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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin

Section Spotlight Back in the early 1990’s, after more than thirty years of litigating and mediating divorce cases, Minnesota family lawyer, Stuart Webb grew discouraged by the general dissatisfaction of his clients, even those for whom he was able to achieve outcomes that were most favorable under the law and facts of the case. Desperate to find a better way, one that would allow clients to have more of a voice in their outcomes and allow them to explore their options more fully, he conceived of an approach that would cast lawyers in the role of settlement specialists who could, without the constraints imposed by the litigation process, focus all their efforts on guiding clients to a resolution built around the parties’ real needs and interests rather than on threats and legal positions. He conceived of this as a non-adversarial approach to resolution. In order to give his idea legs and legitimacy, Webb collected several likeminded colleagues and presented it to the Minnesota Supreme Court who gave him their blessing. Thus was born a form of limited scope representation known as “Collaborative Law.” Pursuant to Webb’s vision, Collaborative Law started as two lawyers and their respective clients commencing the process by execution of a contract known as a Participation Agreement in which the lawyers committed to focus their efforts on the work of achieving a mutually acceptable outcome, and the parties committed to hire new lawyers to represent them in litigation should their settlement efforts fail. For many lawyers, the idea of being replaced if negotiations fail may be a deal breaker. But for those who settle most of their cases already, the risk has proved worth the reward of having more satisfied clients. As Webb’s idea caught on and its use spread across the country, the collaborative approach was “...an approach that would cast lawyers in the role of settlement specialists who could, without the constraints imposed by the litigation process, focus all their efforts on guiding clients to a resolution built around the parties’ real needs and interests...” Birmingham Bar Bulletin/ Spring 2018 25


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin
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