Melanie Atha - Advocating for Peace (Part 1)

You’ve likely heard someone say that “the only people who ‘win’ in litigation are the attorneys.” While the right to go to court will always remain an important part of our civil justice system, if you’ve been involved in litigation yourself you may understand why “winning” doesn’t always provide a clear victory, for anyone involved. There’s no question litigation will continue to dictate the outcome for many difficult to resolve matters, but it’s important to know about the potential for other less adversarial ways of resolving disputes as well - especially when there’s more than just money at stake. In a collaborative approach to resolving disputes, the lawyers for each side sign an agreement promising they won’t represent the parties if the matter goes to court. The parties also pledge to pursue an open process with their lawyers (and sometimes other professionals acting as neutral experts) with the mutual desire to reach a resolution that brings true closure to the issues they are facing together. In this episode we’ll discuss how this process works, and why it often leads to transformational experiences for everyone involved.

In part one of this two-part series on peacemaking that we recorded on MLK day of 2019, Melanie Atha, Executive Director of the Global Collaborative Law Council, joined us for an interview about “Collaborative Law,” a revolutionary dispute resolution movement that has the potential to help many people resolve disputes peacefully, and in ways that salvage their relationships. In part-two we’ll discuss peacemaking in general with Melanie, and how yet another non-profit she represents has worked tirelessly to promote the cause of peace since 1939 (stay tuned!).

In this first episode of the two-part podcast, we discussed:

  • The importance of protecting the dignity of the parties to any dispute

  • How non-legal neutral professionals, such as mental health and finance experts, can help to shed light on difficult situations for everyone involved

  • Why parties who both see the need to preserve a relationship are perhaps the best candidates for the collaborative approach to resolution

  • Why the clients themselves are responsible for driving this movement towards a more peaceful approach to dispute resolution

  • The ways that this collaborative approach can lead to transformational moments, not just for the clients, but for the lawyers who participate in the process as well

Every situation is unique, and some matters will always require litigation, but hopefully this episode sheds light on one more possibility. Talk to your own attorney about the options available in your state (this podcast is of course not to be taken as legal advice).

I hope you enjoy this episode on the purpose in the process of collaborative resolution!


Episodes are also available on Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Podcasts!

Melanie Atha received her J.D. from Vanderbilt University and her B.A., magna cum laude, in Political Science from Birmingham-Southern College.  Since 2011, she has been practicing Collaborative Law. She is the Past President and Current Executive Director of the Board of Directors of the Global Collaborative Law Council, ( which is an international collaborative practice group dedicated to expanding the use of Collaborative Law to areas of the law other than domestic relations.  She also recently served as Co-Chairman of the American Bar Association Section of Dispute Resolution’s Collaborative Law Committee.  She is Immediate Past President of Birmingham Collaborative Alliance (BCA), Alabama’s first and only Collaborative Law Practice Group (, of which she is a founding member.  She is a member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP), (, the international consortium of lawyers, financial professionals and mental health professionals who are committed to helping clients resolve family disputes outside of traditional legal forums.

Melanie, Steven, and their new home away from home “Miranda”

Melanie, Steven, and their new home away from home “Miranda”


She founded the Birmingham Bar Association Collaborative Law Committee in 2016, and served as its inaugural chairman.  She has extensive training in Interdisciplinary Collaborative Practice.  She served on the Alabama Law Institute’s Committee on Collaborative Law and the Collaborative Law Rules Committee, and was part of the group which vetted the Uniform Collaborative Law Act (“UCLA”), enacted by Alabama’s legislature in May, 2013.  (The UCLA went into effect on January 1, 2014.)  A veteran trial lawyer, Melanie was elected by her peers as a Charter Fellow in The Litigation Counsel of America, a national trial lawyer honorary society.  She was recognized by Super Lawyers as one of the top 25 women lawyers in Alabama for 2013, and is regularly listed in The Best Lawyers in America.  She often writes about and lectures on Collaborative Law.

Melanie is recently retired from the private practice of law after 30 years to assume the Executive Directorship of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. (  In her positions as ED of EPF and GCLC, she has recently started a tour of the country with her husband, Steven, in their Unity Leisure Travel Van (“Miranda”), stopping in cities and towns along the way to talk about peacemaking and collaborating in churches, bar associations, and civic groups.   Austin is their second stop.

You can follow Melanie and Steven on their year-long journey for peace at at, on Facebook (Episcopal Peace Fellowship), soon also on Twitter (@episcopalpeace) and Instagram. Also at, on Facebook (Global Collaborative Law Council), Twitter (@law_collab), LinkedIn (Global Collaborative Law Council) and soon Instagram. Finally, be sure to check-out Steven’s photographic record of their trip at and on Instagram (missingpersonsrv) (a personal website for the Melanie and Steven – they will be blogging and Steven will be posting beautiful photographs!).

Stay tuned for the second part of this two-part episode!