Collaborative Divorce and Family Law Blog, Seattle 2009-10-07 04:41:00

I just received updated information from the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals Research Project. The research, independently conducted by Crescent Research, provides some interesting data. I found these statistics particularly noteworthy:
  • Resolutions and Mediator Use. 90% of cases resolved through the Collaborative process. This very high success rate was achieved, even though almost none of the cases included a mediator -- a mediator was included in only 3% of cases. These two statistics reflect the successful formula of the Collaborative process, where the attorneys and other professional team members facilitate the cases. Of the ten percent that terminate the Collaborative law process without resolution, many later settled without trial; however, the research study did not track those cases.
  • Duration. 47% of cases complete in less than 7 months and 61% in less than 9 months. 20% take longer than a year.
  • Joint Sessions. In this research study, the average number of joint sessions reported was 4 per case. The average hours per meeting was 2.5.
  • Difficulty of Cases. The professionals rated 40% of the cases as "difficult" or "very difficult." Collaborative law is successfully used for moderate and high conflict cases.
  • Total fees. According to the research study, combined professional fees averaged $32,900 for difficult cases. 83% of clients felt the fees were reasonable or very reasonable.
  • Client Satisfaction. 78% of clients were "somewhat satisfied" or "extremely satisfied." 80% would probably or definitely recommend the process to others.
The research was based on 793 cases reported in the last year through August 24, 2009. Most were divorce cases. Given the obstacles to reporting, this is a large number of cases. Literally every Collaborative professional I have spoken to about this survey in the last year has indicated to me that they do not report cases because the requirements to meet IACP's research criteria are simply to complex and difficult.

I would be amazed if any other divorce process yields the satisfaction rates that the Collaborative process shows in this survey. While other processes might yield similar settlement rates, a 78% satisfaction rating highlights that what makes Collaborative divorce different is not the quantity of the cases that settle, but the quality of the settlements and the process. If the value of the service is measured by satisfied clients, then Collaborative law truly stands out as providing a uniquely high value for clients.

Anecdotally, my experience is not dissimilar. The primary differences are that, in my experience, the total attorney's fees in King County tends to be higher than reported in the research, particularly among the more senior and experienced practitioners. This is likely due to regional variations in hourly rates. The total average number of joint sessions is higher in my experience than reported in the study, although that may be reflective of the complexity of the Collaborative Divorce cases that I tend to handle. I would also rate a higher percentage of my cases "difficult" or "very difficult" than reported in the research. Otherwise, this research tracks closely with what I see in my practice.

Most significantly, this research adds to the body of data on the Collaborative divorce process. It provides additional information supporting the Collaborative process as a highly successful conflict resolution process that is quite distinct in terms of the quality of the resolution that is actually achieved in a large percentage of cases.
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