Sending Lawyers Pictures of Sunflowers & Superman

Mouse on Keyboard

Sending a bunch of inspirational emails to an eloquence of lawyers, a huddle of lawyers, a disputation of lawyers (my Google research has revealed a number of fabulous collective nouns) is not in itself a big deal.

So why does it feel scary? Is it because I’m daring to share my way of viewing the world with professionals renowned for their expertise in tearing apart others thoughts and arguments limb from limb? Is it because, with each email I craft, I am making myself more and more vulnerable, revealing my soft underbelly, my sense of humour, my own failings and shortcomings? Is it because I fear some of my eagle-eyed recipients are trained to pounce upon a misplaced apostrophe and then dangle it triumphantly in the air as such clear evidence of misdemeanour that all the poor apostrophe can do is hang its head in shame and squeak helplessly? Is it simply because I still have so much work to do on not taking everything personally?

I remind myself daily “we are drowning when we are disregarding the mission within us”*. Right now, this is my mission:

  • I help lawyers re-awaken to their roles as problem-solvers, peace-makers and healers.
  • I help lawyers re-connect with why they were drawn to the legal profession in the first place.
  • I help lawyers find new ways to bring their fullest selves to their legal practice.

I shall not be deterred by the “unsubscribe” messages. In fact, I am deeply grateful that rather than scowling at my bright-eyed, bushy-tailed missives until they slink in shame to the corner of the garden to die, you have taken the step of acknowledging that for now, there is no meeting of the minds. With respect, I would prefer you unsubscribe and let us go our separate ways.

To the lawyer who wrote to me about striking the right balance after the original email: you will never know how gratefully this first feedback was received. To the lawyer who thanked me for the only minutes of sanity in her day: you gave me courage to keep writing about mindfulness. To the lawyer who asked if I could re-send one of my emails that she’d accidentally deleted: it was like handing someone a small gift and then witnessing in the way they tenderly received it, that they really valued it and understood your intention.

I am not doing this for applause. Yet on the days my offerings are received with a deafening silence and dismal Mailchimp opening statistics I admit my Inner Critics begin to roll their eyes and whisper in the corridors of my mind “this isn’t going anywhere”, “no one’s interested”, “grown up lawyers don’t have time for your silly and frivolous messages”, “could you do something that makes money for heaven’s sake, rather than sending lawyers pictures of Superman?”.

When this happens, I remind myself I have done this before. I have risked everything when I originally quit the law to save my soul and found myself driving blindly from dawn to dusk across the country not knowing if I was running away in shame and fear or running towards opportunity and fulfillment. It turned into the most extraordinary two years of my life creating a college for impoverished students that grew me in ways I had not dreamed possible. I risked everything when I met the man of my dreams and decided to share all my deepest fears and darkest secrets. Admittedly it may have been a little early on in the relationship and he did nickname me “the Compulsive Disclosurist”…but I needed to jump off that cliff because some part of me knew that if he was waiting at the bottom with a bemused smile that he was the one. If I’d crash-landed and squinted back up at the cliff to see him standing there frozen, a shocked expression upon his face, well, I’d have known to run a mile.

So I shall risk looking like a fool for love and for faith and for fulfillment again and again. Despite crippling fear that sometimes has me huddled at my desk in my pajamas late into the night, despite the anxiety-induced illnesses that come with no regular income, despite the grey afternoons when all I can show for myself is a pillow wet with tears – what I have gained through risking it all, is nothing short of miraculous. I can honestly say that every year I realize I am actually living my dreams.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

I grew up in a family where it’s best you check your vulnerability in the umbrella stand by the front door. I then joined the legal profession where vulnerability does not win you cases, does not promote you to partner and definitely does not win you the corner office.

It was only when I got far away enough from my family and far away enough from the law that the bizarre truth was given to me: the gift I been given to share with the world is powerful vulnerability. It made so little sense that at first I stuffed this unwearable gift in the back of the cupboard with the gift tag still attached.

But after many years, long journeys and deep soul searching, today my powerful vulnerability happens to be one of my favourite outfits.

I’m going to keep writing to the lawyers however risky it feels. And when that feels “safe” I’ll publish the book that feels so risky to write! And then I will make videos that will terrify me! And when I’ve mastered that I will speak to audiences of 1000’s of people that will make my knees knock!

Maybe some future evolved me won’t find stuff so scary anymore. I imagine a Zen-like calm I shall one day possess, and a deep knowingness that whatever other people think of me is none of my business. But I’m not there just yet. Right now, I find a lot of things scary, I’m just not going to let that stand in the way of living the life of my dreams.

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*Tama J. Kieves This Time I Dance. A wonderful book. I shall be writing a lot more about it.

The photo is my Apostrophe Mouse, scampering along the keyboard just waiting to be pounced upon by a eagle-eyed lawyer. It’s actually titled My Mouse isn’t Working Right by Nina Matthews Photography licensed under CC BY2.0


Beyond the Stars

I’ve never been a huge believer in star signs but I’m increasingly fascinated by the miracle of the night sky and the interpretations humans have given the constellations over centuries.

Today I looked up which constellation is linked to justice and here it is: Libra.

Libra Constellation

I am fascinated as I see this and think of the traditional image of a law building:

Law building

And then I look into the “scales of justice” image and find this, the Libra Scales of Justice:

Libra Scales image

And as I fall down the rabbit hole that is Google images…

Libra embroidered scales

Libra graphic image

There is much I have to learn but today, I am happy to just sit with renewed fascination that the origins of these well known symbols are in the stars.

A story – to help explain why I might be starting to believe in stars and star signs: during my trip to Bali in December 2012 I was thinking hard about my mother one evening and what it must be like to have a headstrong daughter like myself! I went into a restaurant, and a woman, about my mother’s age I guessed, asked if I was travelling alone and whether I’d like to join her for dinner. With my intuition on super alert mode (as it was during my entire Bali trip), I said “OK” knowing that somehow there’d be a mother/ daughter connection in this somewhere.

It was only a minute before she mentioned she had a daughter, who was 35. I was 35 at the time. She said she was struggling as her daughter was so headstrong and  was building a movement in the bootcamp fitness industry. I smiled, thinking of my work to grow the Integrative Law Movement. She told me her daughter was a Scorpio. I laughed and said “I am too.” Then she mentioned her daughter’s birth date: 18 November 1977.

That’s when it all became pretty weird. Because that is, as you guessed by now, my birthday. So having wondered what it might be like to have a headstrong Scorpio daughter born on 18 November 1977  – it took me just a few hours to find the answer.

My logical, reasonable, rational lawyer brain still dominates my ways of thinking. But increasingly, I believe in magic and synchronicity and miracles.

“I still stand in the garden at midnight, trying to eat the stars.”*

*from a poem I have loved and lost…if you can find it let me know. It’s a short, maybe 5 line poem.






50 Ways to Leave your Lawyer


CT divorce training group

“The problem is all inside your head” she said to me

“The answer is easy if you take it logically

I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free

There must be fifty ways to leave your lawyer”

Why do so many people continue to use lawyers they don’t respect, like or value?

I am part of a global movement known as the Integrative Law Movement. Integrative Lawyers believe that clients have the right to a lawyer who will listen empathetically to their story. We believe you have the right to a lawyer who will encourage you to follow the voice of your higher self, no matter how hurt or angry you may currently be. We believe you have the right to a lawyer who cares deeply about assisting you with meaningful conflict resolution rather than a short term legal victory. We believe that law can be a healing profession and that this requires Integrative lawyers who look inwards and strive to become whole themselves in order to better assist their clients in using the legal system. As you can imagine, being an Integrative Lawyer is sometimes lonely.

If you admit you’re a lawyer at a social gathering the best you can hope for is someone tries to get a free consultation over a boring issue. The worse reactions range from suddenly seeing physical evidence of mistrust in your dining companion such as tensed shoulders or narrowed eyes right down to being told blatantly offensive lawyer jokes. The most recent ones I’ve been subjected to are “What do lawyers use for birth control? Their personalities” and “What is the difference between a lawyer and a sperm cell? At least the sperm has a 1 in 600 million chance at becoming a human being.”

I’m not jumping to the defence of the profession just yet. After all, I managed only two years in a large firm before I ran for the hills, literally.  I went from working in a glass skyscraper in Cape Town to an abandoned municipal building with no toilet seats and broken windows in a village of 150 inhabitants – where I set up a college for township students.  ( NO experience is ever wasted! My heart and mind expanded there in ways I didn’t know were possible). But I digress.

Studies have been done that show the public has less respect for attorneys than any other professional group. The crisis in the legal profession has been described by Susan Daicoff, a US law professor and qualified psychologist, as a “tripartite crisis which includes poor job satisfaction, poor public perception and combative litigation and incivility”. I’m going to simplify that and say there are 3 parts to the crisis:

Lawyers don’t like themselves. People don’t like lawyers. Lawyers don’t like each other.

How do we know lawyers don’t like themselves? There are abnormally high rates of depression and substance abuse throughout the profession. In February this year a London lawyer, who was regularly featured in the Who’s Who list of International Trademark lawyers, threw himself in front of a train in the middle of a high-pressure trial. Although he’d told a colleague the day before that he wanted to kill himself, no one had taken it seriously. In Australia the top 5 firms got together to create a DVD on Depression in the legal profession (Resilience@law).

Lawyer jokes ranging from funny to pretty insulting show what the public thinks of lawyers. As for lawyers not liking each other, there is a lot of US research showing high levels of aggression between lawyers in and out the courtroom. In South Africa, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence about the bullying and often sexist behaviour that characterizes our profession, both from advocates and attorneys.

Lawyer, Know Thyself, Daicoff’s book, explores this crisis and presents some interesting findings such as the fact that people drawn to study law tend to come from families that are very achievement oriented and which value action and results over feelings. Most potential lawyers have a preference for dominance and leadership abilities and not so much emphasis on emotional or interpersonal matters. In addition to the research that shows certain types of people are drawn to law in the first place, there are also many studies that show that law school continues to emphasise these characteristics by encouraging competition and discouraging collaboration and actively teaching that emotions and feelings are irrelevant and irrational to the practice of law.  Daicoff explains that “Law students become less interested in community, intimacy, personal growth and inherent satisfaction and more interested in appearance, attractiveness…and the esteem of others”. There is also evidence to show that law schools’ attempt to teach students to “think like a lawyer” has the effect of shifting students from an ethic of care to a rights-based orientation. In other words, no matter what type of person you are going into law school, it is certain by the time they leave they’ll have learned to be more emotionally neutral, to put it politely. Lawyers are taught to make rational and logical decisions about who’s right and not worry too much about how everyone feels. If, by the time they graduate, they haven’t sufficiently learned how to focus solely on their intellectual powers and to ignore their own and others’ emotional needs (which obviously get in the way of good clear decision-making) then they will certainly master these skills in their further training. Whether a lawyer chooses the attorney route and spends 2 years doing articles at a law firm or becomes an advocate and enters a contract of “pupillage” at the bar working for another advocate, every day in subtle and not so subtle ways, lawyers are pushed towards living firmly from their intellectual worlds and ignoring their emotional, physical and spiritual needs.

So Daicoff’s research has shown us that a lawyer is likely to come from a family which doesn’t do a whole lot of “touchy feely” stuff and in which they tend to learn that thinking is a whole lot more important than feeling. During law school this becomes more deeply ingrained and by the time the lawyer makes it to a law firm and surveys all those on the ladder ahead, it will be clear that success only comes to those who focus on getting ahead and making a name for him or herself. The price for being nice and caring too much about clients is high – promotion will be unlikely. The sad reality is that lawyers who spend significant amounts of time and energy attending to their clients are not going to be billing as many hours as those who do the bare minimum. It’s starting to emerge that the answer to “where are all the nice lawyers?” is pretty complex. The systems currently in place are not designed to produce, protect or promote lawyers who care!

But the systems are failing. Clients are starting to demand lawyers who care, lawyers who they genuinely believe have their best interests at heart and who are capable of deep, empathetic listening. A forward thinking US law professor uses the term “multi-dimensional lawyering” to explain the shift taking place in which we need lawyers who are not just Fighters but also Designers and Problem Solvers.   “The Fighter puts together a case by “rewinding the tape,” i.e., reconstructing the events that give rise to liability.  Formal pleadings and the expert, precedent-following quality of legal argument are scrupulously devoted toward reaching a precise, reliable result based on these events.  Rewinding the historical tape of events and behaviors accurately is thus crucial, both to supplying victory for the Fighter and to supplying legitimacy to a court judgment that ultimately must affix blame to one party.” Lawyers who can operate preventively and creatively are Designers and Problem Solvers and they are more likely to look forward than backward. Their work is designing environments and facilitating relationships to prevent conflict and is a creative role rather than a reactive role.

What type of lawyer do you want when you are having an ante-nuptial contract or a will drawn up? What type of lawyer will you hire if you decide to get divorced and have children, making an ongoing relationship with your spouse a necessity? The type of lawyer the public demands is the type of lawyer the market will produce to fill the need.

“Most sustainable improvements in community occur when citizens discover their own power to act…when they stop waiting for the professionals or elected leadership to do something, and decide that they can reclaim what they have delegated to others.” Peter Block, “Community: the Structure of Belonging”.


Dewey  box

Many law firms have outdated methods for treating and billing their clients because the clients have not demanded they change! We need clients who seek creative lawyers, entrepreneurial lawyers, lawyers prepared to risk being wrong by inventing completely new contracts that clients actually understand. I work with lawyers every week who are afraid if they wear what they really want to wear that clients won’t take them seriously, so they continue to don grey suits and white shirts even when they set up their own practice. Lawyers worry about what they put in their office because they wonder what signal it sends if the client sees that the lawyer has a crystal collection or some self-help books or does belly-dancing as a hobby. I know lawyers who do all these things and they are brilliant lawyers as well as well-rounded individuals because they have a life outside the office.

Rhiannon & Amanda at SAILA 5 Feb

A local lawyer who decided to advertise in the alternative Link-Up Magazine was initially quite concerned her colleagues would stop taking her seriously.  I find it sad that every week I come across story after story of lawyers who become aware, often through personal loss or illness but sometimes through becoming a parent or other such life-altering event, that they’ve cut off parts of themselves to meet the stereotype the profession has demanded of them. Sadly, many of them find that the only way they can allow these new parts of themselves to flourish is by leaving the law.

It is as a result of all these issues in the legal system that the Integrative Law Movement grew. A movement dedicated to bringing greater levels of consciousness and compassion to the legal profession. It includes thousands of lawyers, legal advisors, judges, law school professors and law students along with members of the public who are questioning the way the legal system currently functions and creating a new vision of law that utilizes not only the powers of intellectual reasoning but the even more powerful characteristics of heart and soul.  The Integrative Law Movement integrates the existing system with new models and ways of practising law. It integrates emotions with logic and rationality and it integrates learning from other disciplines like psychology and organisational development, into the legal system.  I have created the Centre for Integrative Law to bring these wonderful developments to South Africa and to grow the Integrative Law Movement in this country.  I’m working with law schools, law societies, law firms and individual lawyers who are ready to be part of the change but there’s a long way to go.

The next time you’re at a dinner and someone makes a crack about lawyers, I hope you’ll remember some of this. Most of all I hope you’ll remember that to “be the change you wish to see in the world” as Gandhi (who was a lawyer) told us. YOU need to choose a lawyer that dares to be different. Choose a multi-dimensional lawyer who knows when to be a Fighter, when to be a Designer and when to be a Problem-Solver. Ask your lawyer what their personal values are or why they do the work they do and see if the responses resonates with your needs.  Personally, I’d suggest you risk choosing the lawyer with the self-help books on their shelf!  Or one you meet at a Mindfulness course. Choose a lawyer that you feel has not only the legal competency, but resonates with who you are and what you stand for.  These lawyers are out there. You just need to look.

Honouring Nelson Mandela: The Lawyer

Mandela In Law Office

Here is Nelson Mandela in the office of Mandela & Tambo, SA’s first black law firm. Mandela combined a lawyer’s intellect with the wisdom of a tribal elder. We need more lawyers with these skills.

He was an Integrative Lawyer and believed in the concept of “Lawyers as Peacemakers” decades before these terms were used. The Integrative Law Movement is only now asking how we can bring the wisdom of tribal elders to law and how we can shift focus from exclusively a debate on “rights” to what is in everyone’s best interests, not only the individuals but also the community and the planet.

Integrative Lawyers today are learning about dialogue, about Non Violent Communication and Powerful Non-Defensive Communication and forgiveness and reconciliation. These are Mandela skills! The narrow set of skills being taught in law schools is not enough. Being a Multi-Dimensional Lawyer is knowing when to shift from being a Fighter, to being a Designer and Problem-Solver. Mandela’s story shows us this journey. He put down his weapons and learned the skills of negotiation and mediation, diplomacy and problem-solving. He learned how to understand “the Other”.

There are many, many parts of the justice system that are broken. We need to support those who are trying to fix it. Like Mandela, many Integrative Lawyers know that sometimes one has to become a lawyer to change the legal system from the inside.

So this week, as we honour Madiba, the most revered lawyer-turned-statesman, I want people to see another side to the much maligned legal profession. And I want to ask you to support Integrative Lawyers who are challenging the current legal paradigm. Support the lawyers who are brave enough to admit they’re taking a course on “reconciliation” or “Mindfulness”.

How many young lawyers out there, inspired by Gandhi or Mandela have chosen the legal profession in order to make a difference in the world? And how many are finding their passion ignored or ridiculed at our universities and law firms? Before these lawyers quit and find something else to study, I want them to know about the Integrative Law Movement. To know that they are not alone in thinking they can use legal skills to heal individuals, families and society.

Reflect on this:

“I regard it as a duty which I owed, not just to my people, but also to my profession, to the practice of law, and to the justice for all mankind, to cry out against this discrimination which is essentially unjust and opposed to the whole basis of the attitude towards justice which is part of the tradition of legal training in this country. I believed that in taking up a stand against this injustice I was upholding the dignity of what should be an honorable profession.”

To all lawyers reading this:

What are you doing to uphold the dignity of what should be an honorable profession? 

What contribution are you making to the justice for all mankind?


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.


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”.


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!)


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  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 – 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.

Colours, Numbers & Asking the Right Questions


Several times in the last few weeks I have wondered what I do. I ask myself whether I am accomplishing enough and then try to figure out what “enough” might be.

Taking time to ask the right questions is important. Slowly reason is emerging from the mound of files and books, notepads, folders, to-do lists and radically-overpinned noticeboard that I call my “work” although I know it’s much more than that.

I have clarified these 3 things:

I help lawyers awaken to the possibility that their work can be about healing conflict. 

I help lawyers re-connect with why they were drawn to the legal profession in the first place.

I help lawyers find new ways to bring their heads and their hearts to their legal practice.  

I’ve worked out that my mission right now is really: to keep those lawyers, who have had a shift of consciousness, in the profession. 

Systems Theory 101 teaches us that “every system is perfectly designed to produce the results it is currently producing”. The legal education system is perfectly designed to produce cognitively smart but unconscious lawyers.

The term “unconscious” is somewhat ambiguous – what I am referring to can be viewed in a number of ways. One would be Spiral Dynamics, the 8 stage spiral of development in which you would see that the legal profession as a whole is at the Orange Level which is defined by materialism; consumerism; success; image; status; growth.

Or you can view it through the lens of 7 Levels of Human Motivation and you will understand that lawyers tend are at levels 1, 2 and 3 with a few at level 4. Without digressing radically (which I do frequently) here is some detail:

Level 3 is about SELF ESTEEM –  the motivation is satisfying your need to feel good about yourself, your ability to manage your life, and building pride in your performance.

Level 4 is the level of TRANSFORMATION – at this level the motivation is becoming more of who you really are by uncovering your authentic self and aligning your ego with your soul.

Level 5, (where it would be good to have more lawyers!) is the level of INTERNAL COHESION: Finding meaning for your life by uncovering your passion or purpose and creating a vision for the future you want to create.

But there is an enormous shift happening globally as people are waking up. (see for eg WorldShift 2012 by Ervin Laszlo.) In the legal profession we’re starting to see more and more lawyers who, in Spiral Dynamics terms, are moving towards Green: egalitarian; feelings; authentic; sharing; caring; community. And in 7 Levels speak – are moving into the transformation level (4) and above to levels 5, 6 and 7 and asking “how do I find meaning in my life?” and “how can I use my skill as a lawyer to make a difference in the world?”.

The problem is that the lawyers who start asking these questions find it very difficult to stay in the profession. Their values are no longer in alignment with their environment. So many of them leave to pursue different avenues that are less restrictive, allow for greater creativity and original thinking and allow for empathy and deep connection. Some even become healers. And in the photo above you will see a group of women who all started off in law but most of whom left the profession  when they awoke, to do healing work.

So back to my mission: to keep those lawyers, who have had a shift of consciousness, in the profession. 

It doesn’t mean stopping anyone moving on to greener pastures! Or that an ex lawyer shouldn’t become whatever they want to become. But if every lawyer that walks the sacred journey from their head to their heart, leaves the profession, it won’t be possible to reclaim law as a healing profession. It won’t be possible to transform the profession to one that truly heals breaches in the social fabric.

I have realised I don’t do measurables that well and I can barely utter the term “deliverables.”

I can tell you that pretty often, sometimes once a week, I hear from a lawyer who is so excited that there may be a way to practise law and stay true to who they are, that I can feel their excitement zooming through their words. They write to me sometimes after we have talked face to face about finding their passion or about vision-led and value-driven legal practice, or after they have read a blog post, or have found the Centre for Integrative Law’s website.  

I read Seth Godin’s blog often. Today he wrote:

As soon as we measure something, we seek to improve the numbers.

Which is a worthwhile endeavor, if better numbers are the point of the exercise.

The other path is to focus on colors, not numbers. Instead of measuring, for example, how many people click on a link, we can measure how something you wrote or created delighted or challenged people… You can see the changes in emotion, or dignity improved or light shed.

The questions we ask change the thing we make. Organizations that do nothing but measure the numbers rarely create breakthroughs. Merely better numbers.

So today I choose to be OK with the fact I’m working with colours, not numbers. I don’t know how many lawyers I may have played some small role in helping to keep in the profession this year. I can tell you I have connected deeply with lawyers in Cape Town, in Johannesburg, in the US, in Brazil, in Australia, in Amsterdam and in India.

I have no numbers for you today. But I do have emails like this one:

“I honestly just want to hug you for the amazing work you are doing. You are bringing consciousness to the legal profession.  That’s what I felt was missing in the first place when I left all those years ago.Keep up the great work. Remember : To be a visionary is to walk alone until everyone begins to buy into your vision. When that happens, you will be amazed at the momentum as a reality far beyond what you could imagine begins to manifest.”

It is an email from a woman I have never met.

It was very affirming to receive this at a time I sat wondering if I do enough.

So no numbers. No deliverables. No measurables. Just colours. Regular explosions of dazzling sunrise colours that fill my skies.

King of Wishful Thinking


“How much are we, as lawyers, limited by what we know and understand about law and legal systems, which prevents us from experiencing what is and what could be possible, for our clients?”

The above thought is from notes I took during Collaborative Divorce training by my mentor and fellow legal visionary, Pauline Tesler, who was brought to South Africa by the Centre for Integrative Law in April 2013. You can read more about her trip and trainings here.

This thought, around the limitations of lawyer’s thinking has been wandering around my mind for the last few weeks as I try to make better sense of what exactly this means. I share Pauline Tesler’s view that lawyers, unknowingly, and as a result of their specialised training, are often limited in their ability to solve problems in the most client-centric way.

I think that one of the major causes of this is that lawyers are trained to focus – to sift through masses of information and choose the critical issue on which the case will turn. This is a significant skill – the ability to sniff out the most pertinent issue when wading through a morass of unnecessary paperwork and extraneous detail. But as I see it, there are two major downsides to this ability:

  1. Not seeing the whole picture
  2. Not seeing non-legal solutions

Without our being aware of it, we lawyers have been trained so consistently in convergent thinking that this way of thinking has become an unquestioned habit. Wikipedia gives this explanation:

Convergent thinking is the type of thinking that focuses on coming up with the single, well-established answer to a problem.[1] It is oriented toward deriving the single best, or most often correct answer to a question. Convergent thinking emphasizes speed, accuracy, and logic and focuses on recognizing the familiar, reapplying techniques, and accumulating stored information.[1] It is most effective in situations where an answer readily exists and simply needs to be either recalled or worked out through decision making strategies.[1] A critical aspect of convergent thinking is that it leads to a single best answer, leaving no room for ambiguity. In this view, answers are either right or wrong. The solution that is derived at the end of the convergent thinking process is the best possible answer the majority of the time.

The opposite of convergent thinking, is divergent thinking and it’s my view that this is what lawyers need more training in. So let’s look at the definition of “Divergent Thinking”:

Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. It is often used in conjunction with convergent thinking, which follows a particular set of logical steps to arrive at one solution, which in some cases is a “correct” solution. Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, such that many ideas are generated in an emergent cognitive fashion. Many possible solutions are explored in a short amount of time, and unexpected connections are drawn. After the process of divergent thinking has been completed, ideas and information are organized and structured using convergent thinking.[1]

And now for the interesting part – if lawyers are so smart, why are they not able to see the faults in their thinking? Why are they not able to adopt a divergent approach to problem solving? Wikipedia has this to say:

“Psychologists have found that a high IQ alone does not guarantee creativity. Instead, personality traits that promote divergent thinking are more important. Divergent thinking is found among people with personality traits such as nonconformity, curiosity, willingness to take risks, and persistence.”

Lawyers are trained to be risk-averse, they are experts in compliance, and they are paid to help everyone adhere to the accepted norms and standards of society. (I’m generalising here, but you get the picture). Lawyers are exactly the opposite of the types of people likely to think in a divergent way.

One of the many reasons mediation is growing, and will continue to grow as an alternative to litigation is that mediators are trained to think as broadly as possible, whereas attorneys, and advocates are trained to narrow down the options. Instead of seeing a huge range of possibilities and ways something could be resolved, the lawyer sees only one – the most expedient, and of course law-based solution. In fact, the entire way our court system is structured is around convergent thinking –  if advocates don’t include in a  prayer for specific relief (“my client seeks X Y and Z”) then he is barred from asking for this later in the trial – regardless of whether it might bring a swift and speedy resolution to the trial and make all the parties happy.

What does this mean for the legal profession? I think we need to draw lawyers’ attention to how they think, not just the content of their thinking, but the process. The best work for this, to my knowledge, is Edward de Bono, the international bestselling author of Lateral Thinking and Six Thinking Hats. I’m so passionate about his work that I am qualifying as a de Bono consultant so I can teach this stuff myself to law firms and lawyers-to-be.  De Bono is the leading authority in the field of creative thinking and the direct teaching of thinking as a skill.

Over and over again, I come back to the notion that IQ is not sufficient for a lawyer to be a good lawyer. Everywhere we are being told that the legal profession needs to change. The introduction to the Altman Weil Law Firms in Transition Survey 2012 states

“These findings suggest that change management will be a required core competency of law firm leadership going forward. The leadership challenge will be to drive change, not just react prudently to external conditions.”

If you’re a lawyer reading this, my challenge to you is take the next 20 (non-billable) minutes and write this in the middle of a blank page:

“How much are we, as lawyers, limited by what we know and understand about law and legal systems, which prevents us from experiencing what is and what could be possible, for our clients?”

And allow yourself to brainstorm – using a spider chart, random lines linking things, bubbles and colours, rather than using boxes, (these are all creative thinking tools) –  what could be possible for your clients if YOU could be open to change?

Ps. The ways in which lawyers don’t see the non-legal solutions will be explored in a separate post.

The Demeaning SA Attorneys Oath!

So here it is: the long awaited ATTORNEYS OATH – that is known by very few attorneys in South Africa, despite the fact we all had to swear to this when we were admitted.



I,  do swear/affirm that I will truly and honestly demean myself in the practice of


according to the best of my knowledge and ability, and further, that I will be faithful to the Republic of South Africa


The deponent acknowledges that she knows and understands the contents of the declaration.       




 Ek sweer/bevestig dat ek my eerlik en opreg in die praktyk van


na my beste wete en vermoë sal gedra en verder dat ek trou sal wees aan die  Republiek van Suid-Afrika

Die verklaarder erken dat sy vertroud is met die inhoud van die verklaring en dit begryp.

I think the Afrikaans version is better. With regards to the English, well I think we have a problem here.   While the dictionary definition of “demean” shows:                                             



tr.v. de·meanedde·mean·ingde·means

To conduct or behave (oneself) in a particular manner: demeaned themselves well in class.
The issue is that 99% of English speakers understand “demean” by its more common usage:


to lower in dignity, honor, or standing; debase:  eg He demeaned himself by accepting the bribe. (synonyms: degrade, disgrace)

Language is a powerful tool. We use it to shape our understanding of our world. If, every time an attorney is sworn in, he commits to truly demeaning himself…Well, enough said.

It’s time for a new oath.

Feel free to comment.   

If you are an attorney and you believe it is time for us to create a new, voluntary oath, along the lines of the initiative by MBA students, please read the information below and get in touch.         

The MBA Oath is a voluntary student-led pledge that asks graduating MBAs to commit towards the creation of value “responsibly and ethically.” As of January 2010, the initiative is driven by a coalition of MBA students, graduates and advisors, including nearly 2,000 student and alumni signers from over 500 MBA programs around the world.[1] By formalizing a written oath and creating forums for individuals to personally commit to an ethical standard, the initiative hopes to accomplish three goals:

  1. to make a difference in the lives of the individual students who take the oath,
  2. to challenge other classmates to work towards a higher professional standard, whether they sign the oath or not, and
  3. to create a public conversation in the press about professionalizing and improving management.[2]

MBA Oath (short version)

As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can create alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.

Therefore I promise:

  • I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.
  • I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.
  • I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.
  • I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise.
  • I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
  • I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society.
  • I will strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide.
  • I will be accountable to my peers and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath.

This oath I make freely, and upon my honor.


Neuro Law: A New World of Law Part 4

Why should you, as a lawyer, care about Neuroscience?

This is part 4 of my series in Neurolaw – in which I provide some extracts explaining developments in legal thinking that you may not be aware of.

Just found yet another organisation looking at the benefits of Neuroscience to other fields: The Centre for NeuroScience And Society at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Why Neuroscience Boot Camp?

Neuroscience is increasingly relevant to a number of professions and academic disciplines beyond its traditional medical applications. Lawyers, educators, economists and businesspeople as well as scholars of sociology, philosophy, applied ethics and policy are incorporating the concepts and methods of neuroscience into their work. For any field in which it is important to understand, predict or influence human behavior, neuroscience will play an increasing role. The Penn Neuroscience Boot Camp is designed to give participants a basic foundation in cognitive and affective neuroscience and to equip them to be informed consumers of neuroscience research.

A testimonial about the course:

“The Penn Neuroscience Boot Camp provides a well-planned and accessible introductory curriculum, delivered by a team of terrifically engaging speakers. Short of enrolling in a full-time neuroscience program, this is the best available immersion. So people wanting to learn the basics about neuroscience, and why it is so significantly affecting so many disciplines (including law), should take this course.”

Owen D. Jones, J.D.
Director, MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience; Prof. of Law & Prof. of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt Universit

Warning: it does appear from photos on the site that they served a cake made like a brain that looks unbelievably gross but apart from that the course seems good.


Neuro-law: A New World of Law Part 3



Why should you, as a lawyer, care about Neuroscience?

This is part 3 of my series in Neurolaw – in which I provide some extracts explaining developments in legal thinking that you may not be aware of.

The Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is an interdisciplinary collaborative initiative with two main goals: (1) to help the legal system avoid misuse of neuroscientific evidence in criminal law contexts, and (2) to explore ways to deploy neuroscientific insights to improve the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

The MacArthur Foundation laid the cornerstones for the Network by drawing together several dozen of the nation’s top researchers beginning in 2007 to conduct a coordinated and comprehensive investigation of basic issues at the intersection of law and neuroscience, funded by a four-year grant. In 2011, the new MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience began to build on those cornerstones with an interconnected program of research with three foci: Mental States, Development, and Evidence.

A conference on the Future of Law and Neuroscience is being held on 27 April 2013 in Chicago, sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, the American Bar Association, Vanderbilt Law School, the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research, the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, and the American Bar Association Science & Technology Section.

The program will feature a law and neuroscience curriculum specifically designed for lawyers, and will draw on new research from the MacArthur Foundation Research Network. Topics to be covered include: An introduction to cognitive neuroscience (including brain imaging techniques) for lawyers; neuroscience and criminal justice; decision making; the developing brain; memory and lie detection; and evidentiary issues surrounding neuroscientific evidence.

You have a chance to learn about Neuroscience and Law here in South Africa in April 2013 with a global legal in this field, Pauline Tesler from San Francisco.

Make sure you don’t miss out.

Cape Town: 10 April 2013

Johannesburg: 23 April 2013

Click here to register.