22 Aug The “Collaborative Law” Movement Emerges
The Collaborative Law Movement — which encompasses collaborative law, restorative justice, and sustainable economies law, among others, has recently been stimulated in Australia.
Collaborative law is an growing area of legal practice that is currently the discipline of family lawyers in Australia, though is beginning to spread. In the family law context, the idea is that lawyers put the best interests of the family first, which often means moving away from an adversarial approach and towards constructive negotiations. Collaborative legal practice is about a truly constructive and facilitative approach that produces innovative and durable solutions for all parties. This approach means moving beyond an exclusively legalistic approach, which focuses on negotiating in the strict shadow of the law, and moves towards using a multi-disciplinary skill set for genuine, long-term problem solving for clients. In this model, the legal toolbox is just one set of perspectives and tools to create innovative solutions.
Collaborative law concepts are perfect for clients in the start-up, sustainability and B-Corp space, which are often based on collaborative methodologies. At their very core, these enterprises are deeply connected to their communities, so win-win collaborative approaches to legal issues which arise for them are necessary to preserve the delicate ecosystems of relationships.
Sustainable economies law seeks to provide legal solutions for people and enterprises with missions furthering ecological sustainability, community resilience, social justice and climate change mitigation. Based on the premise that many old economic structures, and organisational and social logic are part of the problem, the emerging sustainability and B-Corp enterprises are creating a new economic sector that are demonstrating that jobs and profit are compatible with empowering stakeholders, acting sustainably and creating public benefit.
Developing a collaborative legal practice requires interdisciplinary thinking and often emotional intelligence to understand synergies between clients and their stakeholders. The primary job of a lawyer in this framework is to ensure all the relationships him/she helps form are vision-led and values-driven, but with proper protections for all parties.
As more businesses embrace sustainability, respond to market trends toward ethical purchasing and develop technological solutions to solve social and environmental problems, the need for a new way to manage legal relationships or create responsive structures will drive the collaborative law movement.
How this unfolds in years to come will be an interesting journey for a profession, which has been built on adversarial pillars.