Frequently Asked Questions for Professionals

So, You’ve Decided To Become A Collaborative Practitioner! What’s next?

The following information is designed to give you a step-by-step guide through the process of becoming a Collaborative Practitioner.  The following steps can be done one-by-one, or you can work on them all-together.

Step 1:   Introductory Collaborative Training

Step 2:   Mediation Training (minimum 30 hours)

Step 3:   Join a Collaborative Practice Group / Mentorship

Step 4:   Be Involved


The first step to becoming a Collaborative Practitioner is to enroll and participate in an Introductory Collaborative Training.  Introductory trainings are held locally, nationally, and internationally at various times during the year.  You’ll find introductory training dates on the calendar of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP), Collaborative Practice’s international body:

In this training, you will be introduced to the basic concepts of a Collaborative practice and what differentiates it from other dispute resolution processes.  You will be introduced to Collaborative basics such as:

The Participation Agreement:  

An agreement between team members and clients that they will not engage in any court process while in a Collaborative process.

The Disqualification Clause:

A provision that is at the heart of the Collaborative Participation Agreement, this clause provides that if the Collaborative process is ended without a resolution, both attorneys and other neutral professionals are disqualified from representing either party outside of the Collaborative process.   This provision ensures that inside the Collaborative process both attorneys and the neutrals are fully committed to helping the clients reach a successful resolution, as they have no financial interest in seeing the process terminate.

Collaborative Team Members:

The Collaborative process requires two attorneys, two parties, and a signed Participation Agreement that includes a Disqualification Clause.  Beyond those requirements, a Collaborative Practitioner has an extensive toolbox from which to draw, depending on the specifics of the case.  In most Collaborative cases the Team is filled out by adding a Divorce Coach, a Financial Neutral, and a Child Specialist (when children are involved), all Collaboratively trained professionals who are tasked with helping the Team build a durable agreement alongside the clients.  As you learn to become a Collaborative Practitioner you will learn the roles of each Collaborative professional.

The Language of Collaboration:

There is a whole body of Collaborative Vocabulary that you will learn as you become a Collaborative Practitioner.  The Collaborative Process is a Team process, not one where the attorneys help each party take positions as part of a negotiation strategy.  The attorneys do not refer to each other as “opposing counsel”, and the goal is to help the clients build a durable resolution based on each person’s own sense of what is fair and just.  You will learn that the Language of Collaboration is directly related to the effectiveness of the process.

The Collaborative Roadmap:

There is a flow within the Collaborative Process that goes from the first meeting with a client to the end of the process, whether the end of the process is a resolution or termination of the process.  Simply put, the Collaborative Roadmap starts with the creation of the Collaborative Container (the signing of the Participation Agreement), the gathering of information, the creation and evaluation of possible scenarios, adjustments to the scenarios (sometimes needing additional information), and finally the preparation and signing of the documents reflecting the final agreement.

Being A Collaborative Practitioner Is Not About Winning Or Losing:

You, as a Collaborative Practitioner, will learn that the Collaborative Process is not about winning or losing.  Instead, it is about creating durable agreements based not on numbers, but on those interests and goals the clients hold most important.


The second step in becoming a Collaborative Practitioner is to take a minimum 30-hour mediation training.  In fact, it is common for Collaborative Practitioners, over the course of their careers, to take more than one of these trainings, in addition to shorter, more focused trainings on skills used in Mediations.  Collaborative Practice has roots in mediation so it is important for practitioners to learn (or brush up on) basic techniques in recognizing positions versus developing interests and concerns.  Mediation trainings are available across the State of Washington.


An essential part of your being a Collaborative Practitioner is to join a Collaborative Practice group.  Some groups are “open”, and some are “closed.” A list of current Washington State Practice Groups can be found on the IACP website by entering Washington State and conducting a search:  Collaborative Practice Groups | IACP.  In these groups, you will be involved in networking, building your Collaborative skills, book study, marketing and other learning activities.  The best way to become a quality Collaborative Practitioner includes being an active participant of at least one practice group.  Many practitioners have a membership in multiple practice groups because different groups have different focuses.

Here is a link to Washington State Practice Groups (note that some groups may not be active): Practice Groups

Another way to accelerate your becoming a Collaborative Practitioner is to join a Mentor Program through CPW, IACP, or one of the local practice groups (not all offer mentor programs).  Being a Mentee for a Collaborative Case, and being mentored by a mentor, will give you access to what happens in a Collaborative Case by allowing you to observe a case without being responsible for what happens in the case.  This is a great way to learn what experienced professionals do in their work.  Ask someone in the Collaborative Community about mentor programs.


A last step to becoming a Collaborative Practitioner is to simply Be Involved.  Both new and experienced practitioners need to be involved, which leads to case referrals, continued learning, leadership opportunities, and more.  There are many ways to be involved.  You can join a Committee of your local practice group, you can attend trainings such as CPW’s Annual Conference (March), the IACP Forum (October), and many others offered locally and nationally.  Being involved, or not, is oftentimes the difference between being a collaborative practitioner and a successful Quality Collaborative Practitioner.

Remember that Becoming a Collaborative Practitioner is just the beginning.  The Board of CPW, and many experienced practitioners around the State of Washington are available to help you transition your practice to a Collaborative – based practice.  All you need to do is ask and act!!


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Why do I need all this training?

We all want the public to have a great experience with Collaborative Practice. Whether you are an attorney, financial expert, child expert, counselor, or other professional, your traditional training has not prepared you for what makes Collaborative Practice a unique and rewarding experience for all participants. Training specific to Collaborative Practice will assist you in transferring your professional education, knowledge and experience to the Collaborative Practice framework. It provides the links between the professions necessary for true collaboration to occur. The more training you have in Collaborative Practice, the more likely the public will benefit from your knowledge and the more likely your Collaborative Practice will be successful and flourish.

Do the attorneys really have to agree not to litigate?

Often attorneys new to Collaborative Practice wonder why it is necessary to enter into an agreement not to represent the client in court if the Collaborative process does not resolve all issues. This disqualification agreement is fundamental to what makes Collaborative Practice work. Without this agreement, the unspoken threat of court action hangs over the process and erodes the commitment to peaceful settlement that makes the Collaborative model strong.

What about professional ethics considerations?

Adherence to professional ethical standards is always important. Your practice group provides a venue for lively and learned discussions of ethical concerns as well as an avenue for exploring the approaches and opinions of national and international organizations with similar concerns and standards.

What are the costs and benefits to me as an attorney?

One cost as well as benefit is the social nature of the practice. Because we work as a team, we have to spend time getting to know each other and learning to work well together. Good teams do not just happen, they are the result of a lot of hard work. On the other hand, the greater sense of community, of establishing strong relationships with other Collaboartive Professionals, can be extremely rewarding. The work can be more difficult while at the same time less stressful. It can be more difficult to help clients talk to each other effectively than to simply talk for them, but when the clients own the outcome, there is not the pressure on the professionals to obtain the result for the clients. Many Collaborative Attorneys in particular find the work much more satisfying than litigation because it feels more constructive and less destructive, and because their clients tend to have higher satisfaction levels with solutions they have had a greater hand in crafting.

What is a Practice Group?

Practice groups are where Collaborative Professionals come together to learn from each other, discuss issues of mutual concern, and get to know each other so we can better function as team members. In addition, local practice groups set local standards for Collaborative Practice, advocate for appropriate court rules to support Collaborative Practice, provide forms specific to this model, and work to promote Collaborative Practice to the general public.

What is the purpose of Collaborative Professionals of Washington?

Collaborative Professionals of Washington is a group of Washington Professionals promoting Collaborative Practice, uniform court rules, appropriate legislation, coordinated trainings, and high standards of practice statewide. Within the state there are many local practice groups. CPW helps the various local groups and their members stay connected with each other, and provides a common forum to maintaining the integrity of Collaborative Practice throughout the state.

What is IACP and should I join?

The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) is the definitive practice group. Nearly everyone who gets the Collaborative Practice bug eventually joins the IACP. The IACP does a great job of providing promotional and educational materials, sponsoring international conferences and bringing together experts from around the world to address cutting edge Collaborative Practice issues. Some local practice groups require or strongly suggest IACP membership. For more information on IACP visit their website at

Do I have to join a practice group, CPW, or the IACP to practice collaboratively?

While there is no requirement to belong to any practice groups, membership in a recognized group communicates your qualifications to potential clients and other Collaborative Professionals. Many Collaborative Professionals are wary of taking cases with other professionals who may lack adequate training. Practice groups are where you form the relationships needed to put together successful teams. Membership in your local practice group, state-wide CPW, and IACP also affords you the benefits of the power of group syergy, helping to modivate, train, and support you in your collaborative practice. Most importantly it keeps you informed of advances in this evolving model and keeps you networked with other trained Collaborative Professionals locally, across the state, and across the nation.