The Collaborative Law Process Helps Clients Find Creative and Cost-Effective Solutions
Osborn Conflict Resolution can guide you in pursuing client- driven, “win-win” resolution, instead of costly litigation
In most legal disputes, more time and effort is spent fighting problems than solving them. For many businesses and individuals, collaborative law is a rational alternative to the expense and stress that usually accompanies litigation. At Osborn Conflict Resolution, I work with clients who seek to resolve commercial, employment and family-related disputes in a prompt, cost-effective manner. Under a collaborative law approach, the parties agree to an open, honest exchange of information to help reach a mutually acceptable outcome. From cases involving construction and contract disputes to matters involving churches, my training in (and commitment to) the collaborative process helps clients achieve a positive outcome, even when the parties may believe their dispute or conflict is intractable or insurmountable.
Guiding businesses and individuals through the dispute resolution process
As a trained collaborative law practitioner, I will provide you with a comprehensive overview of the collaborative law process, as well as its particular benefits and suitability for particular kinds of cases. Some of the unique features, benefits, and value-adds of the collaborative process for civil disputes are as follows:
- Establishment of initial ground rules and principles of effective communication: A collaborative process agreement at the outset confirms each party’s commitment to honest, open discussion, and to respectful negotiation with the other parties in good faith. The collaborative attorneys for each side typically works extensively with their respective clients, before any joint meetings, to equip them for skillful, effective negotiations. Oftentimes, the guidance and conflict resolution skills clients develop in the initial stages of the collaborative process help them to better avoid or defuse future conflicts within the same organization business, or family. (Now how about that: lawyers sowing seeds of cooperation and productivity, rather than animosity, mistrust, enmity and strife?)
- The opportunity to craft a private, client driven process, rather than an open battle waged as a matter of public record, on a court’s timetable: Once a lawsuit is filed, the applicable rules of civil procedure govern everything. Parties may have to respond or produce information faster than they would like (or feel capable of), or sometimes may have to wait what feels like an interminable amount of time for the other side to do respond or produce information. A collaborative process lets the parties, with the guidance of their counsel, work together to fashion reasonable deadlines and times for their meetings and negotiations, and to provide for the mutual exchange of information proportionate to the circumstances and the issues at stake. And perhaps best of all, the entire process can be conducted outside the public eye. as there are typically no pleadings or public filings associated with a collaborative process. Matters that would best be handled privately, especially to the extent sensitive information or issues are involved, can be kept private–which itself provides tremendous value.
- Avoidance of lawyerly objections and obfuscations: Unlike litigation, collaborative law has no formal discovery process. Rather, all pertinent information is freely shared, from the get-go, thereby eliminating the wast and excess costs associated with lengthy exchanges of formal discovery and the endless torrent of objections and responses and motions to compel production. (I recognize that the idea of full disclosure may not sound attractive to all parties in all situations, but that is exactly why each case must be thoughtfully reviewed to determine its suitability for the collaborative process.)
- Early evaluation and insight from neutral professionals — When parties are headed for a trial, each side may employ, at its own considerable expense, so-called “experts” with specialized knowledge they believe will help a jury understand their position on a given issue, such as the valuation of a business or property, or causation of an accident or construction defect or failure. The resulting aptly-named “battle of the experts” retained by each side is not only expensive, but it is woefully inefficient, and provides little if any guarantee of ultimate success in court. In one construction defect case I handled for an owner/developer of a medical office building, each of six parties (including my client) ended up retaining its own expert to opine as to the cause of the failure of a retaining wall, and each of those expert witnesses had to be deposed (i.e., cross-examined under oath, in advance of trial), for hours on end, I-kid-you-not, by each of the other attorneys involved. A collaborative process, on the other hand, allows for the early joint engagement of truly neutral, objective, outside professionals, which can often remove or defuse some of the most contentious differences of opinion.
- Open-minded negotiation towards comprehensive, “win-win” resolutions: The legal system typically produces “zero-sum” verdicts–there is often one winner and one loser, and many cases are decided in an “all or nothing” fashion, leaving one party utterly dissatisfied. (And even the “winner,” frequently, has spent tremendous time and money only to end up still left exhausted and disappointed.) Courts and judges tend to be quite limited in the kinds of relief they can offer–mainly monetary judgments, or orders to require a person or entity to do something, or not to do something, in the future. The collaborative approach harnesses the creativity and entrepreneurial resources of all parties, however, and permits all kinds of creative solutions that courts couldn’t even dream up, let alone impose as a matter of law. Collaborative practitioners are trained at helping the parties see beyond “win-lose,” “mine or yours,” black and white, winner-take-all options upon which disputing parties can often get hyper-focused.
When you meet with me to explain your problem, I can offer examples of similar situations where the collaborative process benefited everyone involved.Many folks wrongly assume that collaborative law is only for situations where the conflict is minimal. That is not true. After developing a strategy based on my client’s goals, I negotiate tirelessly to achieve as many of them as possible, just like any other litigator, but in a more respectful, less formal, and less costly way. Once an agreement is reached, I work with the other parties and attorneys to give the solution legal force.
The Collaborative Practice Model Provides Practical Benefits and Cost-Savings to Clients with All Kinds of Business and Commercial Disputes
Osborn Conflict Resolution represents individuals and small and large businesses in all types of disputes, including those concerning:
- Construction and real estate — Trouble on a construction project can stop work in its tracks while numerous parties point fingers at each other. I have seen it happen, first-hand, countless times as a construction lawyer. Having represented owners, developers, general contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers, and having taught mediation and negotiation skills to attorneys and law students, makes me uniquely equipped to help parties navigate through complicated construction disputes in an affordable manner that keeps projects moving ahead (or gets them back on track) expeditiously.
- Non-compete and non-solicitation agreements — When an employee or owner leaves a company, he or she is often restricted with regard to future work that would compete with a previous employer. It can be very difficult to determine whether and under what circumstances an employment agreement with a restrictive covenant (also known as a “covenant-not-to-compete”) is actually enforceable, or even applicable to the employee’s new job, and the battle over enforceability usually comes swiftly and at significant cost. At Osborn Conflict Resolution, I have substantial experience advising both employees and employers regarding the enforceability of post-employment restrictive covenants, and in helping them identify and negotiate outcomes that both parties can find a way to live with. I can, of course, help an employer or employee fight the traditional litigation battle over judicial enforcement of a non-compete agreement when circumstances warrant injunctive relief, but a negotiated resolution is typically much more cost-effective, faster, and less debilitating for all involved.
- “Frustration of minority shareholder expectations” and other disputes over ownership and control of closely-held corporations — No matter how much they may have valued one other and their respective contributions in the beginning, even the best of small-business owners can often find themselves stuck—bogged down in conflict over valuation of their ownership shares, entitlement to benefits or perks, or the future vision and direction of the enterprise. Some owners instinctively want to “cut and run” at the first sign of trouble, while others may seem to relish in the fight. But every moment of time spent battling one another, or jockeying for position or control is time lost from each owner doing what they do best. And litigation, although sometimes necessary, is often too blunt an instrument for helping business owners work through their differences in an efficient and productive manner, either to forge a path forward together that everyone can live with, or to part ways in an amicable and efficient manner that preserves the ultimate value of the business (and their respective interests in it).
- Employment Disputes — Controversies over an employee’s wages, working conditions, or termination from employment are almost always high stakes-the employee’s livelihood and the employer’s ability to maintain a productive and effective work environment are both of paramount importance, so tensions often run high. A collaborative law approach is an ideal method for ensuring that each party understands the other’s perspective, and that everyone is on the same page going forward. The flexibility of the collaborative process–and the parties’ ability to exercise a greater measure of control over it than they can through litigation–can minimize the disruption of both the workplace environment and the employee’s life.
These are just a few examples of specific problems that I have helped resolve over my 20+ years of practice, and which are great candidates for a collaborative law approach. If you have a conflict, dispute, or relational impasse that you think might benefit from this process, I would be glad to provide you with a free initial consultation to assess whether your situation would be well-served by a collaborative process, and to equip you to choose the most appropriate dispute resolution method available under your particular circumstances.
Contact Osborn Conflict Resolution for a free initial consultation
Osborn Conflict Resolution practices collaborative law for both business and individual clients. Call 704-579-5524 or contact us online to schedule a free initial consultation at my Charlotte office.