Alternative Dispute Resolution: Collaborative Law Works

BY LARRY R. COOK

Is having an opponent our way of life? Is litigation an efficient and responsible means of resolving disagreements? Is advocating for a client, to the detriment of the “other” side, acceptable? Or, is there a recipe for peaceful resolution of differences? What if the disagreeing parties agree to engage in full disclosure, waive confidentiality on relevant details and deal in good faith with one another, making the commitment to find a right and equitable resolution?

There is such a course of action—the process called collaborative law. Collaborative law entails a written pledge between parties to reach a mutually acceptable agreement without resorting to court intervention. It provides a forum that safeguards the complete process as open, respectful and reciprocal.

Picture a valuation engagement focused only on an equitable settlement. The valuator, maintaining neutrality, guides the parties toward the ultimate goal. To arrive at the interpretation of relevant facts, standard of value, methodology, substantiation and reporting, the CPA has the fundamental ethical obligation of employing integrity and objectivity. In such engagements, an analyst safeguards the collaborative process and provides the valuation, but cannot testify in any subsequent litigation proceeding should a party elect out of the process and proceed to court.

Collaborative engagements are most prevalent in matters laden with colossal emotional relationship issues. Being mindful of these circumstances helps the valuation analyst understand how to proceed, that is, how to pose questions in interviews and choose words in valuation questionnaires, reports and statements made to the parties, their counsel and others involved in the process. These actions send powerful messages that can set a tone for responsible behavior as the valuator is asked to develop conclusions on matters such as tax, estimating and segregating goodwill, interpreting case law, separating property, noncontrol vs. control, stock options, noncompetes, buy/sells and so on.

Collaborative engagements often require group meetings and interaction, so the analyst should be acquainted with interdisciplinary roles and duties of other collaborative team members. Meetings are set in peaceful surroundings, but can evolve into tense environments where open dialogue, understanding and diplomacy are necessary attributes. The valuator’s preparation and performance require a high degree of professionalism that comes from specialized training as a neutral, as a mediator and as a team player working in an interdisciplinary environment.

The movement to collaborative law is happening now and the time for entering this broad and open field of valuation services is here . To learn more about collaborative law, you can go to www.collaborativelaw.com .

Larry R Cook, CPA/ABV, Larry R Cook
and Associates PC, Houston

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