A Brief History of Collaborative Law

When one thinks about the history of law, they more than likely think about ancient concepts that were honed and developed over thousands of years. They may think of Babylonian King Hammurabi’s Code, Roman Emperor Justinian’s codification of laws, Napoleonic law, English common law, or even the development of American federalism.

When you look at the scope of what has led to the law that is practiced in the US and around the world today, it is hard to imagine that there would be any room for new legal concepts and practices. However, the practice of Collaborative Law is actually infantile compared to most other legal concepts.

Though there is some dispute as to the origins, most people attribute the conception and development of collaborative law to a burnt out family law attorney in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1990. After years of court battles and dealing with incivility in divorces and other family law cases, Stewart “Stu” Webb had grown tired of the adversarial nature of litigation and began researching alternative dispute resolution methods.

He decided to develop his own method of divorce settlement that would allow him to practice the problem-solving aspects of being a lawyer that he enjoyed while avoiding the frustrating litigation process. His first attempts at face-to-face attorney collaboration with the goal of settling a divorce out of court broke down and failed, which led Webb to realize the need to remove the threat of litigation altogether.

This is now the most important tenet of collaborative law. Webb knew that if both parties and their attorneys signed an agreement not to litigate under any circumstances, then the attorneys would be forced to rise to the challenge of finding an equitable resolution. If no resolution could be found, the collaborative attorneys would be required to leave the case and pass it on to a litigation attorney.

Once Webb had refined his collaborative method, addressing legal and ethical issues by consulting with other attorneys and legal experts, he founded a collaborative practice “institute” comprised of four attorneys.

Word of Webb’s institute rapidly spread amongst the legal community, and the practice quickly found its way to California where it was further honed and zealously pioneered by San Francisco-area attorney Pauline Tesler. It was at this time that the interdisciplinary aspect of utilizing outside professionals in collaborative practice proceedings came to fruition.

The idea of an interdisciplinary approach to divorce with the use of mental health and financial professionals was already being developed in California in 1992 by psychologists Peggy Thompson and Rodney Nurse, while around the same time social worker Nancy Ross began working on a partnership between mental health professionals and collaborative attorneys. Thompson was introduced to Collaborative law by Tesler, and later met Ross. Together, with the help of others as well, they developed the interdisciplinary aspects of collaborative law.

Collaborative law began to grow exponentially when collaborative professionals realized the need to work together to further improve and promote this young legal practice and they developed the American Institute of Collaborative Professionals (AICP) in 1999. As collaborative law began to take off in other countries like Canada, the name was changed to the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) in 2001.

Collaborative practice has grown at an incredible pace since it was created by Stu Webb in 1990, both on a national and global scale. If you would like to learn more about collaborative law and collaborative divorce please contact Landerholm Law today.

Written by Collaborative Divorce

Collaborative Divorce

Our passion is helping individuals like you resolve your divorce and family law challenges with as little stress as possible. We understand that this is a difficult time in your life and we strive to give you predictability and peace of mind throughout all legal proceedings. One of the key ways in which we deliver that experience is by customizing our approach to fit your exact needs.