Monday, October 1, 2007

A Holistic Approach to the Practice of Law

Meet Michigan super-lawyer, Henry Gornbein.
I am pleased that Kathy has asked me to participate as a guest on I.M.P.E.L.’s blog. My name is Henry Gornbein and I have been a specialist in family law for more than 30 years. During that time I have seen just about every situation imaginable from international custody disputes to kidnapping, suicide, and murder. As Metropolitan Detroit becomes more of a cultural melting pot, my clients are increasingly dealing with religious, ethnic, and cultural issues. Lifestyles and marital relationships that are accepted overseas sometimes are not acceptable here. Arranged marriages, the roles of women, language barriers, and even the acceptance of divorce in some cultures are not uncommon issues. That is why it is important to understand a client’s background and the effect of religious, ethnic, and cultural heritage.

One thing I’ve learned is that the traditional divorce lawsuit can cause financial and emotional trauma, regardless of one’s background. To avoid the common pitfalls of divorce, my law firm, Gornbein, Fletcher, Smith, Peskin-Shepard, PLLC ( takes a holistic approach to the practice of law and emphasizes alternate dispute resolution (ADR) -- mediation, arbitration, and collaborative law. Collaborative law is an innovative approach where the litigants and attorneys attempt to work out the details of a divorce before a lawsuit is filed. In such situations, it’s common to assemble a team of professionals (attorneys, therapists, financial planners, and any other specialist) to help negotiate a settlement. Each member of my firm, which includes Cheryl Fletcher, Danielle Smith, and Alisa Peskin-Shepard, is trained and certified in mediation and collaborative law. Our goal is to provide simple solutions to complex problems, without creating new problems. We are always available to answer a basic question over the phone.

My firm also believes that knowledge is power. That’s one of the reasons why 10 years ago I created “Practical Law” – a local cable TV show. The show has featured many prominent attorneys, judges, politicians, newspaper columnists, local and federal law enforcement officers, and private detectives. I will often have prosecutors, defense attorneys and others involved in high-profile lawsuits as guests on the show. One of the goals of Practical Law has been to demystify the legal system and make it more user friendly to the general public. I believe that over the course of more than 350 shows I have succeeded in that goal, and I am proud that Practical Law has won awards.

As human beings, we all bring our backgrounds, personal biases, and experience to the table. We must be compassionate and realize that people from different backgrounds often look at the same scenario very differently than we do. The legal profession must bear this in mind and be sensitive to the many religious, cultural, and ethnic differences of its clients.

Henry Gornbein