Welcome to my blog. This is my very first post to a blog anywhere. As the first post, I thought it might be best to give some introduction to who I am. So, this post is a bit more about me than I expect in future posts. A post on this last year, when I experienced great change in my life, is a way I can share a little.
As I reflect on it, the year 2007 has perhaps been the most extraordinary year in my two decades as an attorney. This year was one of significant professional change and growth. I concluded my career as a litigator, and changed my practice to a full-time alternative dispute resolution (ADR) professional, emphasizing collaborative divorce and mediation.
While I was a litigator, I always worked hard to settle cases when possible. Despite my efforts, I always had maybe a trial or two per year, plus one to three dozen motions on substantive and procedural matters every year, and occasional other court proceedings. The clients always got a result, and almost always appeared reasonably happy, or sometimes just accepting, with what they got. But the outcome also came at a high financial and emotional cost and almost always left the client with extra “baggage.” That baggage was usually somewhat detrimental to the client’s future relationships, and often tended to leave both parties somewhat “stuck” in life.
Over two years ago, then trained in collaborative law and mediation and exposed to the taste of my first collaborative cases, I made the decision to stop litigating. However, it took time to wind down my remaining litigation cases. In January 2007, I concluded what I expect will have been the last trial of my career. It is hard to believe that was nearly a year ago.
I expected that when my litigation practice ended, my professional life would be richer and happier. That has indeed been the case. But there have been many surprises. For example, in many ways, my days are much busier.
Perhaps the biggest surprise for me is how much more skill is required to handle a collaborative divorce well. While I do not believe I was ever a “Rambo” lawyer (some may think otherwise), I was effective as a settlement-oriented divorce lawyer who occasionally went to trial. Conventional divorce lawyering, which is litigation-based, involved knowledge (law, financial and business concepts, how things worked, etc.), procedural prowess, tactical thinking, creativity (within tight parameters), writing skill, and advising clients. As a conventional lawyer, I tried to get my clients as much as possible (money, parenting time, etc.) within bounds.
Collaborative law still requires many of those skills, but deployed in a very different way, plus a surprising amount of additional insights and skills. For me, it was (is) not an easy path from intellectually understanding how my client’s interests would be best served with a durable resolution, to actually getting the depth of what a durable resolution means and then developing and integrating the skills to make that available for clients who wished to go there. I am fortunate to have learned this year from extraordinary teachers (some in person, some in books, some in both), including Ken Cloke, Bill Eddy, Erica Ariel Fox, Chip Rose, Pauline Tesler, Stu Webb, and others. I will probably be learning these lessons the rest of my life.
It has been an extraordinary year as I have seen how it is possible to assist families transition into their new future based on what is most important to them and not only preserving, but enhancing, their relationships. I suspect that not many lawyers think about actually enhancing the relationship between a divorcing husband and wife, or in a post-divorce dispute, but it is possible, and I have seen it repeatedly this last year. With the right team, a collaborative divorce approach makes that available to couples in a fully-informed and supported environment.
The year is also a bit of a blur, as I shoe-horned too many tasks into too little time. Some events that stand out include chairing the annual CLE of the Washington AAML, co-chairing a WSBA CLE on ADR in Family Law, and training collaborative law attorneys and other professionals. I seem to have taken on many tasks as Trustee of the King County Bar Association, and Board Member of King County Collaborative Law, and remember spending time co-authoring a few articles and an amicus curiae brief for the WSBA Family Law Section, and trainings in Seattle, Toronto and San Diego. Was that this last year? Yikes — I guess there is a reason it’s a bit of a blur!
2007 has been a year of change. In mediations and collaborative divorce cases, I try to help clients look forward. In this post, as the gander instead of the goose, looking towards 2008, I welcome my old and new friends, my former and current clients, and my future friends and clients, to join me in another year of this adventure called life and towards peace.