Michael Leshin is a highly experienced family law attorney and mediator, with over 40 years of experience in the field. Born and raised in New York, Michael’s big passion was acting. This passion led him to Brandeis University, where he hoped to learn his craft. After graduating with a BA in Theater Arts, he tried to make a career as an actor, before quickly realizing that while he was passionate about acting, he didn’t want to spend his time struggling to find work. This led him to enroll in law school and becoming a member of the bar in 1982; after which he clerked for two years before landing a job in a law firm. It was here that Michael connected with two of the partners at the firm, and discovered his passion for family law through their expert guidance and mentorship. He describes this experience as “one of the gratitudes of my life.”
Michael became interested in mediation as something that could complement his practice as a lawyer, explaining how “it really resonated for me as a process.” Speaking of his role as a lawyer and mediator, and his duty toward his clients, Michael references a law review article by Carrie Menkel-Meadow which describes lawyers as transformation agents of reality. He sees his responsibility to create a reality that empowers his clients to make informed decisions about their lives, and to discover what it is that they really want. It’s inspiring to see the passion with which Michael speaks of his work.
A career “recalibration”
Michael joined MBBI after deciding to “recalibrate my career”, transforming his law and mediation practice from a partner at a firm he founded to Of Counsel at a firm started by two of his former associates. This way, Michael explains, “I can do the work that I really enjoy, and do it at a reduced pace.” With his new-found freedom, Michael has been able to explore and follow his interests, which has led him to join MBBI and also the International Association of Facilitators, where he participates in a mentorship program with a senior facilitator. Another, “trading places” for Michael who has mentored young lawyers and mediators during his career. He describes mentoring as being a truly rewarding experience – not only because he gets to witness his mentee grow and flourish, but also because “I become a better mediator, a better lawyer, a better person – all because I’ve had that communication with someone else who’s interested and passionate” about the field.
In addition to joining MBBI and becoming a facilitation mentee, Michael has been able to devote more time to his passion for acting, and has started auditioning again. This time, however, it’s less about trying to eke out a living, and more about “the process, trying to develop skills and just doing the best I can.” He describes the process of auditioning as one which takes a lot of resilience, but it seems as though Michael relishes the challenge.
From the courtroom to the silver screen?
Speaking of the skills he is continuing to develop, Michael notes a confluence between the skills and qualities required of him as an actor, and the work he does as a lawyer and mediator. In particular, he notes a lesson he learned from his first acting teacher: namely, a lesson in understanding one’s objective. “In a script,” he tells me, “there’s no line that’s gratuitous.” The actor’s role is to convey the writer’s intention through every line. From this, Michael learned that whatever communication people have, whether it is on stage or in a mediation, it’s important to ask himself: “what’s my objective here? And what is their objective?” This is why in mediation it is so important to “read the subtitles of what clients are saying.”
Michael’s advice to anyone who is just getting started is simple, yet profound; a lesson learned from his wife’s self-made, immigrant grandfather. He tells me “it’s about being present,” about “giving voice to your own passion and intellectual curiosity.” It’s clear how Michael embodies this advice in his own life – his passion for his work and his interests really shines through. And, as someone who is always on the lookout for opportunities where he can put his extensive knowledge, skills, and expertise to good use, Michael hopes that, in time, he can become more involved with the work of MBBI. And I have a feeling that, before long, we might also be seeing Michael on the big screen!
Article by Natalie Dewar, MBBI Writer