Collaborative lawyers have an attorney-client retainer agreement that confirms their collaborative law arrangement, including a promise to try in good faith to resolve the dispute without resort to litigation, and that if the matter goes to court the attorneys for both sides will be disqualified from any further participation.
Once clients and their attorneys agree to use Collaborative Law, the attorneys will confer and arrange a meeting when the Collaborative Participation Agreement will be openly agreed to and signed. At this initial meeting (called a "four-way"), any issues requiring immediate attention will be discussed. If there is specific information or documents that one person needs from the other in order to engage in meaningful discussion and negotiations, then agreements on information sharing will be made.
Afterwards, each client and attorney will develop a list of issues they believe need to be addressed in order to reach a settlement of the dispute. The attorneys will share their respective lists and develop the agendas which will guide discussions at subsequent meetings. In a series of two, three or more meetings, the clients and their attorneys will discuss and negotiate the issues which underlie the dispute. Using collaborative and mediation skills, attorneys assist both the clients in their communications and negotiations while at the same time providing their clients with legal advice and guidance. The four-way meeting process is designed to ensure that the interests of the clients are respectfully addressed so that upon settlement, the agreement reached recognizes those interests, is acceptable and lasting.
NOTE: There are times when the Collaborative Law process does not succeed when one party is not willing or able to listen and negotiate in good faith, for instance. In those cases, the clients will need to retain new attorneys in order to litigate the case.