Collaborative Practice Groups and Their Effect on the Collaborative Team

On February 12-13, collaborative attorneys and professional from all over Texas and the United States converged on Austin, Texas for the 8th Annual Collaborative Law Course. I had the privilege of being part of a panel discussion during the course titled “Leveraging Practice Groups in Team Dynamic.” Also on the panel were the esteemed collaborative attorneys Chris Farish of Quaid and Farish in Dallas, Texas and Cristi Trusler of Trusler Legal PLLC in Austin, Texas. Also on the panel was Melissa Sulkowski, a highly-regarded mental health professional with Nurturinse Counseling and Wellness in Erie, PA.

Collaborative Family Law is a process governed by Chapter 15 of the Texas Family Code (the Collaborative Family Law Act) that encourages the peaceable resolution of disputes, with special consideration given to disputes involving the parent-child relationship, including disputes involving the conservatorship of, possession or access to, and support of a child, and the settlement of pending litigation through voluntary settlement procedures. Tex. Fam. C. 15.001. The Collaborative family law process is defined as a procedure intended to resolve a collaborative family law matter without intervention by a tribunal in which the parties sign a collaborative family law participation agreement and are represented by collaborative family law lawyers. Tex. Fam. C. 15.052(4). More often than not, the collaborative family law matter will be a divorce, but the process is not limited to divorces. Premarital agreements, post marital agreements and custody disputes are often handled through the collaborative process as well.

Typically, a collaborative law divorce will include the formation of a collaborative team, which include attorneys for each spouse, as well as a neutral mental health professional and a neutral financial professional. Litigation is be suspended and during the collaborative process, and each member of the collaborative team is dedicated to reaching the best possible settlement for the parties through the collaborative process. If the collaborative process is unsuccessful and the process is terminated, the collaborative team is terminated and the parties have to hire new counsel.

In the presentation, I was able to discuss my experiences as the president of Collaborative Law Dallas and how practice groups affect the collaborative law process. Collaborative Law Dallas is a collaborative practice group made up of 18 collaborative attorneys, 3 financial professionals and 1 mental health professional. Its primary focus is to educate others about the collaborative process, and to make sure its members are like-minded collaborative law professionals dedicated to resolving divorces outside of the courtroom and in the collaborative process.

The consensus of the panel was that members of collaborative practice groups, like Collaborative Law Dallas, tend to have a positive impact on individual collaborative teams. Members of collaborative practice groups are more likely to work well together in a collaborative team, as they are familiar with one another and have the same goals for the collaborative process. The more cohesion in the collaborative, the greater chance of success for the parties.

If you have more questions about collaborative law, contact Gregory S. Beane at VernerBrumley. He can be reached by phone at 214-526-5234 or by email at mailto:[email protected]. VernerBrumley’s principal office is located in Dallas, Texas.