Sometimes negative examples drive home the benefits of collaborative practice the most. At Stephens & Margolin LLP we help clients with both traditional litigation cases and collaborative cases. As an Oregon lawyer practicing only family law, I frequently borrow from my collaborative law skills when working on traditional cases. The traditional side of our practice frequently reminds me of the benefits of collaborative law and the flaws in traditional practice. In our traditional cases, we usually attempt a four way style meeting and mediation prior to entering a courtroom. I recently made an appearance in a county which allows for hearings on temporary custody and parenting time before the parties mediate. The opposing attorney had filed for temporary custody without asking for mediation. I asked the other lawyer to mediate to see what we could work out prior to using the court’s time, but they refused. I would have been happy to have a four way meeting in our conference room and talk about some creative solutions, but they refused. Rather than mediate or negotiate, a hearing was held at the other lawyer’s insistence. The result was substantially worse for the moving party than they expected. Rather than a cooperative solution being reached voluntarily, the court imposed a decision on the parties that was harmful to the moving party.
Refusing mediation or a face to face meeting was an enormous strategic mistake for the other lawyer. A more collaborative approach would have left the other lawyer with a happier client vs. a miserable client, and a better outcome.