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Kelly McGrath

Episode 25  2 August 2021

Restoring lives in the wake of trauma and serious crime

Kelly McGrath.jpg


Restoring lives in the wake of trauma and serious crimeKelly McGrath
00:00 / 40:31


Kelly McGrath

Owner, Kelly Mcgrath Law 

Mediator, Educator, Integrative Lawyer

Kelly McGrath, Esq., is the owner of Kelly McGrath Law, PLLC, a non-litigation law firm focusing on business and family law mediations, restorative justice cases, and collaborative divorce. Her practice in Tallahassee, Florida puts compassion and listening first and she has developed client protocols to ensure this. ​


We talk about her mission as a peacebuilder and how she has brought that into her work, something she demonstrates through example after powerful example of the law being an instrument of restoration and healing for people and communities after trauma and serious crime. 



Show notes





Kelly McGrath, Esq., is the owner of Kelly McGrath Law, PLLC, a non-litigation law firm focusing on business and family law mediations, restorative justice cases, and collaborative divorce. Kelly founded the Florida Restorative Justice Association in 2013, a statewide advocacy group supporting the use of restorative justice in Florida. Kelly has a professional certificate in trauma and resilience and considers herself a trauma-responsive lawyer. 


A large part of her practice includes consulting and training on strategic communication skills, conflict resolution, and grief, loss, and burnout in lawyers. Kelly is a frequent speaker at the Quinnipiac University College of Law presenting on the use of Nonviolent Communication in her practice. 


Kelly is also the owner of Life After All™, a 3-month program supporting post-divorce or widowed women built around a faculty of professionals who provide one-on-one guidance for can healing, renewal, growth, and rebuilding; becoming the person they need to be for the next phase of their lives. The nationwide program includes a grief and loss counselor, a personal trainer, an estate planning attorney, and financial advisor along with lots of interaction and community, laughter, tears, and growth

Show notes:

  • [1:48] Kelly talks about her background in care and support, as a kindergarten teacher who studied law then moving to working as an attorney for the State of Florida. Her collaborative, gentle style naturally led her to discover a kinder way to practise law, including implementing initial empathetic listening sessions with her clients.

  • [5:23] Kelly includes empathy in her mediation work, by holding pre-conferences that also emphasise communication, values and mindset.

  • [7:39] In dealing with conflict, Kelly guides her clients through deep breathing and meditative practices, which are based on studies of human responses.

  • [11:16] Kelly's vision is of world peace and her mission is to help guide people through their most challenging conversations so they can resolve them through peace. 

  • [14:38] Kelly introduces us to restorative justice by describing the case of 20-year old Ann Grosmaire who was murdered by her boyfriend Conor McBride and whose parents used restorative justice principles to heal as well as prevent Conor from being served the death penalty.

  • [17:41] In serious harm cases, such as rape and sexual assault, restorative justice can bring a degree of closure to the victim who can move on with their life. Kelly describes one such example that she worked on.

  • [20:09] Restorative justice models can co-exist with existing criminal justice processes. In the pre-trial stage it can work as a diversion program, for example, by establishing conditions of probation and avoiding incarceration.

  • [21:10] When the offender is in prison, it operates as a victim-offender dialogue that can help bring closure to victims and their families.

  • [23:13] Kelly also engages in training restorative justice facilitators and describes the type of training it might entail.

  • [26:29] Restorative justice can bring communities together, as Kelly explains through an example of a 12 year old boy who damaged a community centre, scaring an elderly neighbour. The diversion program resulted in the boy's family and the neighbour assisting each other and the community coming together to support them.

  • [31:14] Kelly advises young lawyers who are motivated to make change in the criminal justice system to speak to their supervisors with examples of how modalities like restorative justice work effectively and request training.

  • [32:32] Kelly continues to expand the idea of more empathy in mediationShe shuns the billable hour in her work and works only on a fixed fee basis. 

  • [35:32] In addition, Kelly continues to support the Florida Restorative Justice Association through continuing legal education programs.

  • [37:25] Finally, Kelly also runs as a side passion the Life After All program, which is a support program for post-divorce and widowed women to move forward through a network of supportive professionals such as personal trainers and financial advisers. 


Kelly's website:


Dr Marshall Rosenberg's Center for Nonviolent Communication. Nonviolent communications is a process for supporting partnership and resolving conflict within people, in relationships, and in society. Dr Rosenberg was a psychologist, mediator, author and teacher. 

Don Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements. Based on ancient Toltec wisdom, The Four Agreements offer a powerful code of conduct that can rapidly transform our lives to a new experience of freedom, true happiness, and love.

A Tallahassee Democrat news report on Conor McBride, who shot and murdered his fiancee Ann Grosmaire in 2011. Following restorative justice principles, McBride has just transferred to a lower security "incentivized" prison.

Florida Restorative Justice Association.

Australian Institute of Justice Administration article on Indigenous sentencing courts in Australia, which incorporate some elements of restorative justice.

Australian Institute of Justice Administration article on drug courts in Australia


Show notes
Kelly McGrath


Geraldine  0:12  
Hi everyone and welcome to the New Earth Lawyer podcast. My name is Geraldine Johns-Putra. I'm your host, I'm a lawyer based in Melbourne, Australia. Today we have with us from Florida in the United States, Kelly McGrath. Kelly McGrath is the owner of Kelly McGrath Law PLLC. It's a non litigation law firm. It focuses on business and family law mediations, restorative justice cases and collaborative divorce. Kelly has founded the Florida Restorative Justice Association in 2013. It's a group that supports the use of restorative justice in Florida. She's got a professional certificate in trauma and resilience and considers herself to be a trauma responsive lawyer. She's also the owner of a separate business called Life After All. It's a programme that supports post divorce or widowed women and it's built around a faculty of professionals who provide guidance for healing, renewal, growth and rebuilding. So Kelly is one of our collaborative practitioners. It's a real pleasure to have you on the podcast. Kelly, welcome. 


Kelly  1:24  
So happy to be here. 


Geraldine  1:27  
So I think I'm going to start with the question of how did it happen? How did you go from being a Florida attorney, to someone who's basically into collaborative law, restorative justice, which I'd really like to get into, and running this business of healing on the side? 


Kelly  1:48  
Oh, I just started my journey as a kindergarten teacher. So I've always had that feeling of care and support and guiding people through and learning and growth and decided to go to law school to because I felt like I had more personal power and autonomy over how I practised that, that type of guiding and healing, and knew that I, you know, that I didn't really fit in to the law school world, at least in my class, which was very competitive. And I was very collaborative, did find my tribe there, though, and graduated. And then I started working for the State. And what I found I was just doing transactional work for the State. And people would come in my office and talk to me and close the door. And talk to me about the issues, they were having the concerns they had their deeper needs at work and things like that. And I knew that there was that component that when you talk to a client, you really need to be there for their whole self. They're not just their legal issue.


So when I went out on my own, I had had different trainings, different conflict resolution, and communication skills training, just during my life, you know, just for my own self, like specifically nonviolent communication, by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, and I've been a practitioner for about 15 years of that method of communicating that really focuses on your internal sensations, which are your feelings that are pointing to your deeper universal human needs that are either getting met or not met. And I use that in every part of my practice. So my practice starts out with an empathy session of just listening, deep listening to with the client, about how things are for them, what they were thinking at the time of whatever the incident was, what they thought about sense, and then really helping them get clear about what those deeper needs are. And so yeah, I think I don't know if that answered your question. But I found myself using my communication style and these skills with the client as a priority, not as a secondary.


Geraldine  4:20  
So you clearly developed a protocol with your clients, a bedside protocol for them, as you've got to know them that first session. So that didn't happen kind of suddenly, you must have realised along the path that the way that, because not every lawyer does that as you and I know, along the way, you must have found that this was actually more effective for you to understand the whole person rather than going in as a traditional lawyer would and saying, right, what are the facts? And I'll get to it. Who are you fighting with? Was your conflict with etc? 


Kelly  5:02  
Yeah. And it's true, I actually have that, have the process written down as one of my processes and procedures when I go to have my first meeting with a client, it's always empathy first, you know, because people need to feel fully heard first of all, and second that helps the fight, flight or freeze reaction go down. 


Geraldine  5:23  


Kelly  5:23  
And you know that, we know so much more about the brain now. And we know that having that reaction go down, can help them listen and communicate much clearer and get into problem solving mode when they can't be in that mode, when they're having a trauma response or a stress response. So, so yeah, it's definitely has developed over time. And now I kind of preach that now to other lawyers. You know, for my mediation practice, most of the mediators here in Florida, just meet at mediation and start the mediation. I do a pre-conference, one-on-one meeting with each party. And we, you know, have an empathy session and we talk about mindset and values, and how they want to show up and give them some communication tips. And then we talk a little bit about trauma and if they have any numbing responses, if they're, you know, how they're managing their stress, and then what's worked well in the past for them about managing their stress, you know. And the Four Agreements, Don Miguel Ruiz's Four Agreements. And, you know, so there's a lot that goes into that pre-conference. And I have found that it's, my mediations are much more effective, because I can craft an agenda now, based on having heard both parties and their tender spots and their challenges and what they deeply want, not just what they're asking for, you know why? And so when I craft that a group, that agenda going into that mediation, sometimes we start with the hardest issue, because I know that's what the parties need. Sometimes we start with the ones where there's agreement, you know, so we get build up the wins.


Geraldine  7:12  
So what's the response that you're getting from people, let's take the typical client, I'm not sure if you have a typical client, but let's say someone who comes in with a conflict of some sort, and they say, Kelly, I've got a legal problem. And then your response is to roll out the first session, what do most of your clients say, when you get into the heart of the matter?


Kelly  7:39  
Well, the good thing is my marketing will weed out people that really aren't there for with me, in mindset, and attract people that want this experience. So, you know, my website is very clear about what we're going to be doing. And so, and I love that so much, because I want to work with people that want this type of lawyering and guidance. So and I have had clients who are, were more or less had not seen my website, they were just referred to me. And I did have, like an engineer recently that had a conflict with his neighbour. And he went right along with everything. And I said, there might be some things that we do today that might feel new to you. And that's okay. And if you don't want to do them, that's okay. But what I do is based, a lot of it is based in science. So I told them, you know, we start out with some deep breathing, deep belly breaths, and I tell them that I do this, because it's been shown that it helps your vagal nerve get back online, if you're stressed. And that's kind of your rest and digest centre. And we want you to feel very calm during this experience. So you know, if you wouldn't mind gazing gently at the floor or closing your eyes for a moment, we're going to have three deep breaths and I just go from there, and they are completely ... I've never had anyone walk out and leave. I think people want what, you know, people really want your guidance and your counsel. 


Geraldine  9:13  


Kelly  9:14  
And if, and I know that what I'm asking them is not some crazy made up thing. It's based in real people's reactions over time when you're stressed. And then of course, people love to feel fully heard. I mean, everyone wants to feel heard, you know about their experience.


Geraldine  9:34  
And what you're saying there is something that I'm hearing loads from people who run their own practices, and are very clear about what the approach is and what their values are. What happens is that there is really great alignment between lawyer and client. So this is actually also really positive for lawyers. If they're looking to do something different from the typical, or if they're looking to branch out on their own, being really clear about what you, the kind of law you want to practice so that you get the kind of clients who are suited to that, actually. 


Kelly  10:14  
Right yeah, I want to be happy in my practice too you know, I want to help the people that want to be helped this way. And even in my engagement agreements. So this gentleman didn't see my website, but when we, when he engaged my services, we went through my engagement agreement, and that would have definitely clued him in because it talks about my vision and my mission and my values. And my keys to satisfaction. This is how you can be the best client ever. And my constraints and boundaries, like here's what would trigger me to talk to you about some type of incident that I think needs to be addressed before we continue on, and how we can part ways gracefully.


Geraldine  10:53  
Well, let's get into that. Because I did the work on my vision, mission and values and found it really informative in terms of the type of law I wanted to practice. And I reengineered the kind of law I was practising towards that. So I'd love to hear about your journey, find values in your mission and your vision.


Kelly  11:16  
Yeah, I've always considered myself a peacebuilder, no matter what I did. When I was a kindergarten teacher and in my community, we helped create our own conflict resolution team in my neighbourhood that's been running for about eight years now. And so I've always said that I was a peacebuilding lawyer. So my vision of the world is that there is actually going to be world peace, and there can be, I believe it 100%. There is not a doubt in my mind. And it could happen very quickly. So that is definitely my my vision of the world, and then how my mission, what I'm doing to work on that is helping guide people through the most challenging conversations of their lives, so they can stay out of court, and they can get their needs met, you know, and they can have that experience of resolving a conflict with peace and effectiveness. And it's surprising for people that they can do that, because there's they, we often have our family of origin conflict resolution style, unless we change it. And it's not, that's not always the best method, you know, to use as you grow up. 


Geraldine  12:29  
Well, there's another thing in there that you're saying, which I think is important to pull out, particularly for people who are listening, who might think, well, I'm a lawyer, I've got my particular vision of how I want the world to be, but it's so very difficult to do something about it from where I am. Whereas you said, your vision is one of the grandest that you can think of, which is world peace. And I don't know anyone who would argue with how much we would want that. But instead of going, oh, my goodness, how am I going to achieve world peace? I'm a lawyer in Florida. You've gone, I'm gonna start where I am with the people who show up.


Kelly  13:14  
And you know, if anyone really feels overwhelmed about that, you start with yourself. 


Geraldine  13:19  
Yeah. Okay. 


Kelly  13:20  
Start with inner peace. Right? 


Geraldine  13:22  


Kelly  13:22  
And once you end that, I mean, that's a lifelong process. It's not like, oh, I've got inner peace now.


Geraldine  13:29  
Yeah, but...


Kelly  13:30  
Yeah, you start there. And then with your closest circles, you know, you can definitely bring it to your work.


Geraldine  13:39  
It's, it is about inner work first, which is what all the work around values does. It gets you clearer. Like you said, it's ongoing work, it's never done, gets you clearer on your own triggers, and your own subconscious reactions, family of origin issues, clear a lot of that out. We all spend a long time clearing out all of that. And then once you're clear, not clear, but clearer, you can actually start expressing yourself in the world around you is how I would put it. And that's something I want to get at which is the trauma response. So do you do work in that area as well? And that's, I've been talking to people around that, but we haven't really got into restorative justice on this show. So I'd love to hear about your experiences with that.


Kelly  14:38  
Yeah. So, a few years ago, I was in, there was a workshop and I said, oh, I want to learn about this. And there were there were four people sitting on a stage. Two couples. And Andy and Kate Grosmaire's daughter Ann was shot and killed by Michael and Julie McBride's son. And they knew each other for years, they were, the kids were young adults, but they had been dating for quite a while. And these two couples made a decision that they didn't want Conor McBride to get the death penalty. And they wanted to talk to him about the last moments of Ann's life. And they found restorative justice, which is a way of addressing harm, where the person who did the harm has admitted accountability and wants to make things as right as possible. And the person who was harmed agrees they want a face-to-face meeting. And if those parameters are met, then a trained facilitator will meet with each person involved in the incident and anyone else that's impacted. and talk to them about the four main questions: what happened, who was impacted and how, what needs to be done to make things as right as possible, and what needs to be done to make sure this never happens again. 


And then they talk about, then they gather at a facilitated meeting, and go over those questions together. And then those become an agreement that helps make things as right, repair harm as much as possible. Obviously, in a murder case, you cannot bring someone back. But their repair came in some of the things they asked Conor to do. Like when he gets out he's going to speak about there was dating violence in the relationship. So he's going to speak to high schoolers about dating violence for a certain number of years. There's other things that they wanted him to do, after he got out of prison, and it and also, obviously, there's prison time involved in this agreement. So it's definitely not a get out of jail free. It's actually the hardest thing that anyone, anyone that's gone through, it will tell you how difficult it is to face the person that you harmed and their family or friends or your family that you let down. 


But it's so transformative. In every study, it's been shown that I've ever read about restorative justice, it has shown that there's effectiveness in reducing recidivism, and satisfaction of the victim, and their family and the offender's family who really is normally, you know, just cast aside. And they actually have a say, and I believe it makes our communities much, much safer to have this available in appropriate cases. And I've done a few very serious harm cases. I worked with the president of the Florida Restorative Justice Association. Last year, Gretchen Casey, and we facilitated a case that the lady has let me talk about it a little bit. But she was raped by someone that she knew, and made a decision that she actually didn't want to go to the police about it, and didn't do anything about it. As the PTSD symptoms kept getting more severe for her, she wound up dropping out of college. And she did have a therapist, thank goodness. But there was a lot of nightmares and shaking and things like that. And she found me randomly through a web search. And we wound up working with her and contacted the person who did the harm. And he agreed to me and we met the whole thing by Zoom because it was during the middle of Covid. But it was several meetings with each one of them to prepare them and talk over the four questions. And then we met for about four and a half hours, and talked, all talked and listened to each other using those four questions as a guide. And then crafted an agreement that was about a 12 point agreement. He's since honoured his agreement. And she has since gone back to college and graduated and her PTSD symptoms are non existent, she says, and, you know, it's an, and what is so interesting is a lot of people think restorative justice can be used for, oh, we'll use it for teens and as a diversion programme for petty crimes or whatever, but it's more serious harm. It's very powerful for the serious harm cases. Because as you can imagine, you get things answered, You don't have this thought in your head with no answer from from that person who impacted your life the most, you know. So I'm really I'm a strong advocate of that. And in cases where it's appropriate, for sure.


Geraldine  19:50  
I can see why. How does it fit in with the formal legal processes? So in the case of someone who's already incarcerated, how do you rehabilitate them through the restorative justice programme? 


Kelly  20:05  


Geraldine  20:05  
In alignment with what the state is mandating.


Kelly  20:09  
Yeah. So if there already so it can so regular restorative justice process can happen in pre trial as a diversion program, it could happen. Right now there's a pilot program with our Department of Corrections, using it as the conditions, to create conditions of probation in certain cases. So like we did a roleplay, when we were doing some training with the Department of Corrections. And roleplayed a solicitation of prostitution case, and it was the person who did that, and his, the neighbours in the neighbourhood, there were very angry neighbours and his wife and some other people that were impacted. And we came up with the conditions of probation in in that circle, and I think that's going to be a very effective pilot, I think it's going to be wildly successful, because you were instrumental in creating the agreement that you have to honour. 


Geraldine  21:10  


Kelly  21:10  
Right? So there's that. And then if they're already in prison, then it's called there's a different name. It's called victim-offender dialogue. 


Geraldine  21:19  


Kelly  21:20  
And that is the, and normally there's no agreement that's crafted, but the preparation is exactly the same and the questions, you know, are the same or similar questions, but a lot of times it's with people who had a family member murdered. 


Geraldine  21:39  
Yeah, yeah. 


Kelly  21:40  
And many years later it could be, it doesn't have to be right away. But they feel like they want some questions answered. They want to talk to the person and just, they can't imagine, you know, that what someone did, why someone did that, and they really want this closure, and they don't have any closure. And I don't like that word, because there's never closure, but they don't have enough healing from the traditional criminal system.


Geraldine  22:07  
Yes. Yes.


Kelly  22:08  
You know, because... 


Geraldine  22:09  
I know, because...


Kelly  22:10  
If you're the victim, oh, my gosh, you're just like, you stand over there. You don't have to do anything. We're going to do all this. 


Geraldine  22:16  


Kelly  22:17  
And then you're never going to talk to the person. It's like, I'm never going to talk to the person that impacted my life the most. And let them know what they did to me and my family. No, I want that opportunity. So we're hopeful. I mean, you have a lot more in your system than we do right now. But we are it's on the rise for sure.


Geraldine  22:37  
All right. I actually wasn't aware, I am aware of, especially in the the youth areas that we're using it for drug crimes and so on. 


Kelly  22:47  


Geraldine  22:47  
And I think it's in the Koori courts, the indigenous youth, there's been a program around that. But it's definitely something that I would love to look into more. It strikes me, Kelly, that the training of the person who facilitates, this is so vital, because of the powerfulness that you were talking about. Are you involved in training? 


Kelly  23:13  
Yeah, I've done some training through the River Phoenix Centre for peacebuilding. I helped them develop their training. They're in Gainesville, Florida. And they're one of the primary trainers here in Florida. And I've actually taken four different trainings because I wanted to kind of compare and see the different trainings, and they are very similar, but I agree with you 100%. It's key that the facilitator speaks specifically to the person who did the harm and make sure that like, you know, tell me about how you, what you were thinking at the time, and what have you thought about since? And tell me what happened. And you really look to see if there's acknowledgement that they did the harm, that they acknowledged that they did the harm, and it might not be the full harm. They might not acknowledge every you know, especially if it's a criminal case, every count. But if there's enough acknowledgement, and like this case, I was telling you about with the woman last year, we weren't sure. We we felt like there was an acknowledgement on his part. But I ran what he said, I got permission from him to, through to the victim because I wanted her to help us make that decision. And normally it's not a grey area like that. But he was having a, he was struggling with really openly saying yes, I raped her  and she said no. He didn't want to say it. And, but there was enough of like, I know what I did, yeah, I remember the act, things like that, that he said, that we were pretty certain that he knew what we were talking about. And then he was acknowledging it, but we did run it by her because you never, ever want to get into a situation where you bring parties together and the person who did the harm, you know, says I never did that or allegedly did the harm, says I never did that.


It's just we've had cases, there was a case in Jacksonville, where the State attorney did not have the preparation. She believed in restorative justice conceptually, but she didn't understand about the trained facilitator and the preparation, the preparation meetings are key to that, you know, it's like anything, the preparation is going to be, how important the preparation is, it's critical to making that meeting a success. So she basically brought together the person who killed the mom of this family, and the family, the husband and the children, without any preparation and no facilitator. And it really, there was an article written later and it was a really sad and retraumatising event for the family. And she has since acknowledged that mistake and has her staff trained and has done the right thing. But for that one family that has reopened all of those wounds, for them. So yeah, I agree with you. It's about the preparation and the facilitators' training. 


Geraldine  26:21  
How much of the community gets involved? I guess it depends on the case. But I'd love to hear about the community healing effect. 


Kelly  26:29  
Yeah, it does. We had a case where there was a 12 year old who was out at night with his cousins. And it was around 10:30 at night, pretty late, and riding bikes and kind of throwing rocks at each other. And one of them hit a community centre window and broke it. And there was a elderly woman that was living next door and was really fearful that she didn't know what was happening. She could just see dark shapes. She didn't know they were kids, lived by herself and called the police and one of them was caught and arrested. And they did a diversion programme. And we invited her. And we invited the grandmother who was caring for the boy and his sister. 


Geraldine  27:13  


Kelly  27:13  
And the community member who found the broken window. And then one other interested community member, yeah, the community centre manager.


Geraldine  27:25  


Kelly  27:26  
And one other person that worked for the community centre, and the woman that called the police was able to talk about her experience because she had been, up until that moment of the conference or the pre conference with her, she thought that people were stalking, you know, around there burglarising, going to catch her, get her in her house next, you know, they were going to come to her house and break into her house. And for you know, several weeks, had this fear building up about this event, because she didn't know it was a 12 year old boy just goofing off with his cousins. And so and then, but what was so beautiful about this conference, is you think of his life, the trajectory if he had went to juvenile prison, and then at the conference, he admitted, you know, I was goofing around with my cousins. didn't mean it, I apologise to the lady. He offered himself to come in, at six o'clock at night, every night, but he didn't have a watch. She offered to buy him the watch. Then she became friends with the grandmother who lives like three or four houses down. You know, she's like, oh, I've seen you around and the grandmother is like, oh, yeah, I think I know your cousin,. and, you know, at the event. Now, this elderly woman not only feels much safer than she did a few weeks before and understands what actually happened. But she has helped this boy, get the watch. She now has a neighbour that's watching out for her. 


Geraldine  29:13  


Kelly  29:13  
And he is now, oh, and the community centre manager, got to tell about how sad she was. And how taken aback she was. And just really shocked and a little frightened too about what why this happened. And he got to talk to her about that. And then she asked him, what are your hobbies? I know you ride a bike, like tell me about your bike? And would you be willing to start a bike club with me in the community centre? Or in the, yeah, at the community centre. And so he started a bike club with her and started saying, well, if we do this, we can get badges for this and, you know, organised it. So, I mean, it's like, that's what I want to see in my community.


Geraldine  29:58  
You know, that falls in the right direction. So when you compare to, for example, you're saying what could have happened to that 12 year old, the ripples are gone completely the other way. And you've built community.


Kelly  30:10  


Geraldine  30:11  
That's just one of the most beautiful stories. 


Kelly  30:13  
It is. It is so nice. And then and I love that the elderly woman who was alone is not fearful now, and has built some some connections with people in her neighbourhood. So yeah. 


Geraldine  30:28  
So I've spoken to collaborative practitioners who've done collaborative divorce. I've spoken to collaborative practitioners who've done business disputes. And what I'm really getting out of this conversation is not so much the collaborative side, but the restorative side and what you're talking about, on the criminal law side of things. And it's actually what my next question was going to be was, you know, there's another aspect of change that you're talking about here? How would you encourage people who might be getting into the criminal justice system as lawyers to move this forward?


Kelly  31:14  
I think if they're in the system, that's a beautiful thing, you can make so much change in a system, you don't even realise how powerful you are when you're in a system. I made some big changes at Department of Children and Family just by talking to great people. And, yeah, talk to the right people, start asking, can we get a training on this? Oh, I have a perfect case for this, can I use this in this way? And in Florida, it's fairly simple to use restorative justice, if you want to. It falls under pre-plea agreement conference, which is already in the rules. So if you have a case, you can use it right there if you if you so desire. But yeah, and I think that there's an incredible power to change and grow a system and move, nudge a system towards connection and compassion. Just by asking, asking your supervisor, you know, may I do this? I just found out about this. Oh, look at this report on it. You know, this looks very effective and cost effective as well.


Geraldine  32:22  
Yeah, yeah. What do you see is the future for your practice in Florida? And what are you working on right now?


Kelly  32:32  
Yeah, one of my big missions is to expand the idea of mediation. So I would love to see every mediator have a one-on-one pre conference meeting with each client, each party to a complex and use all of that training that they have. We have to take certain amount of mediator training every few years. So we are growing in our conflict resolution and communication skills as mediators professionally, we have to, which is a good thing, but use that in those pre-conferences to help guide, help teach, give a little tips and pointers for people, help them with their mindset, or their visioning of what this could be like, so that when they get to the mediation, they have that one successful experience of resolving the conflict with connection, oh, my gosh, I didn't realise it could be this way, I could actually resolve this conflict, oh, I was so nervous. You know, and they have that experience. Because this isn't just like a one and done for someone, especially a divorce mediation or any mediation, really. This is something they're going to look back on this entire experience their whole life and think about that experience.


And if we can help them, get their fight flight or freeze response down ahead of the meeting, so that they can think clearly and problem solve and use that executive functioning. And then they know where they want to go. And they feel like there's a collaboration aspect to this instead of me against this other person, then that, you know, we could change, we could change lives, not just resolve legal issues. So that's really one of my biggest goals. I'm speaking at the, we have an annual conference for mediators here in Florida once a year and I'm going to be speaking about pre conferences and how essential they are. So and I hope they do that. And I also like on a financial level or financial aspects to help people move to a flat fee instead of an hourly rate.


Geraldine  34:43  
Yeah, we talk about that a lot on this show. Yeah.


Kelly  34:47  


Geraldine  34:47  
The hourly rate is a culture killer. It is a relationship killer between lawyer and client.


Kelly  34:56  
I don't want to, I want people to have certainty when they work with me. They know what they're going to get. And then for me, it's like I give you one price. And then there's an unlimited amount of time, we can talk, we can email each other, we can call each other, you know, you can just update me. Whatever makes you feel comfortable and moving forward in the best way for you. And that's what a flat fee does. For me, that's how I use that model is that I will do whatever I need to get you to your goal. And you don't have to worry about six minute increments.


Geraldine  35:30  
Yeah, yeah.


Kelly  35:32  
So definitely, those two things, I still support the Florida Restorative Justice Association. I'm no longer the executive director, someone more talented than me is, is in that role now. But I definitely support them and talk about that. I just helped the Florida Bar create a Continuing Legal Education on restorative justice. It was a three hour. We spent about a year and it was a three, planning it and it was a bit three hours, over 300 attorneys attended. And then at the end, when we said okay, we're you know, we're this is complete, now, we're gonna stay on and talk a little bit. A hundred people stayed on for an extra hour. So I was so heartened to see that and we had every circuit in Florida, every judicial circuit was represented in that CLE. So that's going to happen here. I mean, it's happening in pockets. But the rise of restorative justice is definitely palatable, you can see it, and that those two couples that I talked to you about when I first learned about restorative justice, they were the guests of honour and they spoke again about their story and how much restorative justice meant to them in their healing and in their moving on with their, you know, they are able to have a happy life now, and they're not stuck in that worst moment of their life. 


Geraldine  36:50  


Kelly  36:51  
And I think if you're victim centred, if you're a State attorney, that's the prosecuting attorney here in Florida, and you say that you're for victims, that's one of the best things that you can do is offer that in appropriate cases. So those are some of the things I'm working on. 


Geraldine  37:07  
Kelly, that's remarkable. I think I need to go back a step when I said to you that some people listening might think, oh, well, how can I make a change, and you just have to start where you are and make little changes, I have to take that back and say that you're making big changes.


Kelly  37:25  
Yeah, and anyone could do that, you know, once you find your passion, and you have something that you want to do find the people that are going to support that with you. And what happened for me with the Florida Restorative Justice Association, is I went to a national conference, and met a whole bunch of people in Florida from Florida. And we all said, oh, my gosh, you're doing that, oh, I want to do that. I want to learn about what you're doing. And then it just evolved, right from there organically, and people will support you and step up and help with that. And then the other thing is that Life After All program that I just started, and it was really based on mediated divorces, where I would follow up with the clients and finding that there was a group of people who were not able to move, were not moving forward. 


Geraldine  38:16  


Kelly  38:16  
In their life. And they were very stuck, like to the point of not opening bills, and you know, because they had never done the budget and the family and, and just really getting stuck in where they were in their in their worst moments. And feeling like we could build a community around people. 


Geraldine  38:39  
Supporting them through their worst fears.  


Kelly  38:41  


Geraldine  38:42  
By showing up and showing them that there's a step that you can take or stepping through it with them.


Kelly  38:48  
Right, exactly. And I met these other women that are these professional women, I thought, oh my gosh, if I was stuck, I might need to take a walk every day and maybe a personal trainer, a motivational personal trainer could say hey, why don't you get out walk today and see just 20 minutes, you know. And then a financial advisor, like, hey, there's a woman financial advisor on our team that loves to teach people how to budget and loves to make it fun. And really just help them. So I found you know, it was just people that were in my circle anyway. And I called them up and I said, do you want to do this, work with some women, a small group of women? And they were all on board right away. So yeah, just little things. Yeah, I think they can make big changes if and everyone can. Everyone can, you know.


Geraldine  39:41  
I think that that's a beautiful note for us to wrap up. Kelly, it's been really inspiring. And I think anyone listening to this or watching this is going to feel the same. Thank you so much for everything that you do for us, for all that you're contributing. 


Kelly  39:55  
Well, thank you so much. Yeah, you too. You too. Really. Any attorney wants to talk to me they can easily reach out. Or anyone really, just reach out. We all need support and inspiration and I'm inspired by what other people are doing.


Geraldine  40:10  
I'll have all of your details on the site. I'll put them up - your website, 


Kelly  40:17  
Thank you. 


Geraldine  40:17  
Thank you.




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