North Carolina makes the Collaborative Law pivot

The state that was “First in Flight”, and more recently a key swing state in the 2016 Presidential election, hopes to also be a pivotal state in the increasing use of Collaborative Law in non-divorce or “civil” disputes. Some of its lawyers have just completed its second two-day training in civil, non-family disputes and the state bar association is already planning a third training for early 2017.


The North Carolina Bar Association’s (NCBA) Dispute Resolution and Labor & Employment Sections co-sponsored and hosted this second training – focused on using Collaborative Law (CL) in employment disputes – on December 8 and 9, 2016 in Charlotte at the Harris Center of Central Piedmont Community College. Over 45 participants attended the training program. A similar turnout attended a two-day training in April, 2016 focusing on using CL in construction disputes. A third training, one for applying CL to business disputes, is being planned for the Spring of 2017.


North Carolina already has a state CL statute and is actively working toward passage of the Uniform Collaborative Law Act. John Sarratt, a long-time commercial law litigator turned Collaborative lawyer, has joined Aida Doss Havel and Mark Springfield, two long time CL family law attorneys, in spearheading and energizing the movement toward widening use of CL in the Raleigh, Charlotte and Winston-Salem regions of the state. These three Raleigh-based leaders of the CL movement were joined on the faculty for this program by two NC employment lawyers, Danae Woodward (Charlotte) and Denise Smith Cline (Raleigh), along with construction lawyer John Ong and Christopher Osborn, a general practice attorney, both from Charlotte.


Michael Zeytoonian, founding member of Dispute Resolution Counsel, LLC (DRC) from Wellesley Hills, MA, an experienced CL lawyer and trainer, was the guest speaker/trainer. His practice area focus is in employment, business and special education law. DRC offers non-adversarial processes like CL, mediation and settlement counsel to help people resolve disputes without going to court. Zeytoonian delivered the opening session of the training, teamed up with his NC colleagues for 5 other sessions and was involved in several “debriefing sessions” throughout the two days.


“It was so energizing to see the great enthusiasm, commitment and engagement of teachers and participants alike in Charlotte,” Zeytoonian commented. “John Sarratt and his CL colleagues are already making great strides to ‘evangelize’ NC lawyers and offer people faced with a dispute this efficient, flexible, non-adversarial option to litigation,” Zeytoonian noted.


“CL takes some of the best elements of mediation and litigation and offers people a structured negotiation process that is responsive to peoples’ needs to get matters resolved quickly, efficiently and creatively, without unnecessarily draining their resources, energies and emotions,” Zeytoonian explained. “CL is a process intentionally designed to reach the best possible resolution of a dispute. It gives people direct value because every moment of a lawyer’s time is spent directly on achieving the client’s goals and working at reaching the best outcome possible, rather than on trying to comply with procedural formalities and preparing for a trial that rarely happens,” he concluded. “I am happy to have had the chance to work with this great team of lawyers and wonderful human beings. I am looking forward to hearing of the success stories that come out of NC in the year ahead.”

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