By Sharon Pastore
As co-founder and director of marketing and client experience for Main Line Family Law Center, I have the unique and wonderful job of nurturing potential clients toward peaceful resolution of their divorce through private mediation and divorce without court. I also have the pleasure of meeting with former clients to learn from them about their experience and how we can improve.
Yet, when people ask me, how’s business?, this simple conversation starter causes me to look down and fumble for the appropriate response. Part of me wants to blurt, “Great! Phones are ringing, the website has over 20,000 visits per month, clients are signing on left and right, and the divorce business has never been better!” For some reason, that seems weird.
My partner, an attorney-mediator, shares the same awkwardness. His knee-jerk response is, “Unfortunately, good. There’s no shortage of divorces out there, hehe...” With a hint of comforting sarcasm, it seems to put everyone at ease in that moment, and we quickly move on. But it also doesn’t tell the whole truth - that we love helping (ready and willing) people get divorced, and we’re good at it.
As divorce professionals, we tend to downplay our enthusiasm for our work. We acknowledge that divorce is depressing, which also furthers the belief that all these divorces must mean that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and that we’re facilitating it all.
I beg to differ.
Our reviews and testimonials show that we are doing extremely important work, especially if a client is willing to post a public review on Facebook or Google.
What I wasn't totally comfortable with was whether we were making a difference over the long haul. From reviewing 5+ years of numbers we knew that 96% of our clients successfully completed mediation, we had yet to learn what the longer-term impacts of our model might be.
I was hankering for more serious data.
Now that we finally had a post-divorce cohort, we hired a consultant to contact all clients who were divorced at least 1-2 years, with a basic goal to find out whether clients went on with their lives in a positive way and whether mediation played a role in that.
First and foremost, all 26 clients interviewed expressed extreme gratitude upon hearing from us.
Of those who participated, we found the overwhelming majority of our families report they are doing just fine, validating the efforts and sheer devotion our team puts into the craft of divorce mediation, and that we are indeed attracting the ideal client.
While the sample size was not statistically significant, we can report a few strong indicators from our study:
My Healthy DivorceⓇ Mediation Program, 1-2 Years Post-Divorce
A Holistic, Comprehensive Divorce Model Developed by Main Line Family Law Center
What's Working? Of 26 former clients interviewed by phone:
5 Major Takeaways: Main Line Family Law Center Client Follow-Up Study
Areas to Focus:
While we found results that demonstrated long-term impact, we found room for improvement, which included:
Helping Clients Recognize Divorce as an Empowering Process - While 16 of 26 said they felt empowered in the process, 8 were unsure as to whether they were empowered. As a result, our team is now focusing on ensuring clients make the connection between education and empowerment, especially when it pertains to financial literacy and the dependent spouse.
Helping Clients Resolve Issues Post-Divorce - When issues arose, only 13 of 26 worked out the issue on their own. And so, while many used their negotiation skills to resolve differences, many who needed help did not think to contact our office. We now plan to offer a ‘service maintenance plan’ so we are top of mind if things get complicated, as well as follow up online courses on how to resolve issues that arise.
In summary, if we want our clients to continue to grow through divorce and beyond, then we must continue to fine-tune our model so all motivated couples can benefit. (Besides, who likes having to give a refund!)
That’s why we are a proud founder and partner of Make Divorce Healthier Symposium, a one-of-a-kind event that brings remarkable professionals, best practices, and real stories and results like ths together. It’s an all-around energy boost for this difficult, yet rewarding work. As my teammate always says, “...to be part of the solution, and not the problem.” (And what marketer wouldn't put in a shameless plug for an event they are involved with)
Suffice to say that I’m no longer uneasy when I’m asked about how business is doing. I reply with unfettered confidence, “We are helping a lot of grateful people through one of the toughest times in their lives, and our families are emerging healthy on the other side.”
Main Line Family Law Center is the platinum sponsor of the 2018 Make Divorce Healthier Symposium. Consider being an MDH sponsor or program advertiser. More info
Sharon Pastore is passionate about the power of entrepreneurship to create social change. Prior to co-founding Main Line Family Law Center with her husband in 2011, she spent 17 years in the nonprofit and education world and is an AmeriCorps alum. Drawing upon her experience, Sharon uses mission-based marketing and program development to generate awareness, understanding and trust around divorce mediation as a healthier option for separation and divorce well before a client's first consultation. She founded the Make Divorce Healthier Forum in 2016. She lives in Havertown, PA with her husband and two daughters. Connect with Sharon on LinkedIn.