Pauline Tesler on Stu Webb (from 1999)

Stu Webb is known as the father of collaborative family law, a non-adversarial process where the spouses’ attorneys agree to focus solely on out-of-court dispute resolution.  Pauline Tesler is oftentimes thought of as the mother of collaborative divorce, emphasizing the benefits of an interdisciplinary team and spearheading the creation of institutions, such as the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP”), to help more families.

Back in 1999, Pauline wrote an article in the very first edition of the Collaborative Quarterly (requires IACP membership & password to access), a publication of the IACP (then known as the American Institute of Collaborative Professionals) about Stu Webb and the origins of collaborative law.

You can find excerpts from that article below:

Stuart Webb, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, had been practicing family law in the “usual way” for more than twenty years when, like many of us, he became interested during the late 1980’s in mediation and alternative dispute resolution….

What Stu saw was that if a model could be constructed wherein lawyers could not, under any circumstances, go to court over an issue, then lacking court as a dispute-resolution option, they would have no alternative but to rise to the challenge of solving the problem.  From this insight, Collaborative Law was born.  In 1990, he simply announced that he would no longer go to court; he would represent clients thereafter only in a participatory negotiation process aimed solely at creative settlements.  If the process broke down, he would refer his clients to litigation counsel, and he would withdraw.

Stu was the only person doing Collaborative Law when he made that decision.  He must have wondered whether any clients would be brave enough to sign on to this “unilateral disarmament” concept.  The answer could not have been more clearer in his first two years of collaborative practice.  Stu handled 99 Collaborative Law cases, all but four of which reach full settlement.  Those four were referred to trial counsel.

Twenty-five years ago, a simple idea changed divorce law: families should resolve their disputes privately and respectfully, and attorneys should be used as problem solvers rather than hired guns.  From that idea, thousands of attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals around the world have been trained to offer collaborative services, and 200 professionals have been trained in Tampa Bay and Greater Sarasota just in the past 3 years.

If you want to learn more about how collaborative practice can help your family face a difficult transition, schedule a consultation with Family Diplomacy: A Collaborative Law Firm at (813) 443-0615 or fill out our contact form.

Adam B. Cordover practices exclusively in out-of-court dispute resolution with a focus on collaborative divorce and family law, mediation, direct negotiations, and unbundled legal services.  Adam is is immediate past president of Next Generation Divorce, Florida’s largest collaborative practice group, and co-author with internationally-acclaimed attorney Forrest (Woody) Mosten of an upcoming American Bar Association book on Building A Profitable and Satisfying Collaborative Practice.

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