Collaborative Law was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when lawyer Stuart Webb noticed that the way his profession had trained him to respond to conflict was causing harm to his clients and was taking a toll on his health. He decided that there must be a better way to practice divorce law and soon discovered that other lawyers felt the same way. They formed a group and began to practice divorce law collaboratively. Soon the process had spread throughout the United States and Canada, including Texas due to the efforts of Pauline Tesler of California, who came to Texas in 1999 as the guest of John McShane and Larry Hance (Dallas attorneys), to speak at the Advanced Family Law Course, a four-day educational seminar attended every year by almost 2000 Texas family law attorneys.
Since that time, through the efforts of Harry Tindall, a collaborative family lawyer in Houston, Texas became the first state in the nation to have a Collaborative Law Statute passed by its Legislature. The statute protects divorcing spouses from the ominous litigation procedures and deadlines and gives couples time to create a settlement which meets the unique needs of their family. Additionally, numerous Collaborative Law seminars have been offered to family law attorneys, mental health professionals and financial professionals featuring nationally known speakers such as Stuart Webb, Pauline Tesler, Chip Rose and Sherry Goren Slovin. Over 600 lawyers, mental health professionals and financial professionals have been trained since 1999.
Lawyers have formed local practice groups and attempted to educate the public about the existence and effectiveness of Collaborative Law through client education and many public speaking engagements. It goes almost without saying that local efforts alone have not been and will not be sufficient. Texas’ landmass is vast and citizens are isolated from one another geographically, socially, ideologically, ethnically, etc. A statewide organization dedicated to educating the public about Collaborative Law has been needed.
To bring the organization to life, John McShane and Larry Hance, the organization’s founders and incorporators, invited 10 other lawyers from around the state to take positions on a Board of Trustees. These people were the leaders in the collaborative movement from the major metropolitan areas, Dallas (Leota Alexander and Debbie Miller in addition to John McShane and Larry Hance,), Austin (Jennifer Tull and Tom Ausley), Denton (Mike Gregory), San Antonio (Ben Chappell), and Houston (Norma Trusch, Don Royall, Harry Tindall and Jennifer Broussard).
Then, in October,2002, attorneys, mental health and financial professionals, divorce coaches and others dedicated to the collaborative process from all over the United States and Canada traveled to Galveston to attend the 2nd Annual International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) Conference, hosted by Norma Trusch and Don Royall, two Houston family lawyers. At that conference, the Collaborative Law Council of Wisconsin put on two sessions on marketing, featuring the marketing program developed for them by Ferris Consulting of Milwaukee. The Wisconsin collaborative lawyers and practices groups had achieved success in forming a statewide organization to bring Collaborative Law to the people of Wisconsin. This idea was achievable in Wisconsin in part because a plan had been developed, money had been raised and a group of people committed to advancing collaborative law got organized.
In May 2003, the board of trustees met with Liz Ferris, a collaborative law-marketing consultant, for a two-day retreat to create the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas’ strategic plan. The retreat resulted in the creation of the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas vision, mission and values statements and strategic initiatives. From this plan an extensive public awareness, training and membership structure was created.
The primary goal of the Institute is to ” create a culture in which collaborative law is the prevailing process for the resolution of family law matters”. Significant focus will be on increasing the public’s awareness of the benefits of Collaborative Law and assisting CLI-TX members to develop and grow thier collaborative law practices.
The Institute has created a statewide website with the primary objective to educate the public on the benefits of a collaborative divorce and to make readily available to the public the names of and information aboutg those professionals dedicated to the peaceful and dignified resolution of family law disputes and restructuring of families.