Support Information for Applying for MCLE Credits for:
Powerful Non-Defensive Communication Training Progams

With Sharon Strand Ellison

Training Overview
Application Addendum
Biographical Information Related to the Field of Law
Training Programs Authorized for MCLE Credit
Comments by Attorneys & Law Professors

Training Overview

During Sharon Strand Ellison’s keynotes, workshops and training programs for attorneys, participants will get an overview of how we have used the “Rule of War” as the basis for how we talk to each other, in both professional and personal relationships. For attorneys, this is a key issue since adversarial relationships have historically been built into our legal system. This traditional paradigm for communication makes facilitating conflict resolution exceedingly difficult for attorney mediators and family law attorneys. It can also be counterproductive even for attorneys whose practice focuses on litigation.

Sharon has developed a new paradigm for communication, called Powerful Non-Defensive Communication. In this workshop Sharon will demonstrate how to shift the intention, tone, and content for various types of communication. Using the skills learned, attorneys can diffuse defensive reactions in interactions with both clients and other attorneys in a way that actually strenghten their ability to serve their clients needs. Participants will learn how to:

1. Ask questions of clients, opposing council and witness that can diffuse defenses so you can get at the heart of an issue quickly

2. Give clear feedback to clients using a process that makes them more likely to listen to your advice instead of resisting it

3. Present your position with clarity and strength, while avoiding the pitfalls of creating unproductive power struggles

4. Set clear boundaries that prompt (1) clients to take greater accountability and make wiser choices, and (2) other attorneys to respect you skills

Using a “field work” approach, for over 30 years, Sharon has been dedicated to observing, understanding, and delineating the dynamics of defensiveness and the impact it has on human interaction. Her study has been particularly focused how our use of language can either prompt or diffuse defensive response, which impacts the success attorneys can have in litigations, arbitrations, mediations, or any kind of negotiation. While Sharon is currently working to test the results of her theory and practice in more traditional studies and/or clinical environments, she has already accrued overwhelmingly affirming responses through narrative reports of remarkable results from attorneys who have used her methodology, even in volatile, adversarial situations.

Application Addendum:

Background information relevant to the applicability of this course for Attorneys:

The following quotations from an article by Dr. Brent Atkinson provide foundational information in the interest of clarifying the impact of the non-defensive communication paradigm I have developed and its value for ADR and collaborative family law attorneys, as well as litigators.

As science is demonstrating, when any person gets defensive, the impact is physiological as well as cognitive/emotional.

“Joseph LeDoux, a neuroscientist at the Center for Neural Science at New York University, discovered a pathway that acts as a supersonic express route to the brain’s emotional centers. This neural back alley, which appears to be reserved for emotional emergencies, bypasses the neocortex entirely, routing information from the thalamus directly to the amygdala, a tiny, almond-shaped structure in the limbic system that has recently been identified as the brain’s emotional alarm center. . . which in turn [can] trigger a cascade of physiological responses—from a speeded-up heart rate to jacked-up blood pressure to mobilized muscles to the release of the ‘fight or fight’ hormones, adrenaline and noradrenaline."

In the training programs I offer for attorneys, I demonstrate how traditional methods of communication, such as commonly used by attorneys, can prompt the alarm system in a client or another attorney, causing the person to shut down and become resistant and unable to effectively evaluate options. I then provide communication techniques that have the power to prompt the people to drop her/his defenses instantly. Combining changes in tone, body language and technique in the Powerful Non-Defensive Communication process can enable one person to respond to another in a way that can eliminate the adrenaline flooding so the person can to revert almost instantly to a constructive thinking mode. Such skills can be invaluable for attorneys.

I have provided extensive training for attorneys and my book, Taking the War Out of Our Words, is being used, increasingly in law schools in the US and Canada. See additional files for more information.

Networker, July/August 1999, "The Emotional Imperative Psychotherapists Cannot Afford to Ignore, by Brent Atkinson, Ph.D., p. 26 Director of the Family Therapy Program at Northern Illinois University

Biographical Information Related to the Field of Law:

Sharon Strand Ellison is an international consultant and pioneer in the field of eliminating defensiveness. She is an award winning speaker and the author of Taking the War Out of Our Words: The Art of Powerful Non-Defensive Communication. Sharon was a nominee for the Leadership in a Changing World Award, sponsored by the Ford Foundation.

She has provided extensive training for attorneys, including collaborative and family law groups. For example, she has been a keynote speaker for the Los Angeles Superior Court, (combined chambers and clerks office); the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, and the California State Bar, Family Law Section, ADR Standing Committee, Annual Conference, Pepperdine University Law School.

Sharon has also given speeches and provided training programs for the United States Department of Justice; Napa Superior Court; US Bankruptcy Court; the National Bankruptcy Training Institute, Columbia, SC; Central District of California; Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC); Lane County District Attorney’s Office, Eugene, OR; International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (in family law); Center for Families Children & the Courts, Judicial Council of California. Sharon has made presentations for numerous bar associations, such as the Marin County Bar Association, the Alameda County Bar Association, the Pasadena Bar Association and the Washington Bar Association. An increasing number of law school professors are also using Sharon’s book and CDs in their classes.

In addition to her work with attorneys in the US, Sharon has provided training for attorneys internationally. For examples, she has been a keynote speaker for The Association of Law Societies of Canada, a national, bi-annual conference for judges and attorneys and a keynote speaker for and the Centre for Dispute Resolution, an association of attorneys, for their 10th annual conference, in London, England.

Training Programs Authorized for MCLE Credit:

Below is a partial list of organizations that have been authorized to give MCLE credits for training Sharon Strand Ellison has provided for attorneys on the topic of Powerful Non-Defensive Communication™

Conferences and Association Meetings:

United States:

American Bar Association, International ADR Conference, Washington DC

International Academy of Collaborative Professionals international Conferences held in the US: Sonoma CA; San Diego, CA; New Orleans, LA; Minneapolis, MN; Washington DC

California State Bar, Family Law Section, ADR Standing Committee, Annual Conference, Pepperdine University Law School.

Collaborative Family Law Professionals, California Statewide Conferences: Pasadena, CA; Oakland, CA; San Francisco, CA; San Diego, CA

Collaborative Family Law Professionals, Statewide Conference, Washington

Alameda County Bar Association, ADR Section

The Association of Family and Conciliation Courts, Statewide Conference, Sonoma, CA

Bartholomew & Wasznicky LLP, Annual Symposium, Sacramento, CA

Center for Families, Children and the Courts, Family Dispute Resolution Statewide Educational Institute, San Jose, CA

Connecticut Council for Divorce Mediation, Annual Regional Conference, Quinnipiac Law School, CT


Canadian Bar Association, Women's Forum, National Conference, Toronto, Ontario

Federation of Law Societies, Bi-Annual Conference, Deerhurst, Ontario, Canada, for family law judges and lawyers

International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, Nationwide Collaborative Family Law Conference Toronto, Ontario

Regional Collaborative Family Law Conference, Ottowa, Ontario

Collaborative Family Law Groups, Including:

United States:

Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota; Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois; Central Valley Collaborative Law Affiliates, Fresno, CA; Collaborative Family Law Professionals of Marin, CA; Collaborative Dispute Resolution Professionals, Maryland; Collaborative Divorce Professionals of the Redwood Empire, Sonoma, CA; Collaborative Divorce Solutions of Orange County, CA; Collaborative Practice of East Bay, CA; Collaborative Practice, Silicon Valley, CA; Collaborative Practice Institute of Michigan; Collaborative Law Institute of Minnesota; Collaborative Law Association of the Rochester area, NY; CNY Collaborative Law Professionals, New York, NY; Collaborative Professionals of Central Pennsylvania; Collaborative Law Dallas, TX


Association of Collaborative Family Professionals, Edmonton, Alberta; Collaborative Divorce Vancouver, BC; Collaborative Practice Manitoba, Winipeg, MB; Collaborative Lawyers of Saskatchewan; Peel/Halton Collaborative Practice, Ontario; Quebec Collaborative Law Group, Montreal


Centre for Dispute Resolution: London; Taunton, Somerset

Comments by Attorneys & Law Professors:

Powerful, Non-Defensive Communication can significantly improve how we, as lawyers, practice law. Law schools historically have not taught communication skills. Likewise, there has been little in the way of high quality continuing legal education on the subject of communication.

Only a very small percentage of cases make it to the courtroom. In my experience, most of the lawyer's time is spent in verbal interactions - with clients, opposing counsel, witnesses, etc., in person, on the phone, in settlement negotiations, depositions and interviews. This communication, regardless of the setting, tends to be adversarial and defensive, which I have found is often counterproductive to achieving an early, acceptable resolution to the client's legal matters. This causes many people to lose faith in our justice system, and foster criticism.

There is a better way of doing it, one which can assist the lawyer in representing clients better. With skill in communicating non-defensively, I believe that lawyers would be in a unique position to model appropriate conflict resolution skills to clients and others with whom we come into contact with in our work. I believe that Sharon's workshop can provide lawyers, judges, mediators, and arbitrators with a highly effective approach to communicating with power, dignity and integrity in our professional and personal lives.

Laura Parrish, attorney, Past President of the Lane County Bar Association, Eugene, OR

After seeing you in action and learning more about the non-defensive communication process you teach, I believe it is the most powerful and effective communication technique I have seen. I wonder what would have happened if you had been at . . . the Middle East peace talks. 

Maureen A. Tighe, Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice

I think that your model and hypothetical examples were most helpful in understanding these new concepts for communication. You presented your material clearly and beautifully. The way you demonstrated how to better communicate before the group was masterful. Your love of the material and patience in working through conceptual glitches was much appreciated. I find the application to the field of law intriguing.

Carson Bowler, Attorney, Portland, OR

I’m absolutely stunned by the power of the non-defensive process Sharon teaches. What amazes me is not just the incredible success, but also the speed and directness. The potential to actually have a constructive and respectful conversation over an issue that could easily push anyone’s buttons is amazing.

—Arlene Kostant, Attorney and Mediator, San Francisco, CA; Negotiation Instructor, UC San Francisco, Hastings Law School &  UC Berkeley Boalt Law School

The Powerful Non-Defensive Communication process has been invaluable to me in my work as an attorney and mediator. I allows me both to utilize and to model non-defensive communication methods with parties who are in the midst of conflict or are unable to communicate effectively. The formats for non-defensive questions have been particularly helpful, as they allow me to move beyond a party's position to find the true interests that lie behind it, without creating defensiveness. In turn, this helps the parties to feel that they have been thoroughly heard, creating more potential for the resolution of conflict. Sharon Ellison's book, and her technique, should be studied by attorneys and mediators everywhere.

Emily Doskow, attorney and mediator, Panelist for the U.S. District Court Alternative Dispute Resolution Panel

My professional life has changed dramatically since the day I discovered Sharon Ellison's theory of Powerful Non-defensive Communication. Non-defensive communication skills have enhanced my effectiveness as a lawyer, mediator, and as a law professor who teaches counseling and negotiation to law students. Although I prided myself on being a problem-solver and collaborator, with both my clients and counterpart lawyers, I found myself shifting into defensive modes more than I liked, especially when I felt most strongly. I struggled to understand how and why I was undermining myself, and what to do about it. When I met Sharon, heard her lay out her theory, and watched her demonstrate her approach, I was amazed at how many answers clicked for me. The theory and the practice of PNDC gave me a clarity, control, and a new mindset that had eluded me in the past.

—Carolyn Kass, Associate Professor; Director of the Legal Clinic; Co-Director, Center for Dispute Resolution; and Director of the Family and Juvenile Law Concentration; Quinnipiac University,

I consider you a treasure, as does each and every legal professional I have spoken with regarding your work and the manner in which you present it.  In the highly complex and emotional area of family law in which we work, relearning the manner in which we deal with one another is nothing short of extraordinary.  I formerly thought of myself as a professional who had good self-awareness and excellent non-defensive communication skills.  After reading your book, listening to your tapes and attending several workshops that you have offered, I am now acutely aware of how much better my communication can be in my professional and personal life.  My clients have commented on the manner in which I deal with difficult situations and difficult communications.

—Suzan Barrie Aiken, Attorney, Mediator, Mill Valley

I first encountered Sharon and her teachings in 2006 and I can still remember the silence of the audience being pierced by little astounded gasps as the profundity of what she was talking about became evident.  It was in many ways, for myself and what I believe to be the overwhelming majority of the audience, a "eureka!" or "a-ha!" moment wherein one comes to realize that one has been unconsciously acting in the world in a way that is so counter-productive and unnecessarily harmful - and more importantly - that within grasp is an awareness and a set of techniques whereby one can act in the world in a way congruent and harmonious with our highest intentioned selves, as attorneys and as human beings.  

From that introduction to Sharon and her work, I have had a hunger for more exposure and familiarity with her material (her books and CDs) and participated in a full-day workshop with her at the Toronto Forum in 2007. I continue to marvel at the simplicity and beauty of her words, . . . and I continue to strive to take it all, literally, to heart."

—Chris Arnold, Collaborative Lawyer and Mediator, Past-President, Ontario Collaborative Law Federation, Adjunct Professor, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law

I have experienced Sharon Ellison’s PNDC presentations both in a brief workshop at a national conference and at a full-day seminar she presented to our group in Chicago a few months later.  Her presentations were riveting, powerful, and effective.  Her voice, her manner, her inclusiveness and her approach helped each participant to understand the importance and the effect of PNDC on personal communication experiences as well as professional ones. I try to utilize Sharon’s methods whenever possible and have found it has made a profound difference in how I approach problem conversations professionally and personally. As an adjunct professor teaching a law school seminar on Alternative Dispute Resolution, I require my students to first read and then discuss “Taking the War out of our Words,” so that they will be receptive to the paradigm shift necessary to fully understand ADR.  Sharon Ellison has my utmost respect and admiration.  I would unhesitatingly recommend any program she offers to any group who may have the privilege of attending it.

—Sandra M. Rosenbloom, Attorney at Law, Northfield, IL

The Institute for Powerful Non-Defensive Communication • Contact Us
Powerful Non-Defensive Communication is a trademarked name. © 1994-2017 Sharon Strand Ellison

Back to Top

Go to Main Meeting Planner Page

Quick Links:

Newsletter Sign-Up

Books, CD's & Downloads

Calendar of Events

Training Options

Stories, Tips & More

Hear CD Excerpts

Video - YouTube

Read Articles

Hear Interviews

Contact Sharon to Schedule An Event


CEU Applications:



School Psychologists






Calendar Site Map Contact Us