January 14, 2015

Collaborative Practice and Low-Bono Services

483484993I am on the Collaborative Law Institute’s “Low-Bono” Committee, and at our monthly meeting this past Monday, we considered how best to reach out to practitioners and clients in order to encourage the participation of both in the Low-Bono Program. I wonder sometimes if the Collaborative option isn’t more of a stretch for lower-income clients, who perhaps balk at the possibility of retaining multiple experts and having to shell out multiple retainers if the Collaborative process breaks down. Of course, the idea that the litigation model is cheaper than the Collaborative model is flawed at best; but the costs of litigation accrete stealthily over time, whereas it is my impression that the costs of Collaborative are largely front-loaded and predictable. This produces a paradoxical situation in which the cheaper option appears more expensive because its costs are largely knowable and immediate, while the more expensive option appears cheaper because the costs are shrouded in uncertainty, party-dependent, and remote. Also, to the extent that income level correlates with educational attainment, Collaborative may also be an easier sell to wealthier clients, who may more readily “grock” the legal system and may be more able to appreciate the differences that Collaborative offers over traditional divorce.

These are all reasons why aggressive outreach is necessary to bring more lower-income clients into the Collaborative fold. Because the reality is that Collaborative divorce is, on the average, less expensive and simpler than litigation. Low-income clients thus stand to gain at least as much from the Collaborative process as do higher-income clients. Admittedly, those who stand to gain less, at least from a monetary point of view, are the attorneys who volunteer their time at reduced rates. Yet this has always been true of pro bono/low-bono work; the importance of that work has never been its financial rewards. Where the Collaborative practitioner stands to benefit is through the dissemination and consequent wider awareness of the Collaborative method.

Information on the Low-Bono program for both clients and practitioners is available at https://www.collaborativelaw.org/about-us/no-cost-or-low-cost/.


Joshua Gitelson comes to the practice of law via a first career in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, as a film editor and writer for motion pictures and television. The son of a lawyer on the one hand and a clinical psychologist on the other, Josh has gravitated toward family law as an amalgam of these two “family businesses.” His parents’ amicable divorce inspired him to help others through the divorce process with as little rancor and conflict as possible. As a result, Josh has embraced the collaborative divorce model as a technique to complement his work on divorce in the traditional litigation mode. Learn more at https://www.lindawray.com/CM/AttorneyBios/JoshuaGitelson.asp.

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