My primary practice area is nonprofit management and alternative dispute resolution, specifically mediation. I found this practice area after being exposed to the ADR field in law school.
Unlike most of my classmates, I did not plan to practice law. I had dreams of managing a nonprofit. I have been with the Dispute Resolution Institute, Inc. (DRI) since our doors opened in August 2009, just a year after I graduated from Southern Illinois University School of Law.
DRI’s mission is to help people in conflict find common ground, resolve disputes, and reach agreements. At DRI, we envision a world where mediation and other forms of dispute resolution are the first choice for people in conflict. Through my work, I have been able to mediate many different types of cases, but I mostly do family mediations for our First Circuit Pro Bono Family Mediation Program.
Prior to joining DRI, I worked for a year at SIU Law in the admissions office as the coordinator for recruitment. Prior to law school, I was a social worker for the St. Louis City Children’s Division. I worked in foster care and specialized in foster-home licensing.
How has your practice evolved in the last few years?
In October 2016, I was promoted to the executive director position at DRI after our founding executive director retired. It has been an incredible opportunity that I did not expect to happen so early in my career. To reflect on why I went to law school and know that I have the opportunity to do what I dreamed of is humbling.
I do not take for granted that I get to do what I love every day. Even though managing a nonprofit has its challenges, I have the best team of staff members and an incredible board of directors. My dream for the future is for DRI to have the opportunity to assist more people through difficult times by expanding our programs and service area.
Currently, I am investigating the possibility of providing more court-based mediation services in the metro-east St. Louis area and am evaluating our ability to open a community mediation program to the public.
If you could offer one piece of advice to young lawyers what would it be?
Network. Network. Network. It cannot be stressed enough. Of course, you will meet people who will become mentors and support for you throughout your career. But I think most importantly, you may meet some of the best friends you could hope for, and who know and understand your profession in a way that others cannot. I think this support is so necessary for our mental health as lawyers.
Also, do not forget to take care of yourself. Emotionally, physically, spiritually. Ensure you are taking time for yourself so you can continue to put your best work into the world.
What are you most hopeful for about the future of the legal profession?
I am hopeful that ADR methods will become the first choice in all cases in the future and that the practice will continue to grow. There are definitely cases that need to and will go through a full court case with a decision made by a judge or jury. However, as we know, so many cases settle before a decision is made in the court that ADR methods just make sense.
Using an ADR method may be more affordable, lead to a quicker resolution, and allow parties the flexibility to get something that they both want out of the case. In addition, the added benefit of confidentiality is sometimes the main reason a party may choose a certain ADR method.
How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?
Civility is so important in our line of work. In particular, our organization deals with people who are usually in their worst moments (foreclosure, custody disputes, etc.). Treating them with respect and listening to their concerns makes all the difference.
Many of our program participants are pro se, so we’re usually the first person who listens to them and allows them to vent their frustrations. It’s important for me and my staff to treat each person with civility and professionalism, even when we do not receive the same treatment in return. Generally, we have seen that most people will eventually act more courteous once they know they’re being listened to and, more importantly, being heard.
What do you do for fun?
I love to spend time with my husband, daughter, and our two cats. My husband and I enjoy traveling. I love yoga and am a certified yoga teacher. In addition, I love to volunteer and have a strong place in my heart for children suffering from abuse and neglect. This passion has led me to my current role as the treasurer of Illinois CASA’s board of directors.
Missy Greathouse is the executive director of the Dispute Resolution Institute, Inc. She holds a J.D. from Southern Illinois University School of Law.