Thanks so much to Shoutout SoCal for interviewing me about my business, Little Falls Mediation, and my career as a lawyer and mediator. I am looking forward to working remotely from southern California in a couple of weeks!
Hi Ellice (Lisa), is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
One factor is kindness. The other two factors are rapid response and competence. When a potential client first contacts me, he or she is typically under great stress because there is some kind of dispute that needs to be discussed. It could be that the client needs to get divorced or is a business partner having issues with the other business partner.
I always get back to people right away, even if it’s just to say that I received the text or the email or the voicemail and I will be back in touch soon.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started off as a lawyer, working in the executive branch at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and then in the U.S. Senate for Senator Ted Stevens from Alaska. Then I became a lobbyist and Washington counsel for the American Medical Association. After I had 3 kids, I trained in 2010 to be certified in the state of Virginia as a general and family mediator. I was a mediator in D.C. Courts for many years handling court referred cases in the Small Claims Division, as well as the Family and Judge in Chambers Programs as well. I started my business in 2015 and began to teach Alternative Dispute Resolution each Fall and Mediation each Spring at George Mason University’s (GMU) Antonin Scalia Law School.
When I needed help, I reached out for it. I never took a finance class in college or law school so I knew I needed a bookkeeper and accountant. My husband is a software architect and he showed me how to build a website. I joined several entrepreneur groups — Arlington Women Entrepreneurs, Mothers of N. Arlington Business Entrepreneur Network, and Women Who Mean Business. These groups are so much fun. We are all there for each other to collaborate and support each other, share our stories, have some laughs, and learn from each other.
At first, I would agree to meet with clients when I was training to be a mediator whenever the opportunity arose. If a client wanted to meet at 8 pm 45 minutes away from my home, I would do it. Later on, when I established my own business, I liked having control over my schedule. I don’t see clients at night because I know that I get the best results when clients are high energy, well rested, and not hungry. I also know that I am at my mediator best during the day and not at night.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live in the D.C. area so there are always lots of fun places to take people. It depends on time of year. For years we belonged to a boat club so in the summer time, I would always reserve a motor boat either from the Wharf in DC or in Annapolis, Maryland and we would spend a beautiful sunny, blue sky day on the water with a picnic. I would definitely choose an itinerary tailored to a specific visitor. Most visitors love a boat ride. In the fall, I would take visitors to Shenandoah National Park (SNP), which is just 90 minutes from our home in northern Virginia. There are lots of orchards and vineyards along the way, so a beautiful waterfall hike in SNP would likely end with a little apple picking and charcuterie, as well as wine tasting on the way home. I would arrange for a tour of the Supreme Court, House, Senate, and Capitol. We would visit the National Mall/Park Service and see the beautiful Washington Monument, WWII memorial, and Lincoln Memorial, along with the Roosevelt (FDR) Memorial. If there was a great play or musical at the National Theater or Kennedy Center, I would take them there. And there is often a great outdoor concert at Nats Park or Wolftrap Center/National Park for the Performing Arts. There are many concert venues around the DC area as well, so I likely would find some great music somewhere. In the winter, we would likely watch a Buffalo Sabres/Washington Capitals game in DC at Capital One Arena and go ice skating in the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art. Last, we would walk around interesting neighborhoods such as Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, Shaw, Georgetown and visit farmers’ markets and holiday markets along the way. In the springtime, we would get up early to see the cherry blossoms around the Tidal Basin and go up to Eastern Market, a historic outdoor market open year round.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My husband, for insisting that I should start my own business. My friend C. Lee Cawley, who is a business owner herself. She was the first person I called when I was thinking about starting my business.
The group Arlington Women Entrepreneurs, founded by Karen Beauregard Bate, which expanded to become Awesome Women Entrepreneurs.
And all the other women entrepreneurs I have met along the way who have mentored me.
Tim Coburn Photography
Ellice Halpern, J.D., is a Virginia Supreme Court certified general and family mediator.