Brigitte Bell

Brigitte Schmidt Bell, P.C.

161 North Clark Street
Suite 1600
Chicago, Illinois 60601


Alimony, Child Custody, Child Support Modification, Collaborative Divorce, Co-Parenting, Divorce, Divorce Modification and Enforcement, Elder, Family, LGBT, Pet Mediation, PreNuptials

Areas of Focus

-          Legal Separation
-          Prenuptial Agreements
-          Paternity / Parentage
-          Post Decree Issues
-          Elder Law and Elder Mediation
-          Adoption
-          Professional Outreach

Brigitte Schmidt Bell, P.C. is one of the only “fully Collaborative” law firms in the Chicago area, and was founded by Brigitte Bell, a nationally recognized pioneer in both Collaborative Law and mediation.  Brigitte is annually included in the Best Lawyers of America in Collaborative Family Law.

While we specialize in family law and divorce, we also have expertise in elder law, adoption, and prenuptial and postnuptial agreements.

In traditional litigation, clients spend considerable time and money opposing each other in a combative atmosphere, ultimately giving control over the outcome to a judge. Our Collaborative approach is, instead a client-centered process that replaces combat with cooperation and judicial decisions with client self-determination.

In every case, we practice law with this focus, and we find that our clients are far more satisfied – during and at the end of the process – than those who face each other as enemies in the courthouse and afterward.

Our Collaborative and mediation practice addresses disputes that include:

-          Highly complex cases with complicated financial holdings
-          Special or unique parenting challenges
-          Complicated relationships
-          Civil union cases
-          Traditional divorce

Where needed, we work with a variety of experts including psychologists, coaches, child specialists, and financial experts and planners who are also trained Collaboratively to assist and support our clients in a team approach to problem-solving.

Brigitte Bell, one of the founders and first Co-Presidents of the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois (CLII), has been a mediator and lawyer for over 30 years, focusing her interests and efforts in family law. She has been elected as one of the Best Lawyers in America as a Collaborative Family Lawyer.

Brigitte has been actively involved in the conflict resolution field since 1985, teaching conflict resolution at Loyola Law School, DePaul’s School for New Learning, and the Chicago Centers for Family Health, and serving as a Board member, volunteer mediator, and trainer at the Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR). She speaks nationally and locally about mediation and family law issues (parenting, financial, and policy/process issues). She has served as the Chair of the Excellence and Best Practices Committee for CLII, on the Strategic Planning Committee, and Chair of the Past Presidents’ Advisory Board. Brigitte currently provides mediation skills training for collaborative professionals through Loyola Law School.

Collaborative Law

Collaborative Divorce (also called Collaborative Law or Collaborative Process) involves two attorneys and other professionals, as needed, who are specially trained in the Collaborative Process.


-          Discussions of your personal matters take place in a private setting, rather than in the courtroom
-          Clients work at their own pace to best accommodate their particular circumstances
-          Professionals from finance, child wellness, and mental health are available to advise
-          In cases where expert analysis is required, a single, collaboratively-trained expert is selected
-          Because you drive the process, you have more control over the costs, which typically run about one-third less


Mediation is a process in which a specially trained facilitator helps parties identify and discuss issues and develop mutually workable solutions to problems, conflicts, and specific legal situations such as:

-          Divorce
-          Post-decree disputes
-          Parenting, parentage
-          Elder issues

As a neutral facilitator, the mediator does not give legal advice and does not represent either party, but rather helps both parties identify the issues and work to resolve them.


-          The process is confidential and the privacy of negotiations is protected by Illinois law
-          The parties and the mediator meet face-to-face with one another, and avoid the costs
           and complications of communicating through attorneys
-          A safe exchange of words and ideas is a requirement for effective mediation and the mediator works 
           with you individually to help design and implement safeguards
-          Parties determine the issues they want to address and those they don’t, although in divorce mediation, our mediators, who are also family
           attorneys, provide guidance about what the court requires you address
-          Parties agree to disclose all relevant information and documentation voluntarily, avoiding unnecessary time and expense of discovery


University of Chicago, School of Law
Juris Doctor

Swarthmore College
Bachelor of Arts


Institute for Powerful Non-Defensive Communication
Trainer Training – Sharon Ellison

American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers
The Big Picture – Advanced Family Law

Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Taking the War Our of Our Words

Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Uncovering the Mysteries of Coaching – Peggy Thompson

Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Interdisciplinary Training

Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Interdisciplinary Training – The Atlanta Group

Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Interdisciplinary Training – Chip Rose

Center for Conflict Resolution
Advanced Mediation Training

Center for Conflict Resolution
Mediation Training

Center for Conflict Resolution / Neighborhood Justice
Basic Mediation Training

Professional Experience

Brigitte Schmidt Bell, P.C. (1993 – present)
Owner, Attorney, Mediator, Collaborative Fellow

2002 – 2006
Illinois State Board of Education

National Arbitration Forum

Evanston Ecumenical Action Council (now Evanston Interfaith Council)

School for New Learning
Mediator – issue of defining characteristics for new dean

American Bar Association
Family Law; Dispute Resolution

Chicago Bar Association
Family Law Committee

Circuit Court of Cook County
Guardian Ad Litem 1990-present

Illinois State Bar Association
Committee on Training for Child Representatives 2000-01

Legal Assistance Foundation Children’s Rights Project
Advisory Board 1985-90; Chair 1985-86

Academy of Family Mediators
Practitioner; Member; Consultant

Association of Family and Conciliation Courts

American Arbitration Association’s Panel of Arbitrators & Mediators

Society of Professionals in Dispute Resolution (now Association for Conflict Resolution)
Associate Member

NJC Eviction Court Pilot Project

NJC Internal Matters Peer Review
Chair 1998

Center for Conflict Resolution
Board of Directors 1987-2010, Volunteer Mediator 1985-present

Conflict Management, Inc.: Harvard Negotiation Project

Mediation Council of Illinois
MemberBoard of Directors 1994-present; Vice President 1996-99

Center for Conflict Resolution
Elder Mediation Training – Zena Zumeta

Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Advanced Collaborative Practice – Paula Tessler

Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Interdisciplinary Team Practice

Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Advanced Team Building

Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Conflict Resolution Training – PNDC, Sharon Ellison

Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Advanced Collaborative Practice

Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Advanced Collaborative Practice

Institute for Family Law Professionals
Taking the War Out Of Our Words

Illinois State Board of Education
Advanced Mediation and Dispute Resolution Technique – Kenneth Cloke

Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Advanced Interdisciplinary Training

Dynamics of Family Violence
Center for Conflict Resolution

Conflict Resolution Training

1990 – 1993
Pretzel & Stouffer, Chartered
Family Law Officer

1987 – 1990
McDermott, Will & Emery
Associate Attorney

1985 – 1987
Jenner & Block
Associate Attorney – litigation

1982 – 1985
Butler, Rubin, Newcomer, Saltarelli, & Boyd
Associate Attorney – litigation

1979 – 1982
Jenner & Block
Associate Attorney – litigation, winning 7th Circuit Criminal Appeal

1978 – 1979
U. S. District Court for the Northern District
Clerk, Honorable George N. Leighton

1978 – 1978
Winston & Strawn
Law Clerk – litigation

Professional Memberships

Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois

Founding Member – Co-President 2001-02,Board of Directors 2001-2008,Excellence and Best Practices Committee Chair 2005-10,Fellow 2002-present

Bar of the Northern District
Admitted member

United States Tax Court
Admitted member 1982

Illinois State Bar Association
Dispute Resolution Council 2001-03

Women’s Bar Association

Cook County Voluntary Court Facilitation Program


2010, 2009
Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Co-trainer with Margaret Powers – “Giving and Receiving Feedback”

2009, 2008
Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois
Presenter – “Collaborative Team Building”; “Helping Families Divorce with Respect”

Chicago Bar Association
Presenter – “Helping Families Divorce with Respect, Confidentiality and Focus”

2008, 1996
Illinois State Bar Association
Presenter – “New and Emerging Alternative Dispute Resolution”; “Preparing your Case and Client for Mediation”

2006, 2005, 2004, 2003
Chicago Center for Family Health
Trainer – “Advanced Mediation Internship”

2003, 2002, 2002, 2001
Association for Conflict Resolution
Presenter – “Ghosts at the Table: New Significant Others”;“Self-Revelation: Link or Noose”; “Live Mediation Demonstration”;“Prayerful Mediation”

2001, 1999, 1998, 1997
National Business Institute
Presenter – “Child Custody Issues”; “Family Law in Illinois”;“Child Custody and Visitation”; “Equitable Distribution in Divorce”

Association of Family, Court, and Community Professionals
Presenter – “Judicial Dispute Resolution: Is it Mediation?”1998, 1997, 1996, 1996, 1995, 1994

Academy of Family Mediators
Presenter – “Getting Past Impasse”; “Time and Timing in Mediation”;“Mediating Financial Issues in Divorce”; “Mediating with Low Income Families”;“Tough Attorneys, Rough Cases”; “Neutrality and Best Interests of Children”;“Working with Attorneys in Mediation”; “Ethics of Suggestions”

1998, 1996, 1994, 1993
Wisconsin Association of Mediators
Presenter – “Time and Timing in Mediation”; “Changing Perspectives: Reframing”;“Intake: Setting the Stage”; “Case Assessment for Family Mediation”; “Ethics of Making Suggestions in Mediation”

Academy of Legal Studies in Business
Presenter – Workshop: “Teaching Alternative Dispute Resolution”

Evanston Office:

500 Davis Street, Suite 1006,
Evanston, IL 60201

Phone: 847-733-0933 / Fax: 847-733-0952
Email: [email protected]

Chicago Office:

161 North Clark Street, Suite 1600,
Chicago, IL 60601

Phone: 312-360-1124 / Fax: 847-733-0952