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Alabama Enacts Uniform Collaborative Law Act

(June 21, 2013) -

Uniform Law Commission
111 N. Wabash Ave., Suite 1010, Chicago, IL  60602
312-450-6600, www.uniformlaws.org

 

Contact:       Katie Robinson, ULC Communications Officer, katie.robinson@uniformlaws.org   

Alabama is 8th state to Enact Uniform Collaborative Law Act

June 21, 2013 – Alabama has recently become the eighth state in the country to enact the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (UCLA), a state law which provides a statutory framework for the use of collaborative law, a form of alternative dispute resolution that is growing in popularity nationwide. The Uniform Act, introduced in Alabama as HB 396 and sponsored by Rep. Marcel Black, became law on May 20, 2013.

The goal of collaborative law is to encourage parties to engage in problem solving rather than using adversarial techniques to find solutions to conflicts.  Collaborative law is a voluntary, contractually based alternative dispute resolution process for parties who seek to negotiate a resolution of their matter rather than having a ruling imposed upon them by a court or arbitrator.  Collaborative law developed as a form of alternative dispute resolution more than 20 years ago and is used widely in family law practice.  As the benefits of collaborative law become evident, its use has spread to other areas of the law, including insurance and contract settlement. 

The distinctive feature of collaborative law is that parties are represented by lawyers during negotiations. Collaborative lawyers do not represent the party in court, but only for the purpose of negotiating agreements.  The parties also agree in advance that their lawyers are disqualified from further representing the parties if the collaborative law process ends without agreement.  Parties thus retain collaborative lawyers for the limited purpose of acting as advocates and counselors during the negotiation process.  They have the right to terminate collaborative law at any time without giving a reason.

Parties who sign a collaborative law participation agreement create strong mutual incentives for settlement. They must bear the costs of engaging new counsel if collaborative law terminates as their collaborative lawyers must end their representation.

States have approached the regulation of collaborative law through a variety of means, including statutes, court rules, and independent boards.  Since these approaches are varied, the standards governing collaborative law practice has become equally as varied.  It has become evident that a national model would benefit the practice of collaborative law while protecting both lawyers and clients.

The Uniform Act standardizes the most important features of collaborative law participation, both to protect those who use collaborative law, and to encourage parties to enter into collaborative law.  The Act provides minimum requirements for collaborative law agreements, which includes designation of collaborative lawyers.

Under the Act, courts or tribunals cannot order anyone to participate in collaborative law over that person’s objection, thus insuring that participation is entirely voluntary.

The Act creates an evidentiary privilege for all collaborative law communications to facilitate candid discussions during the collaborative law process.  All communications during the collaborative law process are confidential and cannot be introduced as evidence in court.

Collaborative law is an important and growing form of dispute resolution.  The Uniform Collaborative Law Act’s goal is to make collaborative law a visible and viable option for dispute resolution for parties who choose it voluntarily and with informed consent.  Collaborative law is an attractive dispute resolution option for many parties, especially those who wish to maintain post dispute relationships with each other and minimize the costs of dispute resolution.

UCLA was drafted and approved by the Uniform Law Commission in 2009.  It has been enacted in Alabama, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Utah, and Washington, and has also been introduced this year in Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and South Carolina.  Further information on the Uniform Collaborative Law Act can be found at the ULC’s website at www.uniformlaws.org.  

The ULC, now in its 122nd year, comprises more than 350 practicing lawyers, governmental lawyers, judges, law professors, and lawyer-legislators from every state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Commissioners are appointed by their states to draft and promote enactment of uniform laws that are designed to solve problems common to all the states.

After receiving the ULC’s seal of approval, a uniform act is officially promulgated for consideration by the states, and legislatures are urged to adopt it.  Since its inception in 1892, the ULC has been responsible for more than 200 acts, among them such bulwarks of state statutory law as the Uniform Commercial Code, the Uniform Probate Code, the Uniform Partnership Act, and the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act.

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