BETTER WAY: Lawyer Colin Fleming says Collaborative Practice has proven successful in Family Law relationship breakdowns.
BETTER WAY: Lawyer Colin Fleming says Collaborative Practice has proven successful in Family Law relationship breakdowns. Allan Reinikka Rokafleming

Collaboration proves effective in legal disputes

AFTER watching relationships get destroyed in the legal process, lawyer Colin Fleming knew there had to be a better way.

He concluded it took too long, cost too much and destroyed the relationship between those in the dispute.

After searching for a solution, two years ago Mr Fleming began training in Collaborative Practice.

He said this approach was the most exciting and significant change he had seen in 30 years, and was his greatest contribution to the community in his career.

"It is suitable for employer-employee; a business partnership; sporting organisations who don't want to lose a good player. It has been very successful in Family Law relationship breakdowns, especially where there are children," he said.

The practice involves the disputing parties committing to resolving their dispute themselves without going to court.

"To do this, they must treat each other with respect and equality," Mr Fleming said.

"They can only reach agreement if they can meet their own interests and those of the other party. It is about what they, the parties, think is fair; not what the judge or the lawyers think they should have."

Collaboratively trained lawyers and other neutral specialists, such as an accountant or psychologist, work with the parties to explore options that meet everyone's needs.

"It is better than mediation which, as it is practised by lawyers, is often pessimistic case appraisals given to both parties, in the absence of the other, by the mediator.

"Parties settle based on fear of what might happen if they went to court and the focus is not on meeting needs," Mr Fleming said.

"Collaborative resolution of disputes is much faster, cheaper and gives opportunities to reach an agreement not possible in the courts."

Mr Fleming said no other approach reduced the stress between the parties.

"Court is my last resort to resolve a dispute... a smarter way is about listening to the people in the dispute and meeting their interest," he said.

Positives of taking the collaborative approach:

  • Cost range >$10,000 (litigation is $40,000)
  • Pace set by clients
  • No threat of litigation
  • Involvement of non-legal professionals
  • Level playing field
  • Doesn't destroy relationships
  • Focus on win/win outcomes
  • Duration, three to six months


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