.
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