collaborative lawyer

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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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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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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Podcasts with Sandra Lee

Posted by Heidi Risser
on November 14, 2018

I was asked by my friend, Sandra Lee, to record two podcasts for her business—Emerge Victorious. Sandra is a well-respected Divorce Coach and Mediator in our community, so I was delighted that she asked me.  I recorded two episodes for Emerge Victorious:  the first one was on Divorcing with Children and the second one was on Choosing a Collaborative Divorce.

In discussing Divorcing with Children, Sandra wanted to know about my role as a Parenting Coordinator and how this can help parents with custody issues. I am a certified Parenting Coordinator, which just means that I completed an intensive, week-long course to train me how to do this work.  A Parenting Coordinator works with parents who are having problems making custody work.  The Parenting Coordinator usually has both parents in the office at the same time, to identify and rectify the issues that that are making co-parenting difficult.  Courts are not the best places to deal with the “little things” that parents experience when trying to co-parent, such as when a parent is consistently late delivering or picking up the children or when one parent does not sign the reading log for school.  These “little things” become big problems, and can lead to conflict between the parents or bad grades for the child.  It is experiences like this that cause a child to be “put in the middle” of his or her parents’ divorce.  A Parenting Coordinator works with the parents to improve communication and bring down the hostility, which means the parents become better co-parents.  This improves the situation for the child, and provides a more emotionally stable environment for the child.

Sandra also discussed Choosing a Collaborative Divorce with me. I have been a Collaborative Family Law attorney for more than 12 years here in Mecklenburg County.  Before discovering collaborative law, I worked for some very fine litigators in NC.  I found that the collaborative approach to divorce was a better fit with my personality and with the way I like to work my cases.  Collaborative law addresses the fears and concerns of both parties, and the participants can find a more creative solution to the problems involved in a divorce.  Courts are very constrained in the solutions they can provide, but two collaborative attorneys and their clients can tailor a solution to the needs of the family.  Sandra describes the collaborative method as a “kinder and gentler” way to handle a divorce.  I like it, because it is private, self-scheduled, less expensive, and less acrimonious.  Also, I can be a problem-solver, instead of a problem-creator.  I believe the solutions are better able to stand the test of time, because both parties have input on the solution.  It’s harder for the parties to accept what a stranger in a black robe decides for them.

Sandra and I have worked in the collaborative community for years, and we had a fairly in-depth discussion of both Parenting Coordinator and Collaborative Law. If you want to learn a little more about either topic, this is an easy and quick way to do it.  Head over to Emerge Victorious and listen.

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