Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The New British Columbia Family Law Act

The law in British Columbia about how family law issues are resolved is about to drastically change.  The new Family Law Act comes into force in March 2013.  Starting in March 2013, family lawyers will be called “Family Dispute Resolution Professionals” or FDR Professionals.   Other professionals, such as counsellors, can also be FDR Professionals under the new legislation, and thereby take on a role in the dispute resolution process formerly occupied only by lawyers.  The new Family Law Act actually spells out that “Resolution Out of Court is Preferred”! Lawyers will be obligated to set out to the client the alternatives to going to court, and what resources are available to the client locally, and then to provide a Certificate showing that he or she has so advised the client, before that lawyer can commence a court action for that client. The new Family Law Act codifies many of the principles of collaborative practice as set out by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.  This is a giant leap in the right direction to protect children of uncoupling parents from harm, and to encourage and foster peace and understanding between uncoupling parties.  This legislation is in stark contrast to the current common practice of going to court to have each party attempt to prove the other wrong.  The new Family Law Act recognizes that often the non-legal issues, that is, the emotions or psychological issues, are really fueling the dispute, not the legal issues.  Best of all, the new Family Law Act encourages a team approach to dispute resolution in family law cases in British Columbia.  Halleluiah.  This has been a long time coming.  I look forward to seeing how this huge change in British Columbia family law is going to play itself out.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

New British Columbia Collaborative Professionals Roster Website

Finally, there is a website in British Columbia where you can locate experienced, well respected collaborative professionals!  On May 10, 2012 I went to Vancouver for the party to launch the new website which can be found at www.bccollaborativerostersociety.com .  If you are looking to engage a collaborative professional, you probably want the services of a professional who is experienced, rather than a rookie.  Now the task of finding an experienced collaborative professional in British Columbia has become easy.  To be a  member of the Collaborative Roster Society of British Columbia, a lawyer must have conducted several collaborative cases and be recommended by peers.  I love collaborating with my colleagues rather than working against them!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Calling Collaborative Lawyers to the Kootenays

Today, I found myself wondering, as I often do, why there are no other collaborative lawyers besides me living in the East or West Kootenays. I am passionate about collaborative practice. So far, in the West Kootenay about 100 couples have used the collaborative way to resolve their legal issues at Resolution Place. I am involved with the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. But I can’t offer collaborative practice to my home community by myself. The process requires each party to have their own collaborative lawyer. So, we import Vancouver lawyer, Danny Zack, here to Nelson to work on almost every collaborative case we have in the Kootenays.

Not every lawyer is suitable to be a collaborative lawyer. As a lawyer, I must absolutely trust the collaborative lawyer with whom I sign a Participation Agreement. Danny’s the best. I love working with Danny, who has been practising law for about 40 years. Danny is considered by many to be the British Columbia guru of collaborative practice. I am grateful to have the opportunity to hone my collaborative legal skills on every case I work on here in Nelson, by working with Danny, who perhaps is the most experienced collaborative lawyer in British Columbia.

Together Danny and I work, in every collaborative case, to create a safe place where our clients can negotiate their legal issues. With Danny, it is easy to help our clients find that safe zone. It is an honour and a pleasure to work with Danny. But, it would be more convenient and less expensive for our clients if there were other collaborative lawyers resident here in the Nelson area.

I have been offering collaborative practise through my Nelson law firm for almost 10 years now. Where are you other collaborative lawyers? Working in a collaborative way with my learned friends is so much more satisfying than working against them through litigation.

Collaborative practice is a better way to practise law. It’s easier on the lawyer’s health. Perhaps, part of the reason for the absence of other collaborative lawyers around here is that there is an overall shortage of lawyers in rural British Columbia, period. That’s why the CBA has the R.E.A.L program, where several rural lawyers are paid each summer to employ a third year law student with the hopes that student will see the obvious merits of practising law in a rural community, and return to work after completing law school. Rural lawyers’ plates are full, why would they want to stop work to retrain as collaborative lawyers?

Maybe it’s because collaborative practice is, after all, contrary to what we lawyers learn at law school, which is to “position” our clients. Danny and I work hard together at helping our clients avoid getting entrenched in positions, and instead to focus on creating solution options that try to meet the needs, values and interest of each person affected by the decisions being made.

Are there any good collaborative lawyers out there who would love to have a rewarding and interesting career as a collaborative lawyer here in Nelson, British Columbia, the Queen City of the Kootenays, surely one of the most beautiful places on earth? Your fascinating and rewarding collaborative law practice may be waiting for you here on the shores of Kootenay Lake. Come co-mediate with me.


Susan Kurtz
Collaborative Lawyer Nelson, BC