Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high-quality outsourced accounting at an affordable price. Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked. Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.
We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.
Protea Conversations in 2023 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.
In November 2023 we spend time with Jeanne Browne, a Collaborative Practice Family Law Attorney.
Jeanne M. Browne is a family law attorney with a private practice in Santa Rosa for over 30 years, and is a graduate of Empire Law School. She previously served as Co-President of the Collaborative Council of the Redwood Empire (CCRE) and served on the Family Law Committee for the Sonoma County Bar Association. She remains a board member of Sonoma County Legal Services Foundation, assisting low-income clients with various legal issues. She was honored at Empire College’s 50th Anniversary Jubilee Celebration in 2011, and was part of the training team for the Court-Involved Therapists Training (CIT) Program for local mental health professionals. Jeanne serves as a Settlement Conference Panelist for the Sonoma County Superior Court, helping attorneys and clients resolve their matters before trial. She has experience as court-appointed minor’s counsel for high conflict divorce matters, using that valuable experience for her mediation and collaborative cases.
Jeanne has been married for over 40 years. She and her husband have raised two daughters together, so she is quite familiar with family dynamics and teamwork. As a published author, she contributed to a chapter in the book “Happy and Secure in Sonoma County” where she addresses the challenges faced by separating couples, offering tips to help navigate through them. Her goal is to come alongside her clients with compassion and encouragement, helping them to create hope for their future.
Tell us a little more about your decision to move your career toward mediation and collaborative practices and how you came to the decision to start your own practice, Law Office of Jeanne M. Browne?
I started my own family law practice over 30 years ago working on a contract basis with other Sonoma County attorneys. I expanded my practice to mediation after about 10 years into my practice, realizing that my personality was less in line with the “win/lose” mindset that court hearings required. Especially in custody disputes, the “winning or losing” part is hard to determine. No parent gets everything they ask for all the time, it’s just a judge dividing the parenting time and responsibilities between the separated parents. The family law judges always made us attorneys go out into the hall at the courthouse to figure out a schedule and talk with the parties about compromises. Learning better communication and negotiation skills improved my ability to be successful at court. The judges loved it when the parents reached an agreement because the parents always knew the children better than they did, especially when the oral arguments were limited to 10 minutes per side.
I loved seeing parties come to an agreement, as they had the satisfaction on their own negotiated result, instead of a judge forcing them into a particular outcome. Collaborative practice is an extension of the mediation work in that is allows two clients to commit to an out of court process, and their attorneys are also committed to working on mutually acceptable solutions without a judge being involved. The Collaborative model requires special training by the professionals involved. It also offers clients additional team members such as mental health coaches or financial neutrals as needed that are contractually committed to a no-court resolution for the couple.
What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?
One of my biggest challenges while starting my practice is that I was a young mom of two children. My husband and I would create unique schedules to work around his job and mine, calling on friends and family to be sure the our girls were cared for and transported when I had a court appearance at the same time he had an important sales meeting. Another challenge was figure out what legal software platforms were affordable and yet dependable. I had many years as a legal secretary and then a paralegal before becoming an attorney, so I see that as an advantage because most law school graduates don’t have any training on how to actually prepare a legal pleading for filing with the court.
What are your short-term goals of your career and yourself?
I’m currently focusing on building my law practice, training a new attorney, and creating a plan for my future retirement. Recently upon the advice of a business attorney, my firm became a Professional Corporation, and I hired additional staff to assist me. Another goal I have been tossing around is to create a book addressing conflict resolution for separating couples, with legal insights around resolution of various types of property, or support concerns. But the book must be fun to read, so I really want to include some client stories (with permission of course).
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?
Leadership speaker and writer John Maxwell’s advice rings true in my world: “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” I really do care about people, and the futures of my clients. I enjoy asking them how they want their relationship with their children or their “ex” to be five years from now. This conversation helps them redirect their focus and often reveals their longing for healing.
Also helpful to me has been perfecting the “listening conversation” model and bringing curiosity and empathy into conversations. I enjoy meeting new people and certainly learn something interesting from each and every one. I’ve also discovered that something as simple as a sincere and true apology can go a long way to helping parties let go of the grudges they carry, settle their case, and heal their hearts.
What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?
That I could have applied for a business loan or grant as a women-owned business. I would have put less on my credit cards when I was first establishing my office.
What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?
Join a group of professionals who know much more than you do such as ProVisors, or even start with sitting on a Board of Directors to learn more about how organizations collaborate, brainstorm, and get things done. Take some leadership courses that include team dynamics, explore the areas that you have a passion for helping, and when you make a commitment, keep it and don’t flake out. Your reputation is built day by day and meeting by meeting, so put your best self in the room you are in, and demonstrate that you are trustworthy.
Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space?
I’m the baby of the family, with a brother six years older and a sister 12 years older than me, yet I was the first in our family to go to college. Neither of my parents had a college education, yet my dad was a butcher and later store manager, and my mom was a hard-working, delightful administrative support person. I ended up being named the executor for my parents estate as they knew neither of my siblings would want that job! Thankfully, we all got along enough to resolve property issues, stay friends, and grieve together in a healthy way.
Our childhood days were filled with many camping trips. When I was in my early teens my dad got a ski boat and I loved waterskiing! Currently I would much rather just rent a jet ski on vacation than to ever own a boat. My husband Bill and I have been married 41 years and our girls are now in their mid-30’s and surprisingly they still like to occasionally hang out with us, which I consider a blessing.
As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will donate to Canine Companions (https://canine.org/). Canine Companions is leading the service dog industry so their clients and their dogs can live with greater independence. They provide service dogs to adults, children and veterans with disabilities and facility dogs to professionals working in healthcare, criminal justice and educational settings. Since our founding in 1975, our dogs and all follow-up services are provided at no cost to our clients.
Independence shouldn’t be limited to those who look or live a certain way. Disability reaches all races, classes and backgrounds, and Canine Companions will too. Clients come to Canine Companions because of our reputation, the quality of our dogs, the experience of our training staff and the desire to lead life with greater independence. We are committed to providing services to all qualified clients.
Reach out to The Protea Family for questions, guidance, or just help with the financials of your business. Our experts are here to help!