Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Emond, D. Paul


Alternative dispute resolution, Law, Innovation, Collaborative law, Dispute resolution, Alternative dispute resolution, Law, Legal process, Collaborative family law


This dissertation examines the role of innovation in resolving complex disputes, using Collaborative Law as its case study. Innovation, for the purposes of this research, can be defined as applied creativity that leads to optimal resolution for clients. The process of innovation is required to resolve complex problems, which are increasingly prevalent in legal, economic and social spheres. Collaborative Law indeed has the capacity to resolve such issues in the legal realm. Collaborative Law is a process by which parties and their lawyers enter into a binding contract that limits the representation to a facilitative problem-solving process with the intent to reach a negotiated settlement. Through an interdisciplinary team approach that employs a sequenced negotiation process, complex problems can be aptly and innovatively resolved through Collaborative Law.

This research examines the capacity of Collaborative Law to resolve complex problems using methods of ethnographic study, specifically participant observation and key informant interviews. Attendance at conferences and practice group meetings provided the researcher with insight through observation. The researcher subsequently interviewed 31 lawyers who practise Collaborative Law in four Canadian research sites, namely, Halifax, Simcoe County, Toronto and Vancouver. Through these interviews and observations, common themes were generated. When superimposed atop of innovation theory, this research demonstrates that Collaborative Law supports innovation on both a macro and micro level.

Collaborative Law itself is an example of an innovative process and individual innovations are possible in executing the Collaborative Law process, where used and executed appropriately. These results have implications for Collaborative Law practice, for the practice of law, and for legal education that will be explored through this study. Such implications will be examined, along with suggestions for future research.