What “WeVorce” Tells Us About Collaborative Law

I recently came across a profile of legal rebel, Michelle Crosby and her business, “WeVorce”. Originally motivated by her own experience with her parent’s divorce, Crosby founded WeVorce in 2012, with the goal of reforming the process by reducing cost, length of time and the adversarial aura that surrounds many divorces. One of the notable approaches that WeVorce employs is an automation of set divorce logistics and a classifying of the divorcing couple into one of 18 different family archetypes. 

The commentary in response to the article was equally interesting, and naturally, the question about how this compares to Collaborative Divorce (CD), arose. I think that question and other comments provide a helpful lens of comparison.

WeVorce vs. Collaborative Law

The intention behind both approaches is similar. Crosby believes in a better way, as do Collaborative Lawyers. But, at first glance, that’s where the similarity ends. That is not to say that Crosby’s model isn’t useful (she’s seen significant success). It’s just different:

  1.  One staff lawyer serves as a neutral mediator (sounds more like mediation than CD); again, Collaborative Divorce employs two certified attorneys (one for each client) to fill a non-adversarial role.
  2. Neuroscience, psychology and pattern recognition comprise a tool that helps to classify families into an archetype that informs the process, whereas with CD, the mental health and financial professionals fill a similar role, but one that is far more involved and leads to a highly individualized solution for the divorcing couple.

I found myself curious about the 18 archetypes and from my limited understanding of what WeVorce uses, I imagine that the archetypes would lend themselves to a certain focus or model e.g. using the tool in a preliminary approach might help to determine if certain couples are better candidates for Collaborative Divorce than others.

Resistance to New Models

I also noted a fair amount of resistance to the idea of WeVorce in the comments. That’s to be expected, as with anything that is new, different or “rebellious.” We Collaborative Professionals meet similar resistance, often from more traditional practitioners. Usually, those with such strong opinions from the get-go, are as my father was fond of saying, “unhindered by knowledge of the subject,” i.e. they have little information on the subject and therefore understandably use old archetypes or their own misunderstanding of the CL process to draw conclusions.  An incomplete description of an unsuccessful CL case may also reinforce the natural temptation to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I could have easily fallen into that trap three or more years ago, but then I was highly educated in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) techniques and when Collaborative Law came along, I wasn’t threatened by it.

In Collaborative Law, the arguments we see frequently are:

  •  Collaborative Law is too expensive or;
  • Collaborative Law is not realistic.

Both of these arguments are proven wrong, time and again, but how do you get buy-in from a skeptical colleague? Encourage said colleague to learn more:

  • Listen to the dialogue surrounding Collaborative Law and objectively soak it in.  
  • Investigate the ample information online—like this blog, or Mark Baer’s blog on Huffington Post.  This would include learning about the particular CL model used in Alaska.
  •  Look into the attorneys, mental health professionals and financial professionals who are already certified in Collaborative Law (CL). It will become quickly apparent that professionals involved in CL are not lightweights or on the fringe. They are bright, motivated professionals who believe in a better, non-litigious way to divorce. 

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I’d also emphasize the value of CL’s interdisciplinary approach. We’ve seen that attorneys joining efforts with other professionals truly can achieve a result that exceeds the sum of the parts in value.