Cooperative Law vs. Collaborative Law

Many people have heard of “cooperative law” and ask if it is the same thing as Collaborative Law. The short answer is no, cooperative law is not the same thing as Collaborative Law. While these two approaches may look similar in some cases, there are some key differences that distinguish them from one another.

In Collaborative Law, both clients and both lawyers sign an agreement to negotiate the entire matter in good faith. The team commits to a high level of integrity, full disclosure and to developing an agreement that works well for everyone. The clients pledge that they will not file a case in court or threaten to file a case in court. The lawyers pledge that if the case proceeds to litigation that they will withdraw and not participate in litigation. This commitment to resolution is the hallmark of a Collaborative case.

Cooperative law can look similar to the Collaborative process described above. There is typically a commitment to work together and to take reasonable positions in negotiations. However, participants are not prevented from filing a case in court. When negotiations become difficult, it’s not unusual for a “cooperative” case to become less-than-cooperative. When negotiations are challenging in a Collaborative case, the team regroups and determines how to effectively move through the impasse.

Recently, “Collaborative” has become a popular buzzword amongst attorneys who are trying to advertise to people who don’t want a traditional case. If you are interviewing professionals and want to know if they practice Collaborative Law or cooperative law, just ask them what a Participation Agreement is! Someone who is Collaboratively trained will know what you are talking about; someone who practices cooperatively may or may not know what you are referring to. The other question to ask is whether someone has taken IACP Collaborative Law training.


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