This spring I had the great honor of receiving a Women of Achievement Iris Award — a wonderful tradition of celebrating women leaders in my area. As I stood on the stage, surrounded by women who've shaped not only the community I live in, but their industries as a whole, I was so grateful to be a small part of a much bigger movement.
Because while it's nice to be recognized, what's more important to me is what this award represents: the power we all have to create positive change in our communities.
I've always been driven to help the vulnerable. It's why I got into law to begin with, and it's why I loved it for so long. There was nothing better than being able to swoop into a courtroom, a tough, no-holds-barred litigator that doggedly pursued her clients' best interests.
And yet, the longer I kept doing it, the more and more I came to realize that something was off.
I loved helping my clients … but I hated that I had to put them through the stress and trauma of the court system to do it.
I was really great at seeing all the angles of tough family conflicts and coming up with creative solutions that give everyone what they need … but I felt constantly hamstrung by the conformity that the legal system requires. While there will always be situations that need the court system for resolution, and while there are incredible lawyers out there to help people navigate it, that model simply didn't make the most sense to me anymore.
I thrived on empowering people in the midst their most sensitive, tender family problems, but I couldn't stand the level of emotional disconnect that lawyers are trained to have.
I knew there had to be a better way. So I made one.
I'm a lawyer who doesn't go to court. Not because I can't — I was a hell of a litigator! But because I know that the court system can't provide the level of support, empowerment, understanding, and empathy required for effective problem solving.
And when it comes down to it, that's what I care about: peacemaking.
I genuinely believe that the more we learn to solve our disputes with dignity, the better we become at collaborating, and the more we're able to take conflict out of the courts, the better off our society and our world will be.
It's why I run my practice the way I do, it's why I co-founded Two Rivers Institute for Dispute Resolution, where I help train other family lawyers in peacemaking, and it's why I'm an active leader in multiple collaborative law and business non-profits.
Because this is just the beginning.
I love that I am part of a larger/growing movement to change the face of conflict resolution, and that I'm leading that charge for my community. But I know that there's much more work to be done. We're living through times of unprecedented conflict, adversarial relationships, and reflexive rejection of the other; having a way to come together, remember that we're all human, and that what really matters isn't who "wins" or "loses", but rather that everyone walks away getting what they need to be OK.
By modeling a different, better way of conflict resolution, I'm taking the first steps to industry-wide change.
I hope you'll join me.
Whether it's taking a more collaborative approach to your own problem-solving, advocating for no-court conflict resolution in your community, or by committing to peaceful conflict resolution in your court or organization, I invite you to join me in taking a step towards peace.Not sure where to start? I've got lots of resources for you on the blog, as well as live trainings at the Two Rivers Institute! Join in here.