The Lawyer’s Shadow Side

Make friends with your shadow

I’m reading the most fascinating book Lawyer, Know Thyself by Professor Susan Daicoff, a law professor who previously trained and worked as a psychotherapist. She lectures at the Phoenix School of Law on contracts, professional responsibility, leadership for lawyers, and comprehensive law practice (law as a healing profession) and is one of the pioneers leading the Integrative Law Movement. Note that Daicoff’s work tends to refer to the Comprehensive Law Movement rather than the Integrative Law Movement – but at the time of writing Lawyer, Know Thyself  (2004) the term “Integrative Law” wasn’t as prevalent as it is now in 2013. You can learn more about Daicoff through her website. 

Does this description of individuals who choose to enter law school resonate with you?

“Individuals who choose to enter law school appear to have various distinguishing characteristics as children and college students. They are highly focused on academics, have greater needs for dominance, leadership, and attention, and prefer initiating activity.41 They may have experienced a greater emphasis on scholastic achievement, reading, self-discipline, and the channeling of impulses into expression in their families.42 Their fathers were likely dominant and strong.43 They may have had good social skills but a low interest in emotions or others’ feelings.”

These early childhood characteristics of those drawn to law is very concordant with my own upbringing, as was the piece below. To help put the section in context: Alfred Adler, a noted psychologist, placed a great deal of emphasis on the early recollections and early childhood experiences of individuals in explaining their vocational choices – his work inspired the studies Daicoff includes in her research.

“A 1960 study by Barbara Nachmann determined that family background experiences of law students differed significantly from those of dentists and social workers.48 Nachmann found that authoritarian male dominance, self-discipline, school achievement, and reading were emphasized in law students’ early childhood, while emotions and concern for others’ feelings were de-emphasized.49 Comparing graduate social work students to dental and law students, Nachmann found that throughout the childhood of the law students, the father was a strong, dominant, adequate, authoritarian, and clearly masculine figure.50 The dental students were closer to their fathers than were the law students.51 Law students more frequently reported that their families promoted self-discipline, rather than submission to authority.52 Parental emphasis on school achievement and pleasurable early school experiences were more frequently reported by law students.53 Reading was more often emphasized and pleasantly remembered by the law students.54 Channeling impulses into activity (“do”) was more emphasized in law and social work students’ families; dental students’ families more often emphasized impulse repression (“don’t”).55 Finally, concern for emotional suffering and for the feelings of others was less emphasized in law and dental students’ families than in social work students’ families.56

I found this so eye-opening because it aligns so closely with my own family of origin!

  1. Strong emphasis on action – “doing” has always been prioritized over “being”.
  2. Huge emphasis on reading – a house filled with books, delivered by the truckload still. Anyone who doesn’t read is regarded as suspicious (seriously)
  3. A very powerful father.
  4. Not much time for focusing on emotions – a good night’s sleep was supposed to cure any affliction or else one should “just get on with it”.
  5. The idea of self-discipline rather than submission to authority is also very prevalent in my family (and has resulted in me and my siblings being largely unemployable – we’re currently all self-employed!).

I’d love to know what other lawyers have to say about this – and I yearn for funding to be able to initiate studies like this in South Africa.

Another piece of Daicoff’s book which is really giving me cause for thought is the facade that law students tend to have. Right now I’m working with the most brilliant leadership book and course ever – The New Leadership Paradigm (TNLP), by Richard Barrett  – in order to offer this course to lawyers. I keep being drawn, in all the research I do and my own personal development work, to the notion of our shadow side. This is the side we necessarily have – everything casts a shadow, but it is the unseen part. The Johari window exercise is one of the most common tools for helping people become aware of their shadow side and attention drawn to their blind spots. (note there’s some distinction between the Johari window and the Jobari and the Nohari window but I don’t want to digress into the detail – the point is that these windows draw one’s attention to the things we don’t know about ourselves. )

“The Johari window is a technique created by Joseph Luft and Harrington Ingham in 1955[1] in the United States, used to help people better understand their relationship with self and others. It is used primarily in self-help groups and corporate settings as a heuristic exercise. When performing the exercise, subjects are given a list of 56 adjectives and pick five or six that they feel describe their own personality. Peers of the subject are then given the same list, and each pick five or six adjectives that describe the subject. These adjectives are then mapped onto a grid.[2]

Take a quick look at the Johari window.

 johari-window

One’s blind spot or “not known to self” would contain all the words/ attributes that the “assessors”  have selected from the list as things that describe you – BUT they don’t appear on your own list! While this may seem remarkably simplistic a tool, it can be profoundly insightful.  In many leadership studies it emerges that what a person sees as their strengths are actually perceived as their weaknesses. I.e someone things they are very “rational” – those they manage see them as “cold”. Or someone perceives themselves as a “strong” leader but others view this as “domineering”. Truly understanding the “flipside” of strengths and weaknesses is a vital part of self-knowledge for leaders. It takes work to become acquainted with your shadow – and much more work to befriend it. (This bit should explain the photograph chosen for this post – me and a walking companion making friends with our shadows on the 800km  walk  – the pilgrimmage “El Camino”.)

Daicoff writes about a study done in 1976 by Reich, which found that “law students’ external attributes appeared to be greatly at odds with their internal feelings”. The study shows that law students  “tend to be seen as aggressive, persuasive, having leadership potential and initiative, as being socially ascendant and self-seeking, quick, spontaneous, as having an expressive, ebullient nature, as intelligent, outspoken, sharp-witted, and possessing self-confidence . . . . [They would have] great interest in and enthusiasm for social role-playing, and for competitive, sharp-witted and self-seeking social relations. It is the picture of a group which projects itself or attempts to project itself, as socially successful, as possessing a high degree of social polish, and at least the appearance of great self-confidence, poise, and leadership.203

But the interesting thing is that the students in Reich’s study also scored significantly low on a “Sense of Well Being” scale. This led Reich to the following conclusions, which I’ll try to paraphrase a bit and quote a bit:

  1. the study seems to give ” some evidence of a flaw in the social armor of the law students; it may be an indication that on an inner level, on the level of self-doubt, the law student does not see himself as a polished, aggressive, successful, and dominant person.”
  2. “on an intrapersonal and inner level, law students are insecure, defensive, distant, and lacking in maturity and socialization.”210
  3.  Law students . . . wear a social mask and attempt to make a strong and definite impression on others; they act and react in great measure on the basis of the social role which they have adopted and which they feel is expected of them by society. While they publicly project strength, activity, and enthusiasm, their private personality is one of awkwardness, defensiveness, and nervousness. 
  4. It is highly possible that as a reaction formation to their inner feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty they have adopted a social posture which is dominant, clear-cut, and ascendant.211

Daicoff points out that “This analysis is entirely consistent with Alfred Adler’s concept that individuals choose careers in order to overcome feelings of inferiority or experiences of discomfort.212 Reich contends that law school is not likely to change these conflicting attributes of law students and, further, that a legal career actually exacerbates and perpetuates this conflict between the outer persona and inner feelings.213 Reich’s study suggests that there are pre-existing personality conflicts in law students which may be contributing to the current low levels of lawyer satisfaction and low public opinion of attorneys”.

My conclusions after reading all of this are as follows:

WIDE SPREAD leadership training is required across the legal profession

I am discovering the evidence and research necessary to support my assertion that wide-spread leadership training is required across the legal profession. (In SA I feel like a voice in the wilderness, but I am aware that in many parts of the world there is already great awareness of this and leadership training is given and being developed all the time.) Leadership training must include work on the lawyer’s shadow self, drawing the lawyer’s attention to their own inner world, which these studies have shown, are not a default part of the lawyer’s awareness. To re-iterate, learning about one’s shadow self is important for developing leadership ability in every individual but is ESPECIALLY important for lawyers who tend not to want to go there naturally, as a result of the families they tend to have grown up in, their personality profiles and of course, the effects of law school.

The Integrative Law Movement to be viewed systemically

Proponents and advocates of the Integrative Law Movement must realise that the Movement is to be viewed systemically and that change will occur in all 4 quadrants of the Ken Wilber model:

Wilbers 4 quadrants

    1. INTERNAL (individual): The inner work that lawyers must do.   Authenticity is remaining true to who one is at a soul level. Even a basic level of personal mastery requires that one becomes aware of one’s thoughts, feelings and emotions as well as one’s values, beliefs and motivations.
    2. EXTERNAL (individual): with greater awareness of one’s interior world, the way that lawyers behave in the world, and interact with their clients and their colleagues, will change
    3. INTERNAL (COLLECTIVE): the culture of the legal profession will begin to shift with the increased levels of authenticity – the values of lawyers will become an area of focus in law schools and when law firms recruit they will look at the lawyers’ values, not only their cognitive ability.
    4. EXTERNAL (COLLECTIVE): the legal profession will develop and grow new models for resolving conflict and preserving harmony in society. This means current models of practice such as Collaborative Law, Problem-solving courts, Preventive Law, Conscious Contracts, Restorative Justice and Transformative Mediation will increase and become viable alternatives to the adversarial and court-based models, not viewed any more as “fringe developments”.

AWARENESS OF THE LAWYER’S FACADE IS REQUIRED

The crisis of leadership we see in the profession is due in large part, in my humble opinion, to the strengthening of the facade that those drawn to law have, throughout law school and one’s apprenticeship at either the bench (law firm) or Bar (becoming an advocate). They are environments in which developing a strong facade is actually necessary for survival and to climb the hierarchical ladder. Therefore if one didn’t arrive at law school with a strong facade, I’m saying you’d sure as hell develop one between first year and being admitted as an attorney or advocate. (Personal story: for various reasons I was in intensive therapy during my period of completing articles – the therapeutic work was all about figuring out who I really was at a core level, who I was beyond the facade. I found it impossible to succeed at the therapeutic work – this process of integration that I knew was critical for my psychological health, while working in a large law firm. When my 2 years were up, I took the Oath, was admitted and ran for the hills to teach students from townships in a forest far away! I feel I need to write about this journey as I make more sense of it all. But it’s not very lawyerly to mix the personal with the professional. A law journal article NEVER mentions lawyer’s thoughts or feelings just as the magazines for the legal profession in South Africa do not refer to the inner life of the lawyer. It’s almost pathological, this avoidance of the interior world!)

MACCRATE REPORT: GET LEADERSHIP INTO LAW SCHOOLS!

I’m going to get my hands on the MacCrate Report soon, a 1992 report which calls for law schools to teach lawyering skills and professional values. And hopefully use this to work towards having a course on Integrative Law, incorporating pieces from Lawyer Know Thyself and The New Leadership Paradigm  – into EVERY LAW SCHOOL IN SOUTH AFRICA.

I am continually amazed at the low levels of self-awareness in the legal profession. Just a few examples I’ve come across recently:

  • A law lecturer at a large university in South Africa recently spoke to the Vice Dean about incorporating some Life coaching skills into the curriculum to which the Vice Dean replied “what is life coaching?”
  • Another Dean of a law faculty said “leadership skills” should be left to the business schools.
  • A law professor at SA’s largest legal school told a student who was seeking counselling for some personal or family issues that “if a person is unable to separate personal tragedy or trauma from practice, you should give up studying law right now”.

One day leadership courses and Integrative Law courses will be a part of every good law school’s curriculum. I’d just like to hasten that day.

I will work with the law schools, I will work with the Law Societies, I will work with the law firms and I will work with the individual lawyers who are ready to look beyond the facade they have created for their own safety. I understand this is scary work. I also understand this work is ahead of its time. But I am 100% committed. For comfort I keep coming back to the saying “Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do.”

if this is of interest to you, please visit the Centre for Integrative Law site on www.integrativelaw.co.za  You may want to sign up to receive the CIL monthly; updates. Maybe you’re ready to meet some conscious lawyers who care about their clients and are doing personal growth work to help them develop greater fulfilment in their careers. You can learn about SAILA too – the Southern Africa Integrative Lawyers’ Association…

and our FB page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Centre-for-Integrative-Law/639014322793298 – you need to click LIKE and then once ticked, a drop down list appears and you need to select “receive posts” and “notifications” to stay in touch with events in SA and posts on this page.

*You can read a chapter of Daicoff’s book here, it was published  as a journal article in the American University Law Review, June, 1997. Her work is a marvel and deserves every recognition for the light she is shedding on the legal profession’s shadow side.

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One response to “The Lawyer’s Shadow Side

  1. Pingback: All the nice lawyers love a SAILA! | The Centre for Integrative Law

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