The Organized Bar and the Collaborative Law Movement: A Study in Professional Change

This Article draws on a current controversy in legal ethics to explore the evolving associational structure and ethical outlook of the American legal profession. The controversy concerns the propriety of representing clients in a novel dispute resolution process, Collaborative Law (“CL”), which is chiefly used in divorce cases. The Article provides an account of the surprisingly favorable response CL has received in “mainstream” bar association ethics opinions and of the rapid development of inter-professional associations for collaborative lawyers and other experts, which are creating the infrastructure needed to govern the new process. The Article also considers the changes that the CL story suggests may be occurring in the structure and ideological commitments of the bar.