Our Fall Alumni Spotlight features Yvonne Shoff, J.D. 1997!
Before going to law school, Yvonne worked for an asbestos settlement firm that kept asbestos related claims out of the court. This was her introduction to dispute resolution before she knew she even wanted to do it. She worked as a settlement negotiator for about two years in this position which taught her a lot about negotiation.
While in law school, Yvonne was the President and Founder of the Family Law Society. As a law student at Quinnipiac, she had the opportunity to be involved with appellate litigation as a clinic student when she argued in front of the Connecticut Supreme Court.
Since law school, Yvonne has been involved in dispute resolution in many ways. She was involved in housing mediations and clerked for a family law judge in the Superior Court of Bridgeport. Yvonne noted that in her time as a clerk, she never saw mediators in the courtroom, but now it is common! Currently, Yvonne works at the Connecticut Mediation Center where she is a full-time mediator and collaborative professional, working predominately on family related matters, often involving custody issues, parenting plans, and anything else family related. She is also a member of the Connecticut Council for Non-Adversarial Divorce and the Connecticut Bar Association.
Yvonne has made alternative dispute resolution her work- and she loves it. She loves what she does a mediator and collaborative professional because it provides a holistic way to help divorce claimants and allows her to find and use creative solutions and create tailored agreements without having to turn to litigation. When asked about her collaborative work, she said it creates a way to get through a conflict productively because of the use of mental health professionals, divorce coaches, and other professionals who help to reduce the fears that come with divorce and the clients are able to get to the real reason they are arguing. While clients may often be skeptical and fearful of trying collaborative divorce, Yvonne notices how thankful clients are after the process that they chose collaborative.
In her work, Yvonne has noticed how clients have an increasing willingness to recognize that there are two different stories to the divorce. She has also noticed how law schools are now embracing alternative dispute resolution, but they are not the only ones. She finds that while judges used to be hesitant to accept mediated agreements, now they recognize the value of mediation and often commend parties for using mediation to work through their divorce.
When asked about the role that ADR has played in her job as a friend, she said to ask her friends. Yvonne’s commitment and passion as a mediator makes her see everything through the lens of a mediator. She sees her friends come to her with issues, looking for Yvonne to be a peacemaker for them. Yvonne loves this, though. She says that once you are hooked on seeing how dispute resolution affects people’s lives in positive ways, it becomes a lifestyle. Mediation has turned her into a more compassionate person and she no longer takes anything at face value but tries to remain neutral and looks to understand first instead of making snap judgments. Yvonne loves her profession so much that she wants to shout from the rooftops to let people know how positive the process can be! She even spreads the positive work of ADR at the University of New Haven when Dr. Henry Lee brings a delegation of students from China.
Yvonne had a lot of advice for students who are thinking about a career in ADR, but her most important advice was to not get discouraged. She said the key is to persevere and learn as much as you can. She also suggests to students to take advantage of as many opportunities while you can as a law student, including going to conferences and volunteering. Yvonne made it clear that if this is your passion, don’t give up. She noted that it took her 20 years to find her dream job, but she never gave up. In addition to working with professors, Yvonne also recommends reaching out to professionals and to never be afraid to ask them for help. They will do everything in their power to encourage you, and she says they are the nicest people you will come across.
For those considering making ADR their career, Yvonne also recommends taking more than just law classes- take marketing classes and learn how to market yourself in a profound and honest way because you may have to create the jobs that are not there. This is the way of the future, Yvonne says, and the opportunities are growing, you just need to have the grit.