When I started Transitions Legal in 2013, I created a tagline that has served us well: dignified divorce driven by compassionate expertise.
Those were the words and concepts I felt were important to convey about my approach to family law. In fact, I named my firm Transitions Legal because I wanted to emphasize that I see divorce as a transition from one stage of life to another – neither good nor bad.
Over the years, I’ve built a name for this firm, and for my approach to family law. After nearly 10 years in business, I felt it was time to change our tagline to represent how we’ve evolved and changed, to embrace insight and innovation in our approach to conflict resolution.
Photo by Daniele Franchi on Unsplash
So my marketing guru, Lynne Golodner, and I embarked on a quest to fashion a new tagline, that better represents where we are today.
I was surprised to realize that I could not come up with anything better than what we already have!! A tagline is supposed to serve as a quippy, memorable phrase that explains what we do and how we do it. What matters to us. What values this firm is built on.
Dignified divorce driven by compassionate expertise really says it all. The one thing I could change would be the word divorce – though I won’t, because I like the alliteration – only because we do so much more than divorce. Family Law is a far-reaching category of law that addresses any legal quandary or need in a family situation.
So why did I seek this change, then?
Because I wanted to make sure that key concepts were in our marketing messaging. Ideas like curiosity, innovation and insight.
But when I looked at my Guiding Principles, I saw that these concepts were already embedded in Transitions Legal language. My Guiding Principles emphasize how I talk to every client, ask questions and use insight to guide how we approach client cases.
Photo by Patrik Michalicka on Unsplash
I reviewed my Mission Statement, too, and was thrilled to see that these ideas were already there, too!
I consistently operate with insight to learn my clients’ needs and guide them based on what they want to achieve. One key question on my intake form is, what are your goals.
The Our Family in Two Homes workbook, a resource which I encourage all my clients to use, helps people more clearly define their goals. It’s easy to say my goal is to make sure my kids are taken care of. Or make sure I have financial security. But what does that mean?
What does it look like for your kids to be feeling safe and secure? What does it look like to have financial security?
Such questions are not as easy to answer once you start digging into specifics. I’ve asked those questions, and the resources I’m using now are consistent with what I’ve always been doing.
So we are keeping our tagline! With almost 10 years in business, I am encouraged that the marketing messaging I initially created serves us still as we’ve grown and expanded. We are steeped in our values and approach. We are consistent. We know who we are.
This has made me sensitive to curiosity and the importance of asking questions, followed by focused listening. Many family law attorneys and mediators take a directive approach, working through the case to get it done.
But that’s not how we operate at Transitions Legal.
I embraced Collaborative Divorce long before it was a common approach in Family Law circles in Michigan. Even Collaborative Practice has changed!
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash
Since the Collaborative Movement started in 1990, and has been in Michigan approximately 18 years, we’ve learned that we can expand and evolve the model to better support our clients. Which should be our focus in the practice of law no matter what.
My marketing coach, Lynne Golodner, has always taught me that a tagline should be a pithy statement that is memorable, so that when a potential client learns of our firm, they know immediately what we are about.
We are about gaining insight so that we can innovate in the way we approach family law. Insight is a step deeper than knowledge. I help clients know themselves, their values, their intentions, based on a variety of factors – lifestyle, social affiliations, culture and background and more. From there, they can move forward with clarity.
When you’re thinking “should I get divorced,” you’re sitting in an uncomfortable place. Choosing a firm that will allow you to be dignified, where you will be led with compassion by experts in the field of family law, should be a comfort.
Dignified Divorce Driven by Compassionate Expertise. That’s what Transitions Legal stands for. That’s what we do.
Today, Transitions Legal includes a core team of three (soon to grow bigger!) – and all of us are women. In honor of Women’s History Month and the recently celebrated International Women’s Day, I’ll introduce the team below, but first, let me share a bit about our culture.
When I founded Transitions Legal in 2013, it was just me and an office manager. I was new to leading a law firm, and at the beginning of defining my corporate values.
Over the years, I’ve hired associate attorneys and legal assistants, and they’ve always been women. I didn’t set out to only hire women. I just happened to get a majority of female applicants, who were talented, experienced, and eager to work for a law firm led by a strong woman lawyer.
We are definitely different from a traditional law firm.
First is our branding – we see divorce and family law as a step on a person’s life journey, not an ending nor a beginning. This perspective is compassionate and understanding as well as nuanced. We bring that complex perspective to our cases, and to caring for our clients.
But it’s more than that. My colleague, Sara Gorman Rajan, worked at an all-male-led law firm before she joined the Transitions Legal team. She’s mentioned how working for a firm founded by and operated by a woman promotes a markedly different work culture and environment.
Looking back at her previous experience, now Sara is noticing the benefit of being able to have an open dialogue with the leadership of the firm and of being included in and a part of firm development. Additionally, in the past, her case load, schedule and availability were shaped by client and partner requests; whereas now Sara appreciates the encouragement and understanding that being an attorney is not a 24 hour a day job.
My daughter Leah and me
Me with my daughter Hope and son-in-law Andrew
I made sure to create a more understanding and balanced tone for Transitions Legal. After all, I am a mother who juggled family life with my legal practice while I was raising my daughters.
We can’t always be serving clients. We must have downtime, family time, quiet time. I understand this personally, and so I make sure my team has ample balance between the demands of our work and the fresh air of their personal lives.
While money is important – we bring valuable talents and expertise to our clients for which we should be properly paid – it’s not everything. We have a process and procedures, so we can serve our clients and act from our values – which guide us to stick to knowing and understanding the law, advising in accordance with the law, having empathy and the compassion to understand a particular situation.
We believe every person deserves legal representation no matter how big or small their case. We let people be human while also being professionals. We have understanding and compassion and respect – for each other, and for our clients.
Hi! I’m Alisa, founder of Transitions Legal. I’ve been practicing family law for more than three decades. I am a strong and compassionate leader with an open mind, and I teach others to cultivate strength to endure difficult times.
I like to make change and to see change – and one of the ways I am hoping to accomplish both in my area of practice is to mentor newer attorneys and to bring insight to attorneys and clients alike about the benefits of alternative processes to dissolve a marriage and to resolve conflict.
I live with my cat, Sunny, (and my Peloton bike), and am the mother to two strong, independent and beautiful daughters and a wonderful son-in-law.
Photo by Lynne Golodner
Sara Gorman Rajan
Sara joined Transitions Legal in 2021 as an associate attorney, bringing 17 years of experience in family law. A resident of Shelby Township, Mich., Sara has worked at law firms throughout metro Detroit, served as a Judicial Law Clerk to the Hon. Helene J. White at the Michigan Court of Appeals, and, in law school, interned with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office under the tutelage of Nancy J. Diehl.
Sara is passionately committed to ensuring that people experiencing family law issues have proper access to the legal system. She understands that this area of practice is all too often where people need attorneys the most and can afford them the least. As such, Sara makes sure that all of her clients are aware of alternatives to transitional divorce proceedings and helps them make the best choice for their particular situation.
The mother of three boys, and with a grandchild on the way, Sara spends her free time reading and with family and friends.
Photo by Lynne Golodner
As Legal Assistant and Office Manager, Zoe brings five years of experience in family law and a lifelong fascination with the legal system. She earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Wayne State University in 2016 and will finish law school in 2023.
Zoe considers herself a “legal geek;” she loves watching the Michigan Supreme Court oral arguments on YouTube and claims she hasn’t missed one since Justice Richard Bernstein assumed his position on the bench. Zoe is passionate about serving less privileged individuals and hopes to pursue a career focusing on appellate work defending wrongfully accused indigent clients.
Zoe lives with her boyfriend, two cats, and a rabbit, and spends her free time cross-stitching, reading post-modern American fiction and legal opinions, doing puzzles, and, of course, watching Supreme Court oral arguments on YouTube.
Photo by Melanie Reyes
Although Lynne doesn’t work in my office, she is definitely part of my team!
Understanding that engaging a publicist for marketing was a monumental leap for me to take professionally, when we began our work together, Lynne told me to think of her as one of my “employees,” she was there to do the work for me that needed to be done to grow my solo practice into a thriving, boutique family law firm.
Lynne continues to be my right-hand at maintaining the public image of Transitions Legal! After creating our branding and helping to establish the story for my law firm, Lynne has managed all marketing for Transitions Legal since 2013. She’s also become one of my best friends.
Lynne is founder of Your People LLC, a marketing company that grew out of her experience as a nationally-known journalist. She is the author of eight books, a revered writing coach, and the mother of four.
Introducing Our Family in Two Homes – a divorce resource now offered by Transitions Legal!
If I had a resource like Our Family in Two Homes (OFTH) when I was getting married and raising children, I would have been so supported!
It never occurred to me way back when, nor does it to most people, to think through and articulate my values, my perspectives, and my beliefs on parenting, partnership, finances and more – and if I had, I bet I could have avoided many marital arguments or parenting disconnects.
Most people don’t really think through these things when it comes to the most important relationships of our lives because it’s just not embedded in our culture to do so. Think about all the romantic movies you’ve enjoyed in your life, which painted a picture of relationships as easy, automatic and synergistic. That rarely happens in real life.
Of course, I see couples when things have gone so wrong, they’ve given up hope that they can stay together. Nonetheless, I am excited to offer OFTH as a unique resource to help couples who are contemplating divorce, already decided to split or going through mediation.
They begin by going through pages 1-13 of the workbook, where they’ll find questions to help them get in touch with what is important to them for the divorce process. These pages cover communication, trust, emotions, values, expression tendencies and more.
It goes so much deeper than the kids or the house. What I love about this resource is how it helps clients discover their personal and collective core values and decision-making preferences. There is a lot of work people can do on their own before they come to an attorney, and this work helps them be more efficient with their attorney, which can sometimes reduce overall legal costs and time spent negotiating.
An example of this is when a client comes to me and insists they want to keep the house, but they’re not sure they can afford to do so, I have to dig deep with them to determine first what is important to them about the house. Then we explore the feelings behind it. That can take a lot of time at billable rates! I enjoy doing this kind of work with my clients. I am also aware that some clients are watching their money. This can save them on fees that might be needed further down the road, or better yet for their kids’ college education.
But if the same client worked through this on their own with the workbook, they would save time spent with me, their attorney, and get moving on the actions required to facilitate their breakup.
I use OFTH in Collaborative Divorce cases and also in Mediation. Individuals can purchase the workbook directly from Transitions Legal, and in doing so, they also get three consulting hours with me as they work through it.
The goal is for people to understand themselves better and understand the divorce process more. Also, they gain insights in how they interact and communicate, which helps an attorney know what they are dealing with in the case. They can draw out an introverted spouse or respectfully ask an extroverted spouse to give the other person some time to speak.
There are, of course, instances where using this workbook might help a couple to identify some of their nagging problems and decide to work on resolving them in an effort to stay together. That’s a lovely outcome when it happens!!
Regardless of the situation, anyone who uses this resource will gain clarity. They’ll understand elements of divorce like parenting time and custody, and know how these are established in the state of Michigan, where I practice. They’ll also know the background of the law to help them reach their decisions.
People often say, “I don’t know what I don’t know.” This resource gives you what you want to know.
To learn more about Our Family in Two Homes or to purchase the workbook-consulting package, click here.
Despite the craziness of the past two years, I’m proud of how Transitions Legal has grown!
When I created this firm in 2013, I did not anticipate anything beyond being a solo practitioner. I figured I’d do the grind, day in and day out.
For several years, I had more than enough work to keep myself busy, but I didn’t know how to bring on somebody else. There were so many responsibilities involved with hiring and employing a team. It took some trial and error to figure it out, and I am now walking that line between practicing law and managing a firm.
In the early days of Transitions Legal, I did not envision what I have today. I’ve had to shift to thinking about, “Wow, I could be managing a firm!”
With the strategic marketing and branding that I engaged in, in close collaboration with my marketing consultant, Lynne Golodner, the firm grew rapidly. More cases came in, more than I could handle alone, and it became clear early on that I’d need help managing the workload.
Today, I have a talented team that includes Zoe Fields, legal assistant and office manager, and Sara Gorman Rajan, associate attorney. Truth be told, I could probably hire another attorney if I had room in the office, but there is none.
My history as a lawyer began in the normal way that attorneys start practicing. I joined a firm and worked hard. I rose in the ranks. And then I faced a choice: I could go into practice with others and create something new, or I could climb the ladder in a large firm and eventually step into a managerial role there, or become partner, or both.
Long before I ever imagined Transitions Legal, I went into practice with two other attorneys who already had a firm established. I thought we’d gel into a small firm, but it did not happen quite how I imagined. We basically all practiced law on our own as solo practitioners sharing office space and overhead expenses.
There was no shared mission or values. We did not build a firm culture. We knew that we were partners, but we were not a firm.
And so I made the decision to start a firm of my own.
With steady marketing and consistent branding, and the courage to be different and imagine a new way of practicing family law, Transitions Legal has become known in the legal community and in southeast Michigan.
If I take a moment to step back from all the busy-ness, it’s pretty incredible. I’ve talked to other solo practitioners, and they say, “Wow, what you’ve built is really amazing.” I have to take the time to appreciate what I’ve built and give myself credit.
Transitions Legal is in an interesting phase. We are a true firm, growing, expanding, combining talents and perspectives. I am learning to delegate. With no female mentors to turn to and say, “How did you do this?”, I am writing a new chapter, telling a story that has not yet been told.
Despite all the turmoil that came with the COVID pandemic, my firm has grown significantly over the last two years. Finding and training a great legal assistant has freed me to focus on developing my practice. Now that I’ve added people to the team, the challenge is to make sure my mission and values are carried forward by the people working for me.
Ultimately, I hope to set an example of a woman leading a law firm. I want to be the role model I never had, for younger attorneys. I know all that they have ahead, the challenges they will face.
I’d like to be a reference for younger women attorneys coming up, to see how it can be done, to imagine a new and creative way of practicing family law.
I am setting an example for other attorneys in the field that even if you want to be small, you don’t have to be a solo practitioner. You can still grow. You can carve out a niche and be known for it.
When clients come to Transitions Legal, they walk in the door and feel a level of comfort, trust and compassion. This is a place where it’s not all about a transaction; it’s about a transformation.
Alisa Peskin-Shepherd and Transitions Legal Marketing Consultant Lynne Golodner kayaking during summer 2021
My message is that family law and divorce can come with compassion, resolution and dignity, and always, respect.
I always wanted to be able to help people on an emotional level, but I did not always want to be an attorney.
I grew up in a family full of divorces. As a young girl, I never saw a long-term relationship as possible, let alone as an example.
As I considered career options, I thought I might work in counseling, helping people work through emotions and situations. In fact, I wanted to stay away from family law because I had experienced so many divorces, but I was really good at listening and helping people feel better.
Ultimately, I realized I could bring a compassionate approach to family law to help people through what I already knew was a trying situation. As a little girl, I was always told that I was good at arguing, and that I needed a career where I could be self-sufficient.
There were no lawyers in my family that I was close with. I didn’t see a lot of professions in the bubble where I lived. My mother was a geriatric social worker, and besides that, I knew about professional careers like medicine, law, accounting and dentistry. My step-father was a salesperson.
I suppose in every profession, you become a salesperson of sorts, but as an out-and-out career, it did not interest me. So law became my chosen path, even though I vowed it would not be.
And you know what? I’ve come to love this work.
Yes, it’s difficult and challenging, and it can be exhausting at times. I see great people at their worst moments, often. But I get to help them through those tough times, and for that I am grateful.
As my firm has grown, I’ve transitioned into spending more time on building a practice, learning to manage my team, and connecting in different ways to clients. I’ve always kept my mediation practice strong because of that urge to bring compassion and assistance to people in need.
It’s also what drew me to Collaborative Divorce – the team approach to family law is compassionate and collegial, not acrimonious and angry.
I started Transitions Legal in 2013, and it’s been a long road of growth and some bumps, too. We are still building, even though we’ve outgrown our new space already. There is always more to learn. For now, though, I am pleased with what we have created: a law firm like no other, with a compassionate ear and a long legacy of expertise. We serve our clients well. And that makes me very happy.