Regarding the passage of the Pennsylvania Collaborative Law Act, at first blush, who can be against more "collaboration?" However, as a practicing divorce law attorney, the concept of "collaborative law" illustrates a worrying trend: the privatization of our legal system by incentivizing litigants to stay away from courts. What “collaborative lawyers” fail to mention is that lawyers for the past 100 years have "collaborated" to reach settlements on behalf of their clients in and out of litigation.
The U.S. court system is the touchstone of our democracy. Every citizen - whether a dependent spouse, injured laborer or elderly patient - stands on the same level and plays by the same rules as the millionaire, U.S. Steel or UPMC. Our legal system endeavors to place the weak at par with the strong. Indeed, because the legal system provides the less fortunate with a vehicle to vindicate their rights, the wealthy and powerful have sought to construct obstacles, distractions or alternatives to keep litigants out of our courts. From e-commerce billionaires to nursing home chains, those in superior positions have engaged in elaborate machinations with sweet sounding labels to prevent average citizens from having their day in court.
As a divorce lawyer, I represent spouses - male and female - who often have sustained emotional, physical and financial trauma from someone they loved. I view the advent of "collaboration" as just another way for those spouses to continue to wield their power outside the parameters of litigation. While I am sure collaboration is preferable to at least one of the spouses, the same could also be said for non-disclosure agreements.
The U.S. justice system is the envy of the world. Problems with litigation certainly do exist; the system isn't perfect, improvements can be made. But, after over 20-years of practicing, I don't believe the answer is to create some quasi-legal realm with coaches, therapists and a cast of others. Instead, it is incumbent upon us to improve the rules within our existing system to ensure that all litigants can have their day in court, if that is what they choose, after robust negotiation - and that no one is discouraged or made to feel like a failure because he or she chose to vindicate their rights in a court of law.
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