Collaborative Practiceyers have different views about this. Some will “sign on” to a collaborative representation with any lawyer who is willing to give it a try. We believe this to be unwise and do not do so.

Trust between the attorneys is essential for the Collaborative Practice process to work. Unless the lawyers can rely on one another’s representations about full disclosure, for example, there can be insufficient protection against dishonesty by a party. Unless I have confidence that the other lawyer will withdraw from representing a dishonest client, I would not sign on to a formal Collaborative Practice process (involving disqualification of the lawyers from representation in court if the Collaborative Practice process fails).

Similarly, Collaborative Practice demands special skills from the lawyers–skills in guiding negotiations, and in managing conflict. These are not the skills a conventional lawyer learns. Without them, a lawyer would have a hard time working effectively in a Collaborative Practice negotiation.

And some lawyers even collude with their clients to misuse the Collaborative Practice process, for delay, or to get an unfair edge in negotiations. For these reasons, we do not sign on to a formal Collaborative Practice representation with a lawyer inexperienced in this model. That doesn’t mean we could not work cordially or cooperatively with that lawyer, but we wouldn’t sign the formal agreements that are the heart of Collaborative Practice until we had a track record of mutual trust with the lawyer.