A 2018 study by the American Bar Association revealed that there is still widespread gender and racial bias in hiring, promoting, assigning and compensating attorneys in America. In fact, 58 percent of women attorneys of color and half of white women lawyers said they have been mistaken for administrative staff or janitors. Only seven percent of white male lawyers said the same.
If the legal profession is disproportionately populated by white men, then how can clients in need of legal support who find themselves in other racial or gender camps find adequate representation? How can their cases be adequately understood by those who take them on?
The American Bar Association offers a Bias Interrupters toolkit
The ABA study – titled You Can’t Change What You Can’t See – is an important step in identifying trends so that we can wake up our colleagues and ourselves and improve this profession for a diverse future. In the study, women of color reported the highest level of bias in almost every workplace process.
Whether it’s facing higher (double) standards than their white, male colleagues, having to work harder and longer for the same compensation and recognition, or being passed over for promotions, this profession is truly lagging behind in recognizing equity issues and acting on them.
In response to the findings, the ABA included a Bias Interrupters Toolkit in the survey report to help firms get up to speed.
While I am a woman and face some of these inequities, I understand that my colleagues of color face even more. All of us would benefit from learning about the experiences of our colleagues and also gaining training to improve workplaces, promote equity and fairness, and gain awareness of implicit biases that could impede fair representation for our clients.
Diversity and inclusion is a priority at the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
Mr. Davis shares this important assertion from the interview:
“There’s a lack of understanding about cultural differences and what makes us different – which is really a pitfall. As a family law judge, you might have a crucifix on your bench. Might that make some people uncomfortable?”
“We have built-in cultural and implicit biases, and it’s hard to set aside biases that you may not even know that you have. We must continue to educate individuals about these biases.”
International Academy of Collaborative Professionals Has Been Nominated for A Nobel Peace Prize
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich., Feb. 13, 2023 — The Nobel Peace Prize committee has named a global organization as one of its 2023 nominees, with one of its active members and leaders based here in metro Detroit.
Alisa Peskin-Shepherd, principal of Transitions Legal and a family law attorney who specializes in Collaborative Practice, serves on the equity and inclusion (IDEA) committee and the Grow Membership committee for the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP).
The Nobel committee nominated IACP for its global efforts in conflict resolution. The Transitions Legal team brings these practices and perspectives to southeast Michigan family law cases.
As IACP Past President Francesca King of Milan, Italy states: “when you promote peaceful resolutions in family conflicts, you are promoting the growth of peace in society as a whole.”
Collaborative Practice is a unique dispute resolution model which provides families the opportunity to reduce the negative impacts of separation by working cooperatively with teams of specially trained legal, financial and mental health professionals who educate, support, and guide couples toward respectful resolutions, without resorting to litigation or acrimony.
As a global nonprofit organization with a longstanding history as the largest community of Collaborative Professionals, IACP has members in more than 28 countries.
“I am honored to be a part of this groundbreaking organization,” says Alisa Peskin-Shepherd, a Michigan divorce attorney who specializes in Collaborative Practice. “Not only have I found like-minded professionals around the world to collaborate with and learn from – but I have the opportunity to learn the latest approaches to improve interpersonal relations. This promotes a ripple effect of peace in families and communities.”
The Internationally-renowned and historic Nobel Peace Prize was first stipulated to be awarded to the person “who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” Since 1901, its significance has evolved and been awarded in recognition of many kinds of peace work and concepts of peace that aim to create a more organized and peaceful world.
Peskin-Shepherd notes that when a court gets involved in a family’s dissolution, it can escalate conflicts as well as anxiety and stress. “Removing the court from the divorce process reduces the level of tension between spouses,” she notes. “Collaborative Practice leads to positive outcomes for the family and also shows sparring spouses how to better communicate, relate and work together on behalf of their family – which is a powerful lesson for their children and future generations.”
IACP, Collaborative Professionals, and Collaborative Groups internationally hopes this Nobel Peace Prize Nomination will help create global awareness and access to Collaborative Practice as a normalized dispute resolution model for anyone who seeks it, regardless of family structure, race, age, sexual orientation, gender, class, ability, language, and geography.
About Transitions Legal
With more than 30 years of experience, Alisa Peskin-Shepherd founded Transitions Legal, a Bloomfield Hills, Mich.-based family law firm, in 2013. She brings a “mediative” approach to legal practice, a term she coined to refer to a state of doing what is best for all involved — rather than letting anger and emotions lead.
Recognized as a Super Lawyer every year since 2015, and DBusiness Magazine Top Lawyer since 2011, Peskin-Shepherd has been named a Leader in the Law by Michigan Lawyers Weekly, known for excellence in legal practice and one of the top female lawyers in Michigan. An approved Mediator and Collaborative Divorce practitioner, she has special training in domestic violence through the State Bar of Michigan Open Justice Commission.
From full Collaborative Divorce and Litigation cases to Limited Scope Representation, Transitions Legal serves clients in Southeast Michigan. The firm’s Insight-based approach includes a realistic perspective of potential outcomes based on client priorities.
Transitions Legal is located at 4190 Telegraph Road, Suite 3100, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan 48302; 248-290-0560; www.transitionslegal.com.
International Academy of Collaborative Professionals: The International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP) is a global resource for learning about and promoting Collaborative Practice, a constructive, healthy approach to creating client-focused processes for resolving conflict. While most members are legal, mental health, or financial professionals, IACP welcomes anyone who supports the vision of the Collaborative Practice movement. For more information on the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals or to find a Collaborative Professional near you, visit IACP’s website at https://www.collaborativepractice.com/.
Recently, I was invited to be one of the speakers in a special program hosted by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, IACP. I am an IACP member, and I sit on its Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Accessibility Committee (IDEA).
Last month, I led a discussion in partnership with Rajan Chettiar, a Barrister, Lawyer and Mediator in Singapore. Our topic was to focus on diversity and inclusion in Practice Groups.
Photo by Redd on Unsplash
IACP Practice Group Leaders (PGL) from around the world host quarterly meetings where we come together to learn and share information. This was the first PGL meeting with a specific theme and focus. I am part of the Southeast Michigan Practice Group and regularly attend IACP PGL meetings.
It’s also where we network, learn, form stronger teams of Collaborative professionals, and have opportunities to get to know people on a different level and share information and best practices.
Our mission at the September meeting was to offer ideas for Practice Groups to increase awareness and be more inclusive.
While diversity and inclusion are buzzwords these days, at IACP, it’s our goal to use those terms to become aware and intentional in the work that we do and how we relate to colleagues and clients. Some people host a book club and discuss issues that come up in the titles they read. Others plan webinars, share articles or recommend books. Some committee members share personal stories to better understand each other’s background and beliefs.
A while back, I hosted a Civility Session through the Great Lakes Civility Project for my Practice Group, as a way of launching a conversation about civility and bridge-building.
At the recent session, Rajan and I discussed the IDEA committee, what we do, and what IACP is doing to expand inclusion and diversity. These values are embedded in the organization, which is why I am proud to be a part of it.
In this politically divided time, it can be nerve-wracking to imagine discussing some of these sensitive issues. They can become explosive or offensive. There is so much hatred and vitriol encircling our communities and nations.
But we must press on, so we can come to common ground, and all be better at the work we do.
Professional development isn’t just about learning new tricks of your trade. It’s also opening your eyes to the world at-large, to better help your clients and do better work yourself. In the end, the effort changes us, making us better as people, and as professionals.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.