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A New Virus in Spain

According to the last information from the Spanish government, as of June 15, 2020, 27,940 people have died due to COVID-19.

From March 13, 2020, our life and country have changed. We could not meet with friends, visit family, walk down the street, or hug. Our country closed down. For many days Spain was in the headlines worldwide due to the spread of infections and many deaths.

Obviously, the courts were closed. Terms of the statute of limitations were suspended. Our time seemed to stand still.

Our judicial system is slow, and up until recently, it has lacked technology. After months of “lockdown,” courts have just begun to work again with social distancing, hygienic measures, and video conferencing. We cannot forecast a date for our hearings. We cannot even imagine how long proceedings would last now.

After this health crisis, we have also to face economic, social, and justice crises.

However, another different kind of virus, a good one, is spreading. The “Collaborative virus” is growing among Spanish lawyers. Bar Associations and Collaborative Law Associations have organized many different free webinars to explain how Collaborative Practice works. Different from past webinars and trainings, these now are crowded. We do not know if lawyers have been bored at home or worried about the courts collapsing, but they are now listening to and learning about Collaborative Practice more than ever before.

This “new, positive virus” has even been sited by the Spanish Minister of Justice. On May 26, he announced that in order to avoid the courts’ collapse, the Department of Justice will enhance ADR “such as mediation, Collaborative law, negotiation…”. According to what we know, it is the first time he or anyone in his role has mentioned “Collaborative Law.”

We heard about “Collaborative Law” before in the Spanish Bar Association (Abogacía Española) and Basque Parliament. But never from the Spanish Department of Justice.

We do not know yet what kind of action the government will take to promote this, or if this is just “for show.” For the moment, the Justice Department is developing an act to address the current issue of slow procedures and to create more options like the Collaborative Process for the parties.

But we can say that this “(positive) Collaborative virus” is spreading in Spain even in the Department of Justice.

Some would say that the court shutdowns from COVID-19 may help Collaborative Practice to grow in our country. Some would say that after years of trying, it is time for advocates to seize the momentum. In the meanwhile, we continue talking about collaborative practice with colleagues and clients.

Paradigm shift is not easy. But who would have ever predicted that the entire world would stop? 2020 is a huge shift for everyone, even for lawyers.

We are now committed to stop COVID-19 and to encourage the spread of this positive Collaborative virus!

*Thank you, Randi Cohen (Columbus, OH), for her help and friendship.

Here is the press release (in Spanish):

https://www.mjusticia.gob.es/cs/Satellite/Portal/1292430255624?blobheader=application%2Fpdf&blobheadername1=Content-Disposition&blobheadername2=Medios&blobheadervalue1=attachment%3B+filename%3D200526_...

Carmen Aja Ruiz is a Spanish Collaborative lawyer. She is a founder and board member of the Madrid Collaborative Law Association. She is part of the Basque Collaborative Law Association.

Website: http://abogaciacolaborativamadrid.com/

Email: carmenajaruiz@gmail.com