New WLAM president enjoys her many roles

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By Jo Mathis

Legal News

Like so many other employed mothers, Elizabeth Kitchen-Troop was emotionally torn when she returned to work fulltime after giving birth to her son two years ago.

But then a fellow member of the Washtenaw region of WLAM (Women Lawyers Association of Michigan) said something that made her feel better about her decision.

During a panel discussion at the WLAM Washtenaw Solo/Small Firm Panel Event, attorney Sheila Johnson told the attendees that they shouldn't compare themselves to other mothers.

"But if you must, compare yourself to other mothers that are like you," Kitchen-Troop recalled her saying. "That is, other mothers that are working full-time in the practice of law. That sentiment really helped to shift my perspective in a very positive way."

Kitchen-Troop says she's honored to be the new president of the Washtenaw Region of WLAM because of all the ways the organization has helped her. The group offers perspective, inspiration and friendship, she said, as well as examples of the kind of attorney she wants to be in the years ahead.

"I have had the opportunity to meet so many phenomenal practitioners, many of whom have acted as mentors to me throughout my career thus far," said Kitchen-Troop, 33, a family law attorney with Kline Legal Group in Ann Arbor. "There is such a value from getting to know your colleagues on a personal level--I believe it encourages professionalism and civility in the practice."

WLAM members help each other with everything from practice tips in the local courtrooms to growing or changing the nature of your practice, to dealing with the never-ending juggle of the work/life balance, she noted.

"I think Washtenaw County attorneys, in general, are a unique and collegial group of individuals who are generally supportive of one another and have a vested interest in moving the practice of law forward in positive direction," Kitchen-Troop said. "My personal experience is that Washtenaw County Women Lawyers are particularly supportive of one another ... Through Women Lawyers, I formed a lot of really great relationships with other working moms and new moms dealing with many of the same concerns I was experiencing. Having that wonderful support network available to me really facilitated my ability to navigate through that difficult time and it continues to be a great resource for me."

Kitchen-Troop grew up on a horse farm outside of Chelsea, the daughter of Leonard Kitchen, a lawyer in Dexter for more than 35 years, and Emily Kitchen, homemaker and manager of Renaissance Morgan Farm.

After earning a degree in psychology from the University of Michigan in 2000, she debated whether to continue on for a doctorate degree in psychology or enter law school.

Though she didn't want to follow in anyone's footsteps, she couldn't deny her love for the law, and entered law school at the University of Toledo in 2001.

After graduating in 2004, Kitchen-Troop worked with her father in Dexter, handling everything from probate matters, to divorce, to general civil and criminal matters. When her father was faced with health concerns, she soon began working with him to wind-down his busy practice. Starting in 2005, she opened her own firm while continuing to support her father as he wrapped-up his practice and entered retirement.

While assisting her father with a district court landlord/tenant case in the spring of 2006, she met attorney John Kline who happened to be opposing counsel. They quickly discovered that they worked well together and upon conclusion of the case, Kline asked her to join his practice, Kline Legal Group, where she's been for six years now.

Kitchen-Troop's primary focus and passion is family law, but she handles driver's license restoration matters, construction lien matters, auto negligence cases and other general civil cases as well.

Her favorite part of the job?

"Bringing calm and confidence to clients going through a very difficult process by assisting them in making smart decisions for themselves and their family," said Kitchen-Troop.

And the hardest?

"Divorce and custody cases tend to bring out very raw, complex emotions from clients," she said. "This emotional turmoil can often result in a desire for 24-hour attorney access from clients, which is made worse by the immediacy of emails and text messages. I have found the most challenging part of my job to be setting boundaries with clients and attempting to strike a work/life balance."

She joined WLAM shortly after starting practice in part because of what her father taught her about the importance of knowing colleagues on a personal level, and giving back to the community. She became more involved in the organization thanks mostly to judicial attorney Teresa Killeen, who reached out and encouraged her involvement in WLAM.

"In the coming year, I look forward to continuing the many traditional events we have come to know and love with our organization in addition to maintaining and expanding the events started in the 2011-2012 year, such as the Stress Relief Event and the Solo/Small Firm Panel Event," she said. "I will also continue to assess how our organization can continue to provide value to its members while looking to further develop our network and outreach into sectors currently not as well represented in our organization, such as public sector attorneys."

She and her husband, Doug, a social worker who focuses on adult mental health, live in Howell with their 2-year-old son, Alex, who serves as her "daily reality check and source of laughter." They also have a giant tortoiseshell cat named Olive and a pug named Edgar Allen Pug. Her busy practice,

She said her busy practice and numerous board committees, which include the Washtenaw County Bar Association and Family Council for the State Bar of Michigan, leave little time for hobbies.

Unless, of course, potty training could be considered a hobby.

Published: Thu, Jun 21, 2012

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