Dedicate to Collaborate

Reflections from a peacemaking lawyer and mediator dedicated to collaborative problem-solving.

A Few Things I’ve Learned Along The Way…

A Few Things I’ve Learned Along The Way…

Today I celebrate 25 years as a lawyer.

Holy smokes it's been quite a ride. When I first started practicing law, I was 27 years old. I was the fourth woman lawyer ever hired in a mid-sized law 'cowboy' law firm whose motto was "shoot first, ask questions later." Litigation was the default problem-solving tool, and I earned my chops in the courtroom.

On that very first day in 1991, I remember vividly walking into my private office and sitting behind my very impressive mahogany desk (with no computer, mind you!). I turned and looked at the dictation machine sitting on an equally impressive credenza behind me, and thought "Oh my, NOW WHAT?!?"

I had no idea what a journey the practice of law would be for me, both professionally and personally. For all of it, I am grateful. And I am humbled.

I am grateful for all those lessons I've learned, and for all their teachers. Thank you, all.

I am humbled to have had the privilege to walk beside people at their most vulnerable, and have a positive impact on their lives and the lives of their children. May I never take that lightly.

And I am thankful — SO THANKFUL — to have successfully lobbied for a personal computer to sit on that mahogany desk so I never, ever, had to learn to dictate!

I've learned a few other things along the way...

Nancy Retsinas, 1990
  • Many roads lead to resolution — collaboration, mediation, even plain-old cooperation. The courtroom should be the road of last resort.
  • Listen to gain understanding. Only by actively listening — without preconceptions or judgments — am I able to truly understand my client's needs.
  • Don't ask for — but also don't be afraid of — conflict. Everything is figure-out-able.
  • Build rapport. Understanding all perspectives in a dispute results in better, more durable agreements — and almost always keeps people out of court.
  • It is not only possible it is imperative to treat all people respectfully — especially those you disagree with.
  • "The Law" rarely solves "The Problem."
  • Plan for peacemaking and be prepared for a few the bumps in the road before getting there.
  • Be future-focused. Encourage clients to look forward and not dwell on past hurts or resentments. It's the only way to true resolution.
  • Clients seek clear legal guidance focused on their underlying interests. Legal advice given in a vacuum is rarely helpful.
  • Honesty above all else.
What strikes me about this list is that it does not include things like "draft a trial brief" or "argue a motion" or "negotiate like a bull-dog." certainly valuable skills I relied on at certain points in my 25-years as a family law lawyer. But it's not really about those skills I gained along the way. It's about attuning to what it really means to "practice law" and fundamentally, that means bring peace into every conflict. Maybe in another 25 years I can say I've mastered how to do this — for now, I'm just happy to be traveling in the right direction.
My Approach To Family Law

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Thursday, 17 August 2017