Mission: Collaboration

Nolan Byers PC gives Birmingham couples the opportunity to divorce respectfully in a non-adversarial, collaborative process.

By Lauren Lockhart


There’s something remarkable about Frances Ross Nolan and Leigh Reynolds Byers. They aren’t your run-of-the-mill lawyers; this duo of powerful women share a spirit that cannot be contained and a compassion for their clients that cannot be compared. After working together for just over a year at a law firm, the two joined forces in 2013 to establish Nolan Byers PC, Birmingham’s comprehensive family law firm.

“We have similar ideals and what we wanted our practice to look like,” explains Byers.

Nolan agrees: “We are different in ways that are very complementary. We can argue an issue, and rather than creating friction between us, it creates more trust and respect.”

The trust between Nolan and Byers is evident the first time you meet them, and it translates in their work with clients. The firm handles a range of family law issues, including custody, child support, adoption, divorce, and separation. What sets this firm apart from all other Birmingham firms, however, is its skilled practice in Collaborative Divorce.

More than just a term to describe a more cooperative method for divorce, Collaborative Divorce is a specialized legal process in which participants agree from the onset that they will work toward a shared goal of resolution. Not only are Nolan and Byers trained in this process, but Frances Nolan was key proponent in bringing Collaborative Divorce to Alabama.

“It’s not here by accident,” says Nolan.” We worked hard to bring training to our state so that professionals could learn about Collaborative Divorce. There have been about 20 Collaborative Divorce cases in Alabama, and I’ve been involved in about 12 of them.”

Adds Byers, “It’s now in Alabama thanks to a grassroots effort by several individuals, like Frances, here in Birmingham and around the state.”

So how does the collaborative process differ from traditional divorce proceedings?

“In collaboration, the goal is not to look back, but to look forward,” says Nolan. “To not play the blame game, but to recognize the relationship is over and that there is a future for your family; it’s just going to be different than it is now.”

In a collaborative setting, the two parties each receive assistance from their respective collaboratively-trained lawyers, a mental health professional, and a financial professional; this interdisciplinary team of support is one of the hallmarks of the collaborative process, along with contractual commitment made by the parties and the professionals not to litigate. The parties must understand going into the Collaborative process that if negotiation is unsuccessful, they will each have to retain new counsel to litigate their dispute.

“We consider ourselves sophisticated problem solvers,” says Byers. “We shepherd people through a very stressful and difficult time in their lives.”

Nolan adds, “That ought to be how lawyers see themselves: as shepherds and problem solvers instead of only as gladiators and warriors.”

The aggressive “gladiator” style of lawyering is one that Nolan and Byers believe has its place, but whenever appropriate, they work to bring a more respectful, forward-looking approach to divorce proceedings with the goal of reducing conflict.

“As a collaborative lawyer, your job is to understand that there are at least two sides to every story,” explains Nolan. “I’m not trying to buy your side of the story or discount the other person’s side of the story. I’m trying to see how the stories fit together into one whole picture—understanding that picture will help you understand your conflict and will hopefully provide insight into how to resolve it.”

Divorce is never easy, but with a desire for resolution positioned as the end goal from the onset, the taxing process of divorce becomes much more manageable, both in the short term and long term. Nolan and Byers don’t simply want to win a case for their client; they genuinely want to resolve conflict and counsel their clients towards better working relationships, particularly when the parties will continue to be connected post-divorce. Above all else, the mission of Nolan Byers PC is to handle each case individually and personally.

Says Byers, “We offer every alternative that is available to our clients to resolve their dispute. We tailor the approach to each client and his or her unique goals and interests.”

“We try to understand what our clients’ fears and concerns are,” adds Nolan. “And we help them understand their options and how each may impact those goals and needs. That’s really what our firm stands for.”


This story is sponsored by Nolan Byers PC. To learn more about Frances Ross Nolan, Leigh Reynolds Byers, and their law firm, visit their website.

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