Seattle Divorce Services is thrilled to welcome attorney Michelle Danley to our group! Michelle’s career in California and Washington has been built around a passion for helping families and kids in difficult situations. She has worked in foster care and family law issues, and has a background in both mediation and collaborative divorce.
Michelle’s early life was in southern California, with some time spent in the Midwest as well. Being raised by a single parent dad was in those days viewed with suspicion by some, which helped her learn to look past appearances to see the deeper reality. Various exposures to the legal system also seeded an early interest in someday becoming a lawyer.
While in college at Berkeley, Michelle had a chance to spend a year abroad in Madrid, Spain. This was a tremendous opportunity, helping to open her eyes to the larger world through travel and working with other people. In college she also became involved in peer counseling, which again fueled an interest in the counseling work that lawyers do.
After graduating from Berkeley, Michelle headed to law school at NYU. The experience in Spain had helped create an interest in experiencing other places, and she knew New York would be very different from California. New York indeed proved to be a great cultural experience. In the end, the cold winters and lack of outdoor environment she was used to had her longing for the west coast again. For her last year of law school she took the opportunity to return to Berkeley as a visiting law student, joining her new husband who was also studying law there.
Michelle’s internship experiences during law school, including at a nonprofit working with kids as well as one summer spent doing housing law, spurred her interests in making client connections and helping real people, not just feeling like a cog in a machine.
After graduation, Michelle continued to pursue those interests, working for a while in Legal Aid in Honolulu as well as becoming a Guardian Ad Litem for foster children. Moving back to the Bay Area, she opened a practice in foster care representation. Over time that morphed into doing more and more appellate work related to foster care issues.
Lessons Michelle learned during this time included the importance of helping clients understand the issues and system they were dealing with, both to lessen their fears of the unknown and empowering them to make decisions affecting their lives. She became more aware of the sometimes subtle differences between the law and pragmatic reality, and in her appellate work had the satisfaction of helping to nudge the law in the right direction.
Several years ago Michelle and her husband made the decision to move to the Seattle area. It felt like a less crowded area and like a place that would be good to raise their kids. At the same time, Michelle pursued training in Collaborative Divorce, a process she had learned about through friends in the Bay Area, and which she believed better enabled families to put kids first.
The pace of life up here has allowed Michelle to focus on her family, while the close by mountains have allowed them to pursue a love of hiking. On the other hand, the home time during Covid has also allowed greater opportunity for another interest, baking (always a good addition to any office).
Michelle’s core values – being up front and honest in her dealings with both clients and other legal professionals, respect for others, and empowering her clients – as well as her experience in mediation and collaboration, are reasons why we are glad she agreed to join Seattle Divorce Services, and why we believe she is a good fit at our firm.