I feel very honoured to use my professional skills and experience to assist people with their family transitions.
I say that “This is your first divorce, its my 900th” first for a bit of levity, but more to underscore that I’ve seen and helped others through 99.5% of what you are going through. I’m not going to tell you its going to be easy or quick or cheap but I want you to feel that I’ve got you. I’m paid to worry about your stuff. You can relax a bit.
However 99.5% is not 100%. Every client and every relationship is utterly unique. How that couple came together and how they are coming apart will also be utterly unique. The infinite wonder of human behaviour constantly produces new situations that bring new challenges and keep me growing and learning. This keeps things interesting!
My experience has me keenly aware of the various unpleasant emotional states (fear, despair, anger, sadness, etc.) that a separation or divorce can visit upon you. Even the most resilient or stoic individuals are not immune. I believe I can practice family law well because I can and do maintain the RIGHT distance between me and my client’s situation. It has to be close enough so I can understand them and they feel supported. I want my clients to feel that I am “in this with them”. However if I identify too closely, I can get caught up in it and experience emotional imbalance as if it was my own divorce. Being in perpetual conflict-mode and experiencing second-hand trauma would harm my mental and physical health. A much larger problem arises from being caught up: I lose the critical objectivity needed to help my client make good long-term decisions.
I grew up and was educated initially in Ottawa graduating from Woodroffe High School in 1984. I did my undergrad degree in Economics at Queen’s in 1988, followed by two years working off the debt that came with that B.A.. I gained admission to law school and graduated from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law (Cum Laude) in 1993. Called to the Bar of Ontario in 1995, I opened my practice in Ottawa on July 1st of that year. Initially mine was a general practice whereby I learned hands-on about a number of areas of law that are often overlapping with Family Law situations – corporate, real estate, estates, litigation, even criminal. I built a strong clientele by providing high quality legal work and supportive personal service. Four years later, in 1999, I partnered with more senior counsel I met when articling at Perley-Robertson and built a small local firm called Dickie & Arnold, LLP, which over the next four years grew to four lawyers, coming to a very amicable end in late 2003. I then partnered with three others to launch and build Mann & Partners, LLP, which is still flourishing as the now rebranded to MannLawyers LLP with 30+ counsel. In 2008 I amicably sought to establish an independent firm where I had greater flexibility to express my vision for the delivery of family law services: supportive caring delivery of excellent legal services to separating and divorcing spouses.
My entire practice is now concentrated on family law, Collaborative Divorce and Family Mediation. I provide all the services needed by separating or divorcing couples for the resolution of all of their family law issues: parenting (custody/access), child support, spousal support, or property division. I’m equally at home in the realms of either matrimonial rights, or those rights available to cohabiting spouses, and I regularly negotiate and draft cohabitation agreements (“prenups”) and marriage contracts.
I am happy helping clients in whatever negotiation mode arises between them and their spouse – as it is their choice not mine. However I don’t hide that I do have a bias towards working in Collaborative Divorce. I am passionate about and have been heavily involved in the Collaborative movement since 2001, being one of the founders of both The Collaborative Law Network of Eastern Ontario (now Collaborative Divorce Ottawa) and the Ontario Collaborative Law Federation a group which at that time organized and represented more than 600 Collaborative professionals (now named the Ontario Association of Collaborative Professionals). I served as President of each organization for a few years. As well I am an Adjunct Professor at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law teaching a course I built in collaborative family law to upper-year law students. I have also guest lectured and provided negotiation workshops at the UofO Faculty of Law, the Annual Institute of Family Law, and appeared as a legal commentator and panellist for various local television and radio programs. I’ve also presented and taught for the Law Society of Upper Canada at the Bar Admission Course and various CLE programmes, and also at Algonquin College. I am an active member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, and the County of Carleton Law Association.
Outside of serving my clients, you will mostly find me devoted to caring for my family and trying to take care of my mind and body through various activities. Learned the hard way in 2019 that doing a Spartan race should not be placed in the category of “taking care of” either mind or body.
Other than four years at Queen’s and one at UNB, I’ve always called Ottawa home and I really enjoy in its myriad delights – culinary historical architectural musical and otherwise.
I love cycling and skiing and travel and music and whatever it is that the Ottawa Senators do (some say its “hockey”). My passion for cycling has leaked over into an annual addiction to the Tour de France, and can state I have not tested positive for any banned substances other than caffeine.
I am extremely serious about the quality of the work I provide in service of my clients, but I don’t take myself too seriously and I work devilishly hard to walk and talk a path of humility. I try to stay out of “I am a lawyer” headspace, I think it’s a bit toxic, harms my ability to be authentic, and alienates other people. I try to keep my ego out of the driver seat of my life, but instead try to just be a human being who employs the great deal of education, training and experience working in and with the law to client ends.