CHAMPAIGN — Bianca Green worked as an attorney for 16 years, representing clients in civil litigation.
But the stress of those cases and the awful circumstances they sometimes involved led her to seek a career "more in line with the life I wanted to lead," she said.
In 2010, Green established her own firm, Illinois Mediation Services. There she works with clients who want to resolve disputes without going to court.
Green, the winner of this year's Athena Award, said the career switch worked well for her, and she offers this advice to others who find themselves in similar situations:
"If what you're doing is not in line with what you want to be doing, don't be scared — make a change."
Green will be presented the Athena Award — given for professional accomplishment, community service and developing leadership potential in women — at a luncheon at the Champaign Country Club on Thursday (Feb. 21).
The award is sponsored by the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce and Spherion Staffing Services, which underwrites the program.
Green, 44, of Champaign, grew up in St. Joseph. She said she got her work ethic from her mother, Roxanne Luesse, who worked as an administrative assistant in materials science at the University of Illinois.
But Mom wasn't the only influence. Green said she learned from Randy Wolken, her softball coach at St. Joseph-Ogden High School, "what it means to be part of a team."
And from Bill Brinkmann, Dave Bailie and Rich Harden at the Thomas, Mamer & Haughey law firm in Champaign, she learned how to sharpen her skills as a trial attorney.
"It was exceptionally difficult to leave (Thomas, Mamer & Haughey) when I decided to shift gears," she said.
Green didn't set out to be an attorney when she entered college. She majored in the marketing of textiles and apparel, but an international marketing class led her to consider lobbying as a career.
She entered Southern Illinois University's College of Law with the thought of becoming a lobbyist but became a trial lawyer instead.
Now, as a mediator, Green said more than half her business involves divorce and family mediation. Other clients seek resolution of business disputes.
And still others hire her to facilitate "difficult" meetings — such as a meeting of neighbors upset over property upkeep or a meeting of seed-corn field representatives getting used to new systems adopted by the home office.
In working with couples considering divorce, Green encourages them to spell out goals for the children. Then, as a parenting plan and a plan for dividing up marital assets and debts are developed, they check to make sure the plans support those goals.
Christine Bruce, who nominated Green for the Athena Award, said Green's ability to facilitate negotiations is "becoming legendary."
"She's an amazing negotiator," said Bruce, the executive director of Premiere Global Sports' College Division.
Plus, Green has given so much time to organizations, such as Krannert Art Museum, Crisis Nursery and the United Way.
She recently joined the board of Cunningham Children's Home in Urbana. And before that, she completed a three-year term on the board of CASA — the Court Appointed Special Advocates program.
Green recently became a mentor to an Edison Middle School student through the C-U One-to-One Mentoring Program.
She's active professionally too, having served on the Champaign County Bar Association's board of governors and now serving as a member of the state bar association's Alternative Dispute Resolution Section Council.
Plus, as an adjunct professor at the UI College of Law, she works with the college's American Bar Association Negotiation Team.
Green said it's a matter of "doing what you can when you can." But she adds her new line of work makes that easier.
"As a trial attorney, you have little control over your schedule," she explained.
All that involvement comes in addition to being the wife of Champaign attorney Jim Green and the mother of two daughters, 12-year-old Stella and 10-year-old Maris — both students at Next Generation School.
Bruce said anytime Green is asked to help out, put on an event or donate time, "she is immediately there getting it all coordinated."
"There is no question, with Bianca, you know it will get done and (get) done right."
Editor's note: This story originally erred in the sport in which Randy Wolken coached Green.