The Story of Gateway to Collaboration

Gateway to Collaboration is a Collaborative Practice group formed in 2013 by four independent professionals: Patricia Wozniak Henk, Esquire (Patti), Loretta A. Gephart, M.A. (Lori), Paula Hopkins, Esquire, (Paula) and Susan DiGirolamo, Esquire (Susan).  Each of the three attorney members is a sole practitioner whose legal practice is focused on resolving disputes without going to court.  Lori, a licensed psychologist, has dedicated her practice to acting as a coach in the Collaborative Divorce Process.

The Collaborative Process was founded by Stu Webb.  Stu practiced family law for many years and believed that there had to be a better alternative to a litigated divorce. Together with other professionals including Pauline Tesler, another attorney, and Peggy Thompson, a mental health professional, Stu helped to develop the Collaborative Divorce Process we use today.  Stu, Pauline and Peggy became leaders in the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP), which maintains standards for collaborative professionals.  The IACP has more than 5,000 members worldwide.

0074 P HopkinsIn 2005, Paula became the first attorney in Pittsburgh to be trained in the Collaborative Process.  Shortly thereafter, she introduced the process to Pittsburgh through a series of informal educational opportunities. In December 2006, the first meeting of The Collaborative Law Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania (CLASP) was held.  Paula served as a founding member and the first President of CLASP.  She now represents clients exclusively in the Collaborative Divorce Process.

Lori was the first mental health professional in Pittsburgh to embrace the role of the neutral coach in the C011d0a9bfdcc891acf689e985a6420627bd116e774ollaborative Divorce Process.  Soon after receiving her initial collaborative training in 2009, she became a member of the IACP and subsequently joined CLASP. She is the current president of CLASP. As a collaborative practitioner and trainer, Lori educates other professionals about the role of the neutral coach in the Collaborative Divorce Process.

Patti_large[1]Before becoming a member of Gateway to Collaboration, Patti was a shareholder in two large Pittsburgh law firms practicing in the areas of civil litigation, family law and employment law.  After taking the basic training in the Collaborative Process in January 2007, she became a founding member of CLASP.  She immediately received mediation training and sought out advanced training.  With such a commitment to the Collaborative Process, Patti began to shift her family law practice to a concentration in both the Collaborative Divorce Process and mediation.

ACBA photo Susan DiGirolamoSusan was also collaboratively trained in 2007 and was a founding member of CLASP.  She served as President of CLASP in 2011 and 2012. While maintaining her commitment to the larger practice group, Susan came to believe that a smaller group dedicated primarily to the collaborative process would enhance the collaborative skills needed to better serve clients. She envisioned that a smaller group might be able to educate the public and increase the awareness of the Collaborative Divorce Process. Susan began to share with colleagues her vision of creating a small practice group.

Susan met with Paula, and soon thereafter with Patti and Lori, to discuss how they could enhance their common commitment to the Collaborative Divorce Process.  The four agreed to share office space and to form Gateway to Collaboration, a nonprofit corporation, with a mission to educate the public about the Collaborative Divorce Process.

As part of their commitment to education, Lori, Paula, Susan and Patti are all qualified Collaborative Practice Trainers, meeting the standards of the IACP, which include having participated in a sufficient number of collaborative cases and taking advanced training.  Along with other trainers in the area, they have offered basic and interdisciplinary collaborative training for three years.

Patti, Paula, Lori and Susan look forward to sharing their experiences and working with all of their collaborative colleagues in continuing to develop the Collaborative Divorce Process and to make it more accessible to anyone seeking to resolve conflict in an open, respectful manner.