How it started: A Minnesota idea that spread throughout the world
Collaborative Practice is a home grown concept; it originated by Stu Webb, a local Minnesota attorney and a tenant of Collaborative Alliance, Inc. The following is Stu’s description of how this amazing revolution was started:
“In 1989, I had been a divorce lawyer for about 18 years---and was getting pretty sick of it. I saw what adversarial court battles were doing to my clients and I knew it was having a negative effect on me too. But litigation (going to court) was the way divorces were handled (and still is, for the most part).
In traditional litigation, two lawyers (or teams of lawyers) hash out the divorce in court. The actual parties to the divorce—the husband and wife—have almost no direct contact with each other, and what little they have is usually bitter and unproductive. Tension, fear, anger, and recrimination prevail. The traditional process makes it almost impossible for the parties to have anything remotely resembling a healthy relationship after the divorce, even when there are children involved.
I felt I was living in a siege mentally---waiting for the next battle to start—and I was ready to quit the practice of law. I enrolled in a college and was ready to start educating myself for a new career, when I had a thought: “If I’m actually willing to quit being a lawyer, why don’t I at least see whether there’s some out-of-the-box way I can look at things. Maybe there’s a better way of handling divorce.”
So I began experimenting with different ways to approach family law practice. In late 1989, I was involved in one of the worst litigation cases in my career, a real showcase of everything that’s wrong with litigation; lying, nasty tricks, hiding assets, endless court hearings, etc. That case by itself could have been enough to get me to retire. But in the midst of one of those awful hearings, it occurred to me that there should be settlement-only specialists available for divorcing couples, specialists who work with the couple outside the court system, and who would turn the case over to trial lawyers if the settlement process failed. That, in a nutshell, was the start of Collaborative Law.
On January 1, 1990, I declared myself a Collaborative lawyer—the first, and only—one. I knew, though, that Collaborative Law could never succeed if I were the only one doing it. So I mentioned the concept to some other local divorce lawyers, and by the end of 1990 there were nine of us.”