A Family Law Practice Devoted
to Alternative Dispute Resolution

Which Clients?

by Michael Tobriner

Which Clients Are Suited to Collaborative Practice?

Here are the attributes a client must possess in order to participate successfully in the collaborative process:

  • Personal respect for the other party.  This is a bedrock principle of collaborative practice.  A client must be able to accept the other party as a human being entitled to full and complete respect and dignity.
  • Recognition, understanding, and respect for the other party’s expressed interests and goals.  A party need not agree with the other party’s interests and goals, but he or she must have the capacity to recognize those interest and goals, comprehend what they mean, and express respect for them.
  • Openness and transparency in all communications.  Hiding or concealing information, lack of forthrightness, lack of good faith communications – all are unacceptable.
  • Courteous and dignified conduct in meetings.  Expressions of disagreement are expected.  Expressions of feelings, including upsetment, disappointment, or tears, are part of the process.  Outright hostility, anger outbursts, bullying, threats of any kind (including threats to “go to court”) are unacceptable.
  • Self-assertive and participatory in meetings.  A party must be able to participate actively in meetings and to assert firmly and clearly his or her own interests.  Attorneys are present to assist parties in setting forth their interests, but a party must be able to stand up and speak up for him or herself.
  • Ability to compromise.  Reasonable compromise is essential to any bargaining, and collaborative practice is a form of bargaining.  A party is not expected, and not permitted, to compromise his or her vital interests or to compromise to “get it over with” or avoid the pressure of negotiation.