Working with Collaborative Professionals

On May 8, 2015, Karen presented with Susan Miller, CPA, of Aurora Financial Services, Wellesley, MA, and Dr. Sanford M. Portnoy, Ph.D., at the very first Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council Support Staff Workshop. The workshop attendees were paralegals, legal assistants, receptionists and other legal support staff who are often the first contact a client has with a law office and the Collaborative Law process.

Karen and her colleagues presentation was entitled “Working with Collaborative Professionals,” and focused on teaching support staff the “rhythm” of a Collaborative case, including pre-briefs, debriefs, and how support staff can work best with the Collaborative professionals in a case particularly around scheduling and meeting preparation. The role of the coach was also discussed including how emotionality in divorce is handled differently in the Collaborative Law process compared to other legal processes. Both of Karen’s legal assistants, Jackie and Paula, attended. The workshop was a great success!

Legal Ethics Discussion

On April 16, 2015, Karen Levitt and Emily Weber from the Levitt Law Group, and Jeanmarie Papelian (formerly of the McLane, Graf, Raulerson & Middleton Professional Association),  organized and co-facilitated a joint meeting of the Collaborative Law Alliance of New Hampshire and two Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council practice groups, the Northern Massachusetts Practice Group and the Tri-River Practice Group.  Entitled “Ethics Café” and held at the McLane law firm’s Woburn, MA office, Collaborative practitioners from both jurisdictions considered four ethical questions and had a lively discussion about them all!

Societal Expectations and Life Experiences Colliding in Monetary Negotiations

Emily A. Weber, Karen J. Levitt, and Lynn L. Cooper, Ed.D, have been selected by the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council to present at its May 1, 2015 Advanced Training Forum, “Money Talks: “What Does it Say & What Does It Really Mean?”.

The presentation Emily, Karen and Lynn will be giving is entitled “Societal Expectations and Life Experiences Colliding in Monetary Negotiations,” and will focus on the impact of societal expectations on how we think, and how we expect others to think, about money, as well as the effect of these expectations on actual negotiations.

The Lion and the Lamb

Many of you may know that my mother, who is a retired college Art History professor and an incredibly fine artist (some of her work adorns our office and much of it my home), has designed all of my office holiday cards for many years. Each design for each year’s card is hand drawn by my mother before being incorporated into the holiday card. My mother is now 87, and did this year’s card too!

Copyright 2013, Marilyn M. Levitt, all rights reserved
Copyright 2013, Marilyn M. Levitt, all rights reserved. Original artwork by Marilyn M. Levitt and cannot be reproduced without the written permission of the artist.

I have had many wonderful responses from clients and business associates to my mother’s holiday cards. In a world where everything sometimes feels too much the “same”, having a holiday card that is personal and unique each year has been an important component of how our office sees itself, in striving to provide personal services to each of our clients for their individual and unique needs.

One of my mother’s past cards featured a lion and a lamb – this holiday card appears with this blog. A client of mine was particularly taken with this holiday card, and told me that the card spoke to him. When asked what he meant by that, he said he saw the dichotomy between the lion and the lamb – to use his words, clients and/or attorneys can be “reasonable”, or they can be “strong” in their approach to a case and resolution. He didn’t see the holiday card as depicting ferocious vs. fearful, or even peaceful co-existence, but rather as representative of the two personas of what clients are “buying” from attorneys—and that creation of a balance makes for the best resolution. The client felt the card was simple but had a richness to it, and that its message resonated with him while going through the experience of divorce, as he sought a reasonable approach for all involved backed by the (lion’s) strength when appropriate.

Clients speak in many powerful ways if you listen. In thinking about my client’s comment regarding the holiday card, I realized how important it was for him to not just have legal representation and an advocate, but also to have representation and advocacy that comes with understanding and compassion and balance. It isn’t always so easy – and perhaps some clients want just the lion! However, divorce is not one-sided – there are always two parties with different needs and interests. Considering not just your own needs and interests, but those of the other party, and taking a balanced approach almost always results in a better negotiation and outcome.

Divorce is difficult and painful. We all know that. Yet you and your attorney don’t have to be solely lions or (the more passive) lambs. Out of court dispute resolution processes such as mediation and Collaborative Law, often provide a better environment and approach for bringing both the lion and the lamb “to the table” in the same room at the same time. Try it. You might find that the lion won’t eat you, and the lamb won’t get eaten. Instead, you will have a good balance for reaching a settlement that you, and your children and/or family, can live with and with which you can find peace — which is, after all, the message that comes with a holiday card.

Copyright 2014, Karen J. Levitt, all rights reserved.

Levitt a Guest Lecturer at Law School November, 2014

Karen was a guest lecturer at the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, MA in November, where she spoke about Collaborative Law to a group of second and third year law students.

Karen was invited to speak by Paula Kaldis, Esq., Professor of Law, and Assistant Dean of the law school.  The law school course, entitled “Collaborative and Alternative Justice”,  focused on the theory, practice, and skills of law as a helping or healing profession. Students studied developments in the legal profession that provided alternatives to the  adversarial process, such as Collaborative Law in divorce.  Many of these alternatives to the traditional court process, like Collaborative Law, are interdisciplinary, and the focus on problem solving and resolution rather than “the fight”.  The students in the course came from many diverse backgrounds and professions before attending law school, and participated in a lively discussion with Karen about Collaborative Law and conflict resolution, not just in family law but in civil, criminal, and even international practice!  It was great to see the interest and excitement of the law students in talking about bringing different models of conflict resolution to their future legal endeavors.


Emily Weber Named Co-Chair of MA Collaborative Law Council’s Advanced Training Committee

Attorney Emily Weber has been named as Co-Chair of the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council’s Advanced Training Committee with Clinical Psychologist Gina Arons for 2014-2015.

Emily is excited to join Dr. Arons and the other committee members, Certified Financial Planner Jessie Foster, and Attorneys Dawn Effron, Cynthia Runge, Vicki Shemin, and Karen Levitt, in organizing trainings, workshops, and presentations for Collaborative Law Professionals interested in developing their Collaborative Law skills and building the Collaborative Law community. In May of 2014, MCLC’s Advanced Training Committee organized a widely successful workshop on “The Power of Expectations in Conflict Resolution: Managing Multiple Mindsets.”  Congratulations Emily!

Karen Levitt Creates An Access to Collaboration Committee to Explore Access to Collaboration in Massachusetts.

Karen’s interest in Access to Collaboration has also led her to create with the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council (“MCLC”), an ad hoc Access to Collaboration Committee to explore Access to Collaboration here in Massachusetts.

Serving with her in the MCLC committee are MCLC Board members Attorney  Dawn Effron, Adjunct Professor of Law, New England Law | Boston and Northeastern University School of Law and Attorney Justin Kelsey of Kelsey and Trask. The committee is exploring options and opportunities for Access to Collaboration by MCLC independently, as well as by MCLC with potential partners.

Karen Levitt 2015 Chair of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP”) Access to Collaboration Task Force (“ACTF”)

News from the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP).

Karen will be serving as the Chair of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (“IACP”) Access to Collaboration Task Force (“ACTF”) for 2015.  Karen currently co-chairs this committee with Attorney Catherine Conner of Santa Rosa, California, and will be taking over as Chair.    This past year, the IACP provided grants to Access to Collaboration programs around the world including the United States, Canada, and Israel.  These programs provide clients with no or little income, with the ability to have access to Collaborative Law  and Practice programs to help them resolve family law disputes.  The IACP Access to Collaboration Task Force helped create the criteria for the program, reviewed the grant applications, and determined the grant recipients.  The committee is currently working on a set of written materials that can be used by programs whether starting or already in progress, and will be creating its work plan for next year.

Karen is  currently serving on the IACP Board Development Task Force with Attorney Talia Katz, Chief Executive Officer, IACP, Phoenix, Arizona,  Attorney Ross Evans, President, IACP, Cincinnati, Ohio, Shireen Meistrich, LCSW, Secretary, IACP, Fair Lawn, New Jersey, Attorney Suzan Barrie Aiken, IACP Board Member, Sausalito, CA.  The task force has been exploring board development and understanding for IACP for the upcoming year.

Karen will also in 2015 be co-chairing the IACP Trainers Network and Development Committee, with Attorney Kimberly Fauss, Richmond, Virginia, who will be a new IACP Board member this upcoming year.  This committee is preparing a handbook for best practices for Collaborative Law  and Practice trainers, and will also host several educational phone bridges in 2015 for trainers.


Karen Levitt to Co-Chair A Workshop at IACP Annual Networking and Educational Forum

Karen Levitt will be traveling to Vancouver this October, to attend the  IACP 15th Annual Networking and Educational Forum.

Karen will be co-chairing a workshop with former IACP President Attorney Catherine Conner, Santa Rosa, California, on October 26, 2014.   The IACP Forum is a yearly event that draws approximately 500 interdisciplinary professionals from around the world to gather at a conference about Collaborative Law and Practice.

The Forum is held in different location each year, and this year it is returning to Vancouver after being in several other Canadian and US cities such as Toronto, Boston, San Diego, San Francisco, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and San Antonio.   Karen however has come full circle – the very first IACP Forum she ever attended was in Vancouver!

Karen Levitt and Gina Arons’ Widely Acclaimed Presentation “I’ve Got A Secret”

Karen Levitt and psychologist Gina Arons were invited to give their presentation “I’ve got a Secret” on September 17, 2014 to the Massachusetts Collaborative Law Council (MCLC) Worcester County Collaborative Practice Group.

In this interactive workshop, Karen and Gina talked about the issues of privilege, confidentiality, and transparency in the Collaborative Law process, where disclosure or failure to disclose a  fact that is not required to be disclosed (a “secret”), might impact the negotiations as well as outcome and how clients and professionals can manage these issues in the process.

This presentation has been widely acclaimed, having being given at a former IACP Forum, at numerous MCLC practice groups in Massachusetts, and also at a  joint meeting of the Collaborative Law Alliance of New Hampshire and the MCLC Tri River Practice Group.  Karen and Gina have teamed up a number of times to give educational programs to lawyers, mental health professionals, and financial professionals regarding Collaborative Law.