Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/18)
Family

Emotional intelligence sets Jordan up for success in family mediation

Toronto family lawyer and mediator Kelly D. Jordan likes a challenge.

After building a reputation as one of the country’s most renowned family law specialists, the principal of Kelly D. Jordan Family Law is branching out into family law mediation.

“I’ve always used mediation and other forms of alternate dispute resolution when acting for clients, and I was deeply interested in the process,” Jordan tells AdvocateDaily.com. “It’s very intellectually challenging, but I’m finding it’s actually a great deal of fun figuring out where each party is coming from and trying to find a resolution that satisfies them both.”

With 23 years behind her at the family law bar, and a specialist designation from the Law Society of Ontario, Jordan has a rock-solid foundation to work from.

“I’ve always been very good at managing clients' expectations about their outcomes by being realistic and direct. When you’re acting as a mediator, it’s sort of like you’re doing that for two people at the same time,” she explains.  

Despite picking up an award for criminal law at Osgoode Hall Law School, Jordan says she felt drawn to family law from the beginning of her student days.

After completing her articles under the tutelage of a future Ontario Superior Court judge, she practised at a couple of smaller firms and served as the chair of the Canadian Bar Association’s national family law executive, before setting up her own family law boutique a year ago, focused around her unique practice.

“My practice is kind of unusual in that it’s as much about family formation as it is about family dissolution,” Jordan says.

On the formation side, Jordan draws up cohabitation and marriage agreements and is one of the few Canadian lawyers with experience in the law related to fertility and assisted reproduction. She has helped numerous members of the LGBTQ community to grow their families and is a fellow of the American Academy of Assisted Reproductive Technology Attorneys.

The other side to her practice also sees her dealing with more traditional family law issues arising out of divorce and separation, including disputes over property division, as well as child and spousal support.   

“As a family lawyer, you learn over time how people bring different things to relationships and why they don’t always work out,” Jordan says. “There are cultural issues, family difficulties, birth order concerns and plenty of others that come into play.”

She says that experience has provided her with the perfect preparation for her role as a mediator.

“You need a great deal of emotional intelligence to understand people’s positions and the obstacles that are preventing them from coming to a settlement,” Jordan says.

Still, she admits that her new role has required an adjustment in style.  

“A mediator has to be impartial, and the challenge for me has been providing legal information, as opposed to legal advice, so that they can navigate the resolution on their own,” Jordan says. “A good mediator must be very empathetic, but also provide direction to the parties.

“What I bring is a dose of realism in addition to empathy because I know enough to have a view on what a realistic settlement looks like,” she adds.

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