UNC-Duke Game with Nick

Posted by Heidi Risser
on February 11, 2020

Sometimes, life provides surprises.  At first, the surprise was a bad one. 

This past week, my son, Nick, was denied the opportunity to go to the UNC-Duke game by UNC.  As a Senior, he should have been given a student ticket.  He has saved his “guaranteed game” for three and a half years, only to be denied. 

His spirit was crushed, and his heart was broken.  There was nothing I could do but console him.  Then, a friend of his offered him two tickets.  Nick knew I had never been to the UNC-Duke game either, and he offered me the other ticket.  Of course I went!

I know what you are thinking, because you know what happened at that game.  Is this a good surprise or a bad surprise?  This was definitely a wonderful surprise! 

My son, Nick, and I got to sit midcourt at the UNC-Duke game in Chapel Hill this weekend.

We had unbelievably good seats on the midcourt line, and lower level.  Thank you to Nick’s guardian angels—Francis, John and Susan—who saved the day by offering him those tickets!  He had a smile on his face. 

We went in knowing Duke was going to splatter the court with us, and then something really surprising happened.  UNC played great!  They were defending and hustling and scoring.  Nick and I cheered the whole time and barely sat the whole game.  We had comrades all around us high-fiving and booing the refs when they deserved it.  I almost lost my voice from cheering.

Except for those last 6.6 seconds, this was the best Tarheel game I have ever watched.  And, regardless of the ending score, it was one of the best days of my life.  It is a memory I will cherish forever.  I got to watch UNC-DUKE in Chapel Hill at midcourt, and the Tarheels led most of that game!  Most of all, I got to spend quality time with my wonderful son.

Nick was ecstatic about the opportunity to the game as a Senior.

Because the Oscars were last night, I just have to add that I feel like a mom that is invited to the Oscars by her child.  Only, the Oscar moms have to sit through 3 ½ hours of speeches, and I got to watch one of the most important and exciting sports events of the calendar year!  Without doubt, this is the best surprise of 2020!

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IACP Conference in Chicago

Posted by Heidi Risser
on November 4, 2019

I just returned from the International Association of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) in Chicago, which was held last week. 

Kendra Erkamaa, a financial neutral from Des Moines, IA, and me at the IACP last week.

I met collaborative lawyers, mediators, mental health providers and financial neutrals from all over the world (Australia, Canada, UK, Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Israel, to name a few) as well as from all over the US.  I took classes on the newest ideas in collaborative law and mediation. 

I will be sharing these ideas and learnings on January 9th at the CCDP meeting (time and place TBD). 

I enjoyed getting to know Steven Goldman, a fellow attorney from Fairfax, VA.

One of the classes I took was Collaborative Law and Mediation: On a Collision Course or Merging? I took another class on streamlining the collaborative process, and I even learned about a Flat Fee Collaborative Model being used in Canada.  

Lydia Richardson, a mental health professional from Chicago, IL, and I enjoyed discussing Myers Briggs and the Enneagram model.

I had a 5-hour class on the Enneagram Model of personality, which is a fascinating theory.  I took a class from Pauline Tessler, and she spoke about various ways to become more self-aware and become a better collaborative professional.  She gave us a battery of tests on Myers Briggs, unconscious bias, Enneagram, and conflict style.  I left her class very informed, more self-aware and quite a bit more humble.

Cheryl Panther, a financial neutral from Nashville, TN, was sweet as can be!

It wasn’t all work, though.  Much of our time was spent socializing with all these interesting professionals.  When you do the same kind of work, you sort of skip over the basics and begin to explore ways to push the collaborative method forward. 

I was awestruck by Louise Mathias, a barrister and mediator from Sydney, Australia!

The people I met were kind, warm and very giving of their time and professional experience.  I definitely plan to attend the IACP convention again.

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Professional Luncheons and Winning Contests

Posted by Heidi Risser
on October 14, 2019

I attended the Charlotte Collaborative Divorce Professionals (CCDP) kickoff luncheon on Sept. 19th.  I was very excited to attend, because I had some guests with me.  Elaine Nicholson, Kerry Everett, David E. Simmons, Kristen Hilty and Jennifer Shepherd joined me that day. 

I love introducing fellow divorce professionals to the wonderful network of the CCPD!

All of them came to learn more about collaborative law, who practices this way and how we do what we do.  I think they all were inspired to consider adding collaborative law to their practices.  With any luck, they will want to join our group. 

Networking with fellow attorneys is imperative to knowing what is happening in our field.

As someone who rarely wins anything, I can announce that I won the CCDP scholarship to attend the International Association of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) annual convention in Chicago this year.  

From Oct. 24th through October 27th, I will attend the IACP convention and attend classes with other collaborative professionals from around the world.  I will receive teaching from some of the brightest minds in collaborative law. 

Though it may sound a little geeky, I am really eager to find out what is on the cutting edge of collaborative practice.

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Lynna Moen’s Campaign Kickoff

Posted by Heidi Risser
on July 23, 2019
Lynna Moen and I laugh and smile at the camera.
Who said lawyers can’t have a good time?

I attended the kickoff of Lynna Moen’s campaign for District Court Judge 2020.  The event was held at the offices of Miller Bowles Law, PLLC.  The speeches were short but impactful. 

I have worked with Lynna for years and have deep respect for her as a person and as an attorney.  However, until they read her resume, I had no idea how accomplished she really is. 

There were a lot of family law attorneys at the kickoff, because we want more district court judges with family law experience.  It’s not always enough just to have some familiarity with the statutes and cases, it really is helpful to have practiced in this area and to have a feel for the clients and their families.  Lynna has that. 

Laura Burt and me smile at the camera
The Charlotte family law community is very tight knit, and we love getting together!

Some people may think family lawyers all dislike each other, especially if you just watch us in court.  In reality, many of us enjoy each other’s company.  Looking at the pictures, you can tell we were having fun.

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Changing the Culture of Divorce

Posted by Heidi Risser
on May 23, 2019

Charlotte Collaborative Divorce Professionals (CCDP), which is the local collaborative family law group, had it’s last meeting of the year on Thursday evening. 

Ashley-Nicole Russell inspired me to continue to advocate for collaborative method when helping couples going through divorce.

CCDP brought in an author and collaborative family law attorney to speak.  Ashley-Nicole Russell shared her experiences running a collaborative family law practice with offices in Greenville, Raleigh and Atlantic City, NC. 

In terms of commitment to collaborative practice, she was speaking to the choir in our group.  However, she had a lot to offer with regards to statistics on what a contentious, court-room divorce battle can do to the children involved. 

Her statistics showed that children of divorce have an increased chance of alcohol dependence and suicide, among other ill effects.  Ashley-Nicole is on a mission to change the culture of divorce, especially since she experienced her own parents’ divorce and the trauma it brought to her life. 

She encouraged us to “sell” the collaborative method shamelessly to our clients and other attorneys, because it is better for the family and especially for the children.  She also offered some great advice on marketing the collaborative practice. 

I wasn’t sure what we were in for when I decided to attend the dinner, but I left inspired.  Since I began to practice collaboratively, I have always believed in its virtues, but it was nice to receive an inspiring pep talk from a fellow practitioner.

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Charlotte Museum of History Benefit Dinner

Posted by Heidi Risser
on May 14, 2019

I attended a benefit for the Charlotte Museum of History last week, as the guest of my friend, Deborah Hampton.

While I was there, I ran into some folks in my law school class—Tamika Shafeek-Horton, Amy Hinshaw and Chris Brady. 

I was able to spend time with my friends (from left) Amy Hinshaw, Tamika Shafeek-Horton, and Deborah Hampton.

I toured the Hezekiah Alexander house, which dates back to 1774.  Hezekiah Alexander served as a local magistrate and leader during the time following the Revolutionary War, when the British were no longer governing the colonies. 

I loved meeting some of Deborah’s friends at this event!

It is amazing that we have preserved this historical site so close to the center of the city.  Still surrounded by woods, it was a leafy and lush site for the benefit dinner.

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Mediation Training with Sandra Lee

Posted by Heidi Risser
on March 22, 2019

Once again, I am training new mediators with Mark Riopel and Ketan Soni. We have another fantastic class of mediators. Our community is going to be filled with very experienced family law mediators.

My hope is that our clients will choose mediation instead of litigation to handle their family law issues.  To inspire everyone, Sandra Lee came to speak to the class.  She offered her view of mediation from the viewpoint of a non-lawyer mediator.  She has built up a thriving mediation practice over the years and helped thousands of people make better decisions about their lives and families. 

Sandra Lee and I stand side by side hugging after our mediation training.
Sandra Lee inspires students to write their own story of their divorce through empathetic and strategic mediation.

She gives the power to her clients, telling them that they can write the story of their divorce.  It can be peaceful through mediation and settlement, or it can be acrimonious through litigation. 

Sandra inspires me to give the power to my mediation clients, and to give them the credit when mediation succeeds.

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Walk and Talk: A New Way to Network

Posted by Heidi Risser
on February 21, 2019
My friend David Herring and I love to "walk and talk" to catch up on each other's practices.
My friend David Herring and I love to “walk and talk” to catch up on each other’s practices.

Networking is critical for any attorney to build and to maintain a law practice.  Most of the time, I have lunch or dinner with people.  Sometimes, I schedule a “walk and talk.” 

My friend and fellow collaborative family law attorney, David Herring, likes to go for a walk while we catch up on each other’s practice.  He and I have busy schedules, so we usually have to plan it a few weeks in advance. 

We meet up, usually at a convenient park, and walk around while we discuss current issues with collaborative law or running a law firm as a solo practitioner.  We have been doing this for over a year, and David and I really enjoy it.  It gets us out of our offices, and we get a little exercise in the fresh air. 

Networking with David was so nice, I had to capture it twice!
Networking with David was so nice, I had to capture it twice!

Coincidentally, I was reading in the Wall Street Journal today about “walk and talk” meetings.  The examples in the paper do not resemble what I am describing.  In the WSJ, everyone is dressed for an office setting, and it might be inconvenient to have a walking meeting in heels. 

Also, the WSJ described situations in which the boss just drops by a desk and requests a walk and talk meeting.  In my “walk and talks,” both of us are dressed to walk and the time and location are agreed upon far in advance. 

I think networking during meals is a great way to network, but I want to offer up this alternative, because not every networking meeting needs to involve food.

I would love to hear what you think of “walk and talk” meetings or other unconventional ways to network!

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Mediation Training at UNC Charlotte

Posted by Heidi Risser
on January 23, 2019

On Friday, January 11th, I had the opportunity to conduct a Mediation Training course, with Ketan Soni and Mark Riopel, for the department chairs of UNC Charlotte.  I was a little nervous to lecture in front of professional lecturers, but that nervousness was short lived.  The professors were very receptive to what we had to say.  I had a misconception going into this training that we family law attorneys deal with more serious issues and conflict than the department chairs of a university.  Was I wrong!  Given their reactions, I believe these department chairs deal with a similar level of conflict.  That means that this message about mediating conflict is more universal that I had believed.   

Mark, Ketan and I lectured for the first part of the day and conducted a few mock mediations at the end of the day, to give all the attendees some practice before tossing them back out into the world of conflict.  There are some very talented mediators among these professors.  Some are naturals, and some really incorporated our teaching into how they worked the problem.  As always, I was amazed at the various styles each person brought to mediation.  Some mediators used a bit of small talk to warm up the two sides.  Some used silence and observation to great effect.  I adore the fact that mediation is flexible to accommodate different styles and still be equally effective

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Charlotte Collaborative Divorce Professionals Holiday Party

Posted by Heidi Risser
on December 12, 2018

Last week, I attended the Charlotte Collaborative Divorce Professionals Holiday Party.  I have been a member of this group for more than 10 years.

Last night, looking around the room, I was amazed at how this group has grown over the years.  Meetings like this used to be just a few of us who believed in the collaborative approach to family law.  Now, we have attracted many more attorneys, CPA’s, Certified Domestic Financial Planners, Divorce Coaches and Child Specialists.

I have worked with many of the people in the room last night, and they are an amazingly talented group.  The more I trust these fellow professionals to help my clients navigate the divorce process, the better they have made my work life and the better they have made the process for those I represent.  I also believe they have improved the outcomes for hundreds, and probably thousands, of people each year here in Charlotte and the surrounding areas.

It was nice to reflect on all of this at year’s end, and look forward to more of the same in the new year.

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