From One Divorce Lawyer’s Inspiration to a Nobel Prize Nomination – The Collaborative Law Story

By Sandra Crawford, JD, Mediator and Collaborative Professional

On February 22, 2023, the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Copenhagen, Demark,, revealed the nominees for the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize. The deadline for nominations was February 1st.  This year saw the lowest number of nominees in four years – 212 individuals and 93 organizations were nominated.  It is interesting to note that who nominates is a secret for 50 years according to the Nobel Board.  A short list of the types of organizational nominees for 2023 appears below.

Bloody Sunday families United Kingdom“for their commitment to peace and reconciliation during their long fight for truth and justice”Colum Eastwood (b. 1983)[34][35] 
Florida Rights Restoration Coalition (FRRC)
(founded in 2019)
 United States“for their work in building democracies, supporting the human right to representation by government, and working towards a better organized and peaceful world.”American Friends Service CommitteeQuaker Peace and Social Witness[36] 
National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK)
(founded in 1913)
European Court of Human Rights (ECHR)
(established in 1959)
 France“for their important function in defending democratic principles and controlling the exercise of government in the process of peace and reconciliation between nations”Even Eriksen (b. 1995)[37] 
International Criminal Court (ICC)
(founded in 1998)
International Association of Collaborative Professionals (IACP)
(founded in 1999)
 United States“for their efforts in transforming the way families resolve conflict around the world by offering an alternative to litigation, a conflict resolution model called Collaborative Practice, or Collaborative Divorce” [38][39] 
Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (GOCC/WOŚP)
(founded in 1993)
 Poland“for mobilizing all generations of Poles in a country divided and torn over politics.”37 Polish senators[40] 
JA Worldwide
(founded in 1919)
 United States“in recognition of works in areas of political instability, violence and war, and helping young people build their entrepreneurial skills and economic resilience.” [41][42] 
National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC)
(founded in 2021)
 Myanmar“[with Tun] in recognition for the civil and democratic forces of resistance and opposition in Myanmar”Ingrid Fiskaa (b. 1977)[30] 
Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)
(founded in 2006)
 Netherlands“for their work against corruption and organized crime by exposing shadow economies and fight misinformation through investigative journalism”Wolfgang Wagner (b. 1970)[43] 
Still I Rise
(founded in 2018)
 Italy“for providing free education and protection to vulnerable and refugee children.”Sara Conti (b. 1979)Giuseppe Maria Morganti (born 1955)[44] 
The Salvation Army
(founded in 1865)
 United Kingdom“for their efforts in rendering emergency aid quickly and promoting long-term measures to build society”Olaug Bollestad (b. 1961)[45][46] 
(founded in 2013)
 Russia“[with Chuprunov] for standing up against war of aggression contrary to international law by defying Putin’s regime of repression and censorship”Bjørnar Moxnes (b. 1981)[47] 
World Uyghur Congress
(founded in 2005)
 Germany“for its work toward peace, democracy and the plight of the Uyghur and other Turkic people who live under a repressive regime in China.”Alexis Brunelle-Duceppe (b. 1979) et al.Sondre Hansmark (b. 1995)  

Among the 93 organizations nominated is the International Association of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) (founded in 1999)   IACP is nominated “for their efforts in transforming the way families resolve conflict around the world by offering an alternative to litigation, a conflict resolution model called Collaborative Practice, or Collaborative Divorce.

The Collaborative Law movement was the inspiration of a burned-out family law litigator in Minnesota, Stu Webb.  On January 1, 1990, Stu designated himself a “Collaborative Lawyer.”  He wrote in his diary that he wanted to change how family law was practiced around the globe.  Stu wanted to practice “outrageously” or quit the profession completely.  After many years of litigating, he had an ah-ha moment that if a lawyer was to be an effective settlement lawyer he had to get out of the case if the case did not settle.  Stu equates it to the British legal system where the solicitor works up the case and if it does not settle the barrister takes the matter to trial. 

Since Stu’s original inspiration, the Collaborative Law movement has spread around the US to all 52 states and around the world to 24 countries. Just as Webb is considered the “godfather” of the Collaborative Law movement, San Francisco lawyer Pauline Tesler, and her colleague, mental health professional, Peggy Thompson, are considered the “godmothers.”  Tesler’s book, Collaborative Practice, Achieving Effective Resolution in Divorce without Litigation,[1] published by the American Bar Association, is now in its second edition and explains the goals and processes involved in handling a family law matter using the Collaborative Law model of dispute resolution.  

The community of interdisciplinary collaborative professionals (lawyers, mental health professionals and financial professionals, known as Certified Divorce Financial Analysts) around the globe has grown to tens of thousands trained in the model and thousands practicing the model.  While membership in the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) is not compulsory, many practitioners actively offering the Collaborative model to their clients are members of IACP.  Each year it holds a yearly educational forum at points around the US and Canada (this year’s is in Toronto) with hundreds of Collaborative practitioners in attendance.  For more information visit

            The Collaborative Law movement came to Illinois in 2002 when the first 2-day training in the model was offered to about 50 attorneys and mental health professionals.  Since then, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois (now the Collaborative Divorce Institute of Illinois (CDI) was formed and has grown.  In 2022 it celebrated its 20th anniversary.  Like the IACP, membership in CDI is not compulsory for professionals who want to practice the model in Illinois.  However, those professionals who are members (referred to as CDI Fellows) are committed to continuing education in the Collaborative model and mediation, offering Collaborative Process services to modest means clients, and educating the profession and the public about the model and its applications in divorce and other areas of the law.  Fellows commit to signing a Collaborative Participation Agreement at the start of every matter if their clients choose the Collaborative Process model of conflict resolution.  The professionals commit to working in an interdisciplinary team, which is disqualified from representing the clients if the matter does not result in an agreement.  There are similar local and state organizations around the world and each community is committed to sharing all its research and knowledge about how to help clients reach the optimum sustainable resolution of their family law matter through Collaborative Process.  On August 18, 2017, Illinois passed legislation, the Collaborative Process Act 750 ILCS 5/90, recognizing the model. 

Fast forward to February 2023, when it was announced that the IACP is on the official list for the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize.  This is an amazing recognition and accomplishment, given that it started just 30 short years before as the inspiration and brainchild of a frustrated family lawyer, Stu.  Stu and the early adopters of the Collaborative Practice model knew that there are better outcomes for families and children in divorce, if the spouses work cooperatively and make full disclosure of all information necessary to form the basis of an agreed settlement decree.  They also knew that a strong professional organization which maintains ethical standards, supports scholarship and provides continuing educational opportunities in-person and virtually is necessary for growth in recognition of the Collaborative Law model of dispute resolution.  Wishing IACP good luck for the success in its nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize and thanking Stu for his inspiration and leadership!  For more about IACP and the Collaborative Law movement visit  For more about Stu Webb check out his video interview on YouTube at

[1]See generally Tesler

This article was originally published in the WBAI Spring 2023 Newsletter on page 43.