Cooperative Law follows a process that is similar to the Collaborative Law process. The major difference is that our representation does not end if the case is not resolved before litigation. This means that you can continue with our representation rather than having to retain new counsel as you would with Collaborative Law.
We prefer Cooperative Law to Collaborative Law for the following reasons: first, we believe this requirement is burdensome to our clients, since they must then pay for a new lawyer to review the entire file and proceed to trial. If our client has bonded with us, he or she will not want to go out and search for another compatible lawyer.
Secondly, we believe this requirement is unworkable for us, since we consider ourselves first and foremost to be litigators. This does not mean we push cases to litigation, but rather that we view our cases through the lens of what a Court might or might not do on a given issue in the case. We believe that the expectation that the case may eventually go before one of our Family Court judges provides a settlement framework. For example, it is impossible to determine how much alimony or what kind of visitation might be appropriate in a given case without considering what a judge might or might not order at trial.
However, we believe that other components of Collaborative Law are incredibly useful, and have incorporated many of them into our overall practice. When we take a case on as a Cooperative Law case, our immediate goal is resolution. We immediately set up meetings first with the attorneys, and then with the attorneys and clients, and agree to exchange specific financial documents and other information relevant to the case. We also retain joint financial and custody experts when necessary. We take all of these steps before we begin formal discovery, which is a much more extensive exchange of information through Court pleadings, and which is far more expensive. If these efforts do not resolve the case, we then proceed toward formal discovery through Court pleadings, and ultimately toward litigation.
Natalie Parker Bluestein is 2014 President of the Charleston County Bar Association