An Homage to Ruth Bader Ginsburg: the importance of women on the Supreme Court

An Homage to Ruth Bader Ginsburg: the importance of women on the Supreme Court

An Homage to Ruth Bader Ginsburg: the importance of women on the Supreme Court

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When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last year, we lost a true legal leader. She sat on the federal bench for 25 years and in 1993, became the second woman ever to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Throughout her career, RBG as she was affectionately known, advocated for gender equality, women’s interests and civil rights. She was truly a pioneer.

A founder of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, she once said, “Women’s rights are an essential part of the overall human rights agenda, trained on the equal dignity and ability to live in freedom all people should enjoy.”

But RBG wasn’t just an advocate for women’s rights. She was an advocate for the rights of all people, and it is through that lens that her legacy is perhaps most powerful.

One of her early landmark cases was actually on behalf of a father who was denied Social Security survivor benefits after his wife died. She argued that gender distinctions were inherently unfair – in both directions – and successfully changed the law’s interpretation of and application to gender roles within families.

By being a strong voice, following her instincts and believing that she could contribute something that was missing from the legal sphere, RBG became an American icon. But why does that mean we need women on the Supreme Court?

It’s an easy question and one that many Americans may not relate to, as it feels so far from our daily lives. But it is crucial to understand how trailblazing women change the way our daily lives can be, when they dare to speak up, speak out and stand up for equal access and rights for women.

Women justices, chief justices and majority opinion authors in our nation’s courts can build large coalitions and share different, needed perspectives on legal issues. Studies reveal that women often foster more collaborative, cooperative environments than men. In a judicial context, this leads to greater consensus and moderation.

Justice Ginsburg wanted more women on our nation’s highest Court. In 2015, she spoke at Georgetown University and said she would not be satisfied until the Supreme Court featured nine female justices. She explained that no one questioned when nine men sat on the court. That answer emboldened Americans.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Legal scholars say that women bring different perspectives to court conversations. Although women were considered for the Supreme Court as early as 1930, it took until 1981 when Sandra Day O’Connor became the first woman to fill a Supreme Court seat. She was the only one until RBG joined her in 1993.

It’s not specifically “female” things that women bring to legal considerations. It’s the difference of voice and perspective and their unique experiences that need to influence decisions affecting the entire nation.

It shouldn’t be a question as to what gender decides law. If all people are bound by the law, then all people should have a voice in determining the details of that law. It seems pretty simple to me!

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Transitions Legal is a Female-Led Family Law Firm

Transitions Legal is a Female-Led Family Law Firm

Transitions Legal is a Female-Led Family Law Firm

When I created my own law firm, I did not do so to be a female-owned business. I simply wanted to practice in the unique way that I viewed family law, as a transition rather than an ending or a beginning, without judgment and with support for those going through this life transition.

Now that I’ve been in business for eight years, I realize that being woman-owned IS significant. As we step into Women’s History Month and approach International Women’s Day on March 8, I want to share my perspective on the significance of being woman-owned and female-led.

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Alisa Peskin-Shepherd in the conference room of her Bloomfield Hills, Michigan office

While the march toward equal rights began in the 1970s, we are still working hard to make the workplace equitable and accessible for women, who constitute half the world’s population.

We are still facing stereotypes and being sidelined because of our gender. Thus, the more businesses that are owned by women, the more we will see equitable perspective and opportunity in America’s workplaces.

According to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), more than 11.6 million businesses are female-owned in the United States, employing nearly 9 million people and generating $1.7 trillion in sales.

Women-owned firms constitute nearly 40% of all businesses. One in five firms with revenue of $1 million or more is owned by a woman.

Women become business owners for a variety of reasons – among them, being ready to be your own boss, a desire to pursue a passion, or a dissatisfaction with corporate America and the lack of equitable opportunity.

Interestingly, women are more likely to start a business than men. Studies show that 62 percent of women depend on income from a small business as a primary source of household income.

And yet, women still earn less than men. One reason so many women go into business for themselves is to right this long-held wrong.

I started Transitions Legal because I believed I could do more in my legal practice if I created my own firm. I know I’m not alone in this belief, as I’ve aligned with other women entrepreneurs to talk about the very real challenges we face as well as the pride and passion we pour into our work.

These are not gender-specific goals; rather, it’s representative of a very human desire to be more, do more, and have more control over our lives.

At the end of the day, I don’t run my law firm as a woman, even though I am one. I run it as a person with passion for the law and compassion for my clients.

I bring a singular perspective and decades of experience to my work, and trust that my clients hire me not because of my gender, but because they believe I will represent them better than anyone else.

In order to be blind to gender, we must first create an equal playing field so that details like gender truly don’t matter in the practice of law or the transactions of business. Until that day, I’ll proudly tout the woman-owned nature of my law firm.

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Photo by CoWomen on Unsplash

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The Over-Emphasis of Valentine’s Day

The Over-Emphasis of Valentine’s Day

The Over-Emphasis of Valentine’s Day

In the world of divorce, Valentine’s Day is a dreaded occurrence.

Some of my clients feel sad or angry or just very alone when this day rolls around. It’s marketed as a time to celebrate love and romance, and I’m in the business of ending relationships in very final and lasting ways.

Over the years, I’ve done media interviews about how it is possible to “love” your ex and why you might want to. In my work as a Collaborative Divorce attorney, I focus on finding peaceful and harmonious resolution to an ending marriage, especially when children are present.

valentine's day

Photo by Jude Beck on Unsplash

But at the end of the day, I can’t stop this holiday coming and I can’t change how our society reveres passionate romantic love and scowls on splitting up. There is so much judgment about how a failed relationship is a personal failure, and how being alone is something to lament.

I prefer to look at it so differently.

First, I’ve been taught by scholars and philosophers that the way we define love in the western world is flawed. We see it as preferential attachment as opposed to universal understanding.

That’s step one. See love as a relational thing. I see the humanity in you, and you see it in me. I don’t cling to you, and I don’t need you. I can relate to you. I can share space and time, I can live alongside you, but with or without you, I am complete, whole, wonderful.

Step two is to embrace the notion that there is nothing wrong with being alone. When we can be intimate in knowing ourselves, and really appreciate how special and unique we are at the core, we can find true happiness.

Happiness and success and a life well-lived should not depend on who walks beside us, or who tumbles in the bed next to us at night. I rise in the morning to greet myself in the mirror and that is as good a start to the day as any.

valentine's day

Recently, I became a representative of Our Family in Two Homes, a resource to guide divorcing families to a seamless, compatible carrying-on beyond their split. It aligns with my preference for Collaborative Divorce as a humane way to end a relationship.

It’s a workbook that clients can use to get themselves on solid ground before proceeding with divorce. So much of this resource guides clients to self-reflection and discovery, to communication styles and the values they want for their family and their life.

We could all benefit from such a deep dive!

All of this is to say that I refuse to be sidelined by mistaken notions of what it means to be whole and full of love.

We’re beyond Valentine’s Day for this year, and before it comes around again, I pledge to help my clients move to a place of clarity and wholeness regardless of where their relationships take them. It’s really the best place to be.

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Diversity & Equity in Family Law

Diversity & Equity in Family Law

Diversity & Equity in Family Law

Growing up in a landscape defined by systemic racism deeply embedded into American culture, I am particularly sensitive to issues of access and inclusion. And yet, I am too aware that we can have the best of intentions and still not be as inclusive as we’d like.

That’s why I joined the Diversity and Inclusion committee of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP). I wanted to embed into my work as a Collaborative Divorce lawyer a deep and constant alert to whether we are incorporating diversity at every level and fighting racism.

As an organization, IACP is determined to be as inclusive as possible. At the same time, we cannot control who decides to join. There is a deeper issue at play, and one which we may not have nearly as much impact – how many minority audiences choose to become attorneys.

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Photo by James Eades on Unsplash

I’ve been aware for some time, and truly bothered by it, that the legal profession in America is heavily white. To be frank, according to the American Bar Association, only 5 percent of attorneys in America are African American. That is inexcusable!

The IACP is an international organization, which expands our view of inclusion and diversity beyond the borders of the United States. And there are so many aspects to diversity. It’s not just about race.

It’s also about gender, sexuality, socioeconomic factors, age and more. We want true inclusion, across defining characteristics to be a truly representative profession and industry.

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When the Equity and Inclusion committee formed three years ago, it was an area that I saw having a real need for diversity. We were all white, middle to upper class attorneys sitting around a pretty homogeneous table. How could we combat racism?

Our clientele was pretty white, too. How were we going to educate people? What strategies would we use to reach out to other communities and bring people in?

I joined this crusade because I saw it as an opportunity to get in at the base line level and really have an impact.

These days, a lot of DEI work feels like it’s the “in” thing to do. When people are marching on cities in the name of Black Lives Matter, it would be natural to take a closer look at areas that lack diversity.

But it’s not that for me. It’s not a trend or a bandwagon to jump on. This is part of who I am.

I believe in all people, and I believe all Americans should have access and entry to the industries and communities they desire.

When I was in elementary school in the 1960s and 1970s, my school principal was African American. I didn’t realize how groundbreaking that was at the time, for I was just a small girl, but looking back I am awestruck by the foresight that my school had in hiring a Black man to lead our school.

Both details – that he was African American and that he was male – are significant. So many educators were women and of course most were white.

Seeing a man of color in a powerful position, guiding children from the youngest, most impressionable ages through to adolescence, leaves an indelible mark on what matters and who should lead.

From my young vantage point, I didn’t see any of this, of course. I just saw a kind man who was nice to me and had a smile for every child in the building. I had no idea what a pioneer he was or that it was a landmark role for my community.

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As I’ve become more educated on systemic racism, I can grow sad about the struggles we still see happening for black and brown people in America. Why does this continue to be? 

Diversity

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

I know all the intellectual and emotional reasons sociologists will cite, but deep down in my soul, I cannot understand it.

I sometimes feel like as an individual, I am so unable to make an impact or truly make lasting, tangible change in this area, at a high level. I’ll admit, sometimes I feel kind of helpless.

Of course, I could just resign myself to my little homogeneous bubble and go on with life. But I won’t. I can’t. I must do what I can to make even the slightest difference, in my profession, in my community, in my life.

It’s not who I am to ignore what is happening around me. This country needs righting, and I’ll do my part to make it happen.

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Welcome to a New U.S. President

Welcome to a New U.S. President

Welcome to a New U.S. President

This week, the United States inaugurates a new President, with a major change in Administration after a tumultuous election season. There are many reasons why change can be good, and in this blog, I’d like to focus on how the new American presidency might affect divorce, marriage and the way people get along in our nation.

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

We know that Americans are deeply divided. If the last year showed us anything, it’s that we may all be united by citizenship, but we remain in opposition to one another in ideology, belief, practice, and politics.

Whether America can survive as a functioning democracy remains to be seen. More than 8 million people are excited this week about Joe Biden becoming our next U.S. President. And yet, 7 million people voted to retain Donald Trump for another term.

That’s a big gap.

What lies ahead for our nation depends on whether we can find a way for ALL Americans to believe in the possibility of America once again. Can we come together in shared values and vision?

After the November election, it felt like some of the rampant divisiveness calmed a little. I hope that the Biden Administration gives us time to try to readjust the scales, get back into balance.

Some people who are more progressive, or did not want to retain Donald Trump, but who may not quite be on the Biden bandwagon, may have expectations for what lies ahead. Wherever we stand on the political spectrum, we must be careful to hold realistic expectations for what is possible.

A President is ONE human trying to make decisions on behalf of one of the largest nations in the world, populated by so many varieties of people. It is not an easy job for anyone, and I have yet to see a candidate who speaks and moves for ALL the people.

There is only so much that can be accomplished in the first 100 days of a new presidency. We must remember that before we jump to critique or condemn.
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Over the last year, due to the ongoing pandemic, we’ve taken to digital communication channels as our lifeline.

We’ve debated and discussed, blocked and welcomed. We’ve argued over what is best for our people, what is the way forward.

As a divorce lawyer, I look at the lessons we are beginning to pull from the last year, and the last four years, and the new presidency ahead, and I think, there is advice in all this for marriages and relationships. Here is what I have to offer:

  1. Just like a President can only do so much in the first 100 days of an Administration, so too a relationship can only withstand so much effort and energy in its early days.
  2. We must have realistic expectations for every relationship – and for the humans in those relationships.
  3. We are, as a species, easily disappointed, and easily excited. The healthiest place is to live in between those extremes.
  4. We cannot put all our hope into one person to lead us forward. Whether a President, or a spouse/partner.
  5. That said, we must respect the expertise of our leaders. For a marital relationship, that means take advice from those who’ve endured through decades – don’t think you know better than they do how to make a marriage work! (I’m thinking of all the Dr. Fauci haters who think they know how to handle a pandemic better.)
  6. There is no perfect partner. Only you can strive to be the best you can be and forgive the faults of your partner. (We should remember this when President Biden isn’t perfect. He can’t be. He’s human. He’ll do things we won’t agree with, but that doesn’t make his Administration evil.)
  7. Keep your expectations in check, stay realistic, and remember there is no perfect system.

Whether it’s a marriage or a political position, or the leader of the free world, we’re all doing the best we can. Go into it with this perspective – knowing that there will be disappointments, arguments, and reasons to celebrate.

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