Profile of the Month – Amanda DuBois
Amanda DuBois is an accomplished attorney with over twenty-five years of litigation and negotiating experience. She is the managing member of DuBois Cary Law Group, a Seattle-based, boutique law firm practicing exclusively in family law and estate planning. She has practiced in King County as both a trial lawyer and a family law lawyer. She is equally adept at handling amicable cases as well as the complex or challenging cases that go to trial when settlement is unattainable. She particularly enjoys working with business owners and professionals who need a creative solution for managing the financial and litigation aspects of their divorce.
- What qualities do you look for in a mediator?
My preference when choosing a mediator is frequently personality-driven. I choose a mediator who will respond well to my client. If my client is strong willed, then I might choose a mediator who has a strong personality. Same holds true if my client has a softer personality, then I’m inclined to choose a mediator who is more mellow. The situation depends on the parties involved. Likewise, if the opposing party is particularly oppositional or defiant, I’ll look for a mediator that can deal with his or her idiosyncrasies. I carefully choose a mediator who I think my client would respond to, but I also have to consider if the other side will also respond well to that mediator.
The divorce process is emotional and scary. You can’t have a mediator on board who will be overburdened with the all of the emotions and the fears that are playing out: failure, fear and shame. The parties are processing huge emotional stuff while they’re in mediation. A good family law mediator understands that. The mediator has to acknowledge it, be cognizant of all of that, and hold it in a way without getting frustrated.
- How strongly do you push to have a mediator you propose be accepted by the other side?
Depends on the issues involved and the situation. If the opposition party is going to be difficult, then I might be more inclined to go to a mediator his or her lawyer recommends. If I push for who I want, then the other side might question the mediator’s judgment.
- How important is pre-session communication with the parties?
It all depends on the case. If we have parties who are particularly needy or belligerent, then we might want pre-session communication, but that’s rare. In family law, we mostly know our mediators pretty well and we know the opposing counsel, and whether or not pre-session communication is needed.
- How important is it for the mediator to follow up if the mediation doesn’t result in a settlement?
That depends on the particular mediation. You can get close to reaching settlement, and then something unexpected goes sideways. In these situations, it may be helpful to keep the process going. But if there is a huge obstacle, and no one can solve the problem, then it’s not necessary to follow-up.
- What ADR topics would you like to see discussed at an ADR-related CLE?
I’d like for young lawyers to get more training in mediation, not as a mediator, but as an advocate for their client in the mediation process. I recently heard one mediator commenting on how difficult it is to work with young lawyers. Young lawyers have come out of school with no experience or training and might mistake aggression and pestering for advocacy. They have ideas that are misguided and they often need more experience and training.
- Tell me more about your practice…
I am the managing member of DuBois Cary Law Group. We have 10 lawyers. I take the more complicated cases. Business cases. Child custody, sometimes. High-net worth individuals. I don’t have a set requirement for clients. I’m happy to represent anyone who deserves a really good lawyer.
Family lawyers hold a lot of the emotionality in check for their clients, who are frequently terrified and overwhelmed. That’s why you need a good family lawyer—someone who is a strong, stable personality, not just a legal advocate who wants to fight about everything. Sometimes the best way to win for your client is to compromise, but knowing the difference can be tricky.
A family lawyer needs to be super available for their clients by text, by phone, and on call nearly 24×7. In other areas of law, say with Personal Injury, maybe there has been a car accident or a tree fell in the back yard. These are concrete events that happened and are over with. But with divorce, things are happening in real time. Things will happen, new developments will occur, while you’re in the midst of litigation.
One of my friends, a criminal lawyer, said the difference between criminal law and family law is…. With criminal law, there are often bad people who are acting on their best behavior. With family law, you have good people often behaving badly.
What differentiates the DuBois Cary Law Group from other law firms is that we have a very intentional culture of collaboration with each other and availability for our clients. All of the lawyers here have started out working side by side with me. It has been my great pleasure to mentor our young lawyers. They typically work with me directly for a year before they start taking on their own cases. Now I have this really great team of lawyers who have collegial relationships with each other.
Another point of differentiation is that each lawyer has a different area that she is really good at. One lawyer has a background in finance, another has a degree in counseling and once worked as a school counselor. We have one lawyer who has a background with kids and families derived from her experience working with the YMCA. Another also practices as an estate planning lawyer. Together we are a team, brainstorming, consulting and collaborating to create a strategy that gives our clients the very best service possible.
We always try to negotiate settlements out of court, but it’s not as if we’re not aggressive lawyers and don’t want to go to trial. It’s more like we’re going into boxing ring. If we’re going to hold all of our clients’ emotionality in check, we don’t want someone to hit us on the side of the head from our own team. What we’re dealing with is so emotionally charged and complicated that we intentionally create a collaborative environment that is reassuring to our clients. The result is that we make the process less scary and intimidating, and we’re there for our clients whenever they need us.
- Are there any issues or trending topics that you would like to discuss?
The number of people in 50s 60s and 70s who are getting divorced is increasing. Some people call them Silver Divorces. People live longer than they used to and they’re healthier and more fit. Sometimes these Silver Divorces are very bittersweet. For some, it’s a financially scary position to be in. Part of the increase of Silver Divorces might be due to how a lot of women reinvent themselves after their kids are grown. My husband is a gynecologist who recently wrote a book (Sex, Intimacy, and Menopause: A Gynecologist’s Guide for Men by Philip DuBois, MD) about menopause—what’s going on with women—for men. For women, post-menopause, estrogen goes down and they tend to lose their nesting urge. And at the same time, the men experience a decrease in testosterone, which causes them to want to stay home and chill out. Women are oh my gosh, now I can do something. Do something different. And their man is at the point where he wants to hang around at home. Sometimes during these life changes, men and women can’t find a way to negotiate their different life stages. This time is a flashpoint for people that doesn’t always go so smoothly for them so a divorce might be the inevitable solution.