Monthly Archives: August 2012

Thank you Universe

 

Dear Universe

Wow, I apologise profusely for doubting you.

I didn’t actually think you had a plan for me and I’m sorry about that. I’ve felt for some years that I was drifting from one rather interesting career path to another, but that there wasn’t a reason for my frequent changes. I didn’t realise then it was multi-disciplinary training. Thanks for that.

I apologise too that I didn’t think you were listening when I told you about my Centre for Conscious Law in January. I thought your silence meant I was barking up the wrong tree but it’s obvious now that you were working really hard to find the right people who could help me make this happen.  There’s no way I can ever express my gratitude deeply enough, except I suppose to use all the wonderful resources you’re putting at my disposal and make the Centre for Integrative Law here in Cape Town truly amazing. I hope the Centre will play its part in the global shift towards a new way of being in the world, a shift we are seeing in economics, medicine, politics, spirituality, ecology and science, and of course , law.

I’ve been working on the Centre’s Vision and Mission – most recent drafts:

Vision: 

An educational centre for emergent thinking in the practice of law and innovation in legal education, bringing global developments in the Integrative Law Movement to South Africa

Mission:

To create a network of change agents, trained in global legal innovation, to articulate a new vision of law for South Africa.

I’m so grateful dear Universe for all your help that I want to mention a couple of specific things – I’ll try not to let it run on like a wedding speech.

Thank you for giving me a fast-paced education in Organizational Development.  Of course I had no idea until fairly recently how law and OD fit together but it is all being revealed!  Yesterday I sat with clients for whom I am re-drafting all their legal contracts to be “conscious contracts”  and I worked with them on their business’ vision, mission and values – which of course will be contained as part of their new legal contracts.  Ta dah! Now that I so clearly see the link between culture, values and legal relationships, I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. In fact it’s a big problem that these things are seen by organisations as completely separate things! Lawyers don’t even know what OD means! (Well I didn’t until a few years ago, I admit).

And as for all these organisations on culture journeys, which have archaic legal departments still writing up “screw you” contracts, well, gosh, I clearly have a lot of work to do. The Barrett conference is such a wonderful opportunity for me to share about this, I am over the moon to be presenting a break-out session there in September. Thank you.

Back to the organisational development thing – sending me two guys last week both of whom are lawyers turned OD specialists is kind of labouring the point don’t you think? Clearly you wanted me to keep pondering the law/OD/ organisational culture link. (The fact that the one guy is my neighbour is hilarious! I’ve been staring at his roof for 10 months now.)

I also think it’s pretty funny that I can see you started sending me people years ago to teach me what I needed to know! Like the consultants who taught me about Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory in 2007. And then of course my dad who introduced me to the Barrett Values Centre and the levels of organisational consciousness. And I guess you didn’t want to leave anything to chance when you ensured that I then fell in love with a man working as an Organisational Development consultant at that time, alongside his beautiful mother, a systems theory specialist.  I was so deeply blessed to have her mentor me for two short years in how to walk the sacred journey from head to heart.

I realise I have been showered with resources beyond my wildest dreams from love, patience and kindness, admiration, inspiration to physical resources including books and programmes and files on leadership, presence, systems thinking, scenario planning!  Wow. Thank you. (and that’s on top of the fact that the guy’s a keeper 😉

A special thank you that you waited until I was ready and then had me meet someone running their own “conscious law centre”, Pauline Tesler in San Francisco.  I guess I really did need to see that it could be done before I started my own. The web of conscious, aware, brilliant, caring, committed, visionary consultants and lawyers you’ve put in my path in the last 2 years astounds me. In such a short space of time I can’t believe I have such beautiful relationships with such awesome people.

I need to say a special thank you for sending me Kim Wright. Clearly you don’t do half-measures. I mean you found the world’s most qualified expert on practising law with soul and healing the legal profession and even though she lives half way round the world from me, you sent her to my door here in Cape Town? That’s outrageously cool of you. Kim and I are both so excited to work together.  And thanks – people here in SA don’t really know about Integrative Law so Kim’s visit is EXACTLY what this country needs.  And dear Universe, you’ve worked so hard to pull this off! I mean I had barely mentioned to Kim that she should attend the Barrett conference with me when you somehow got them to ask her to not only attend, but present at their conference. Sheer brilliance.

Every time my spirits have flagged or I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew I get an email from someone on the other end of the world telling me how amazing I am and how they applaud what I’m doing. I apologise for needing so much affirmation – but please keep it coming!  It really helps when I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of what I’m undertaking, correction, what we’re undertaking. It’s clear I’m not alone.

One last thing, I’m sure you have a plan for funding the Centre for Integrative Law. Some of the people like the website guy and the logo designer and the lawyer advising me on structures are going to need payment pretty soon. I trust you’ve got it covered?  Thanks in advance for making the money part easy too, so I can focus on creating the right training programs for lawyers and getting the best people in the world here to help run them.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You’re amazing. Let me know if there’s anything more I can do – although I will have to ask for a time extension in that case! Two weeks to get the Centre off the ground and get events ready for Kim’s visit, while getting new consulting clients is proving tricky! I’m working as fast as I possibly can.

We’ll talk again soon. I might need to rest up this weekend as all this activity has left me a little physically unwell. (Great new doctor you sent me today though – really like her)

Yours in deepest gratitude, forever

Amanda

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A Thinking Environment Law Firm?

I’ve just finished my first online session of the Thinking Environment for Telephonic meetings.

It was brilliant. And while I don’t want to go into detail about the session, I wanted to share that this methodology could transform the way young attorneys are trained in law firms.

What a useful tool for the young attorney (or any age attorney) to learn how to conduct meetings, whether these are client meetings or with other lawyers.

When we discussed the first 3 components of the 10 components that make up the Thinking Environment, I was struck by how very far law firm culture is from this way of interacting. In most law firms the focus is on being right. There is a strong sense of hierarchy that if challenged, will mean you’re on the outside and unlikely to advance very far in your career.

In fact the characteristics of law firm meetings are often:

  • hierarchy
  • ego
  • intellectual superiority
  • hurried-ness (not everyone can think clearly at 6.30am!)
  • interruptions
  • fear of failure/ appearing stupid
  • no space for emotional release
  • no appreciation of other

In meetings juniors must listen to their seniors. I remember sitting in consultations where if I had any ideas I would scribble them on notes and pass them to the director I was working for at the time. You see I understood that I was not, as a candidate attorney, allowed to challenge an advocate that charged R4000 an hour. Yet I couldn’t help but want to share my knowledge – smart aleck that I was! So these notes would mean the director could make whatever point I was trying to make, without upsetting the status quo.

I also recall the dreaded “case summaries” at dawn where candidates would present a recent case to the department they were working in. I still remember one where a director cut the attorney off mid sentence to tell him how useless he was.  How does that contribute to anyone’s thinking?

I’m learning a new way of encouraging people’s capacity to think, simple tools that are so effective. The possibility for whole scale transformation of the learning environment in a law firm is enormous, if these tools are made mandatory for the running of all department meetings. Or at the very least, in the case summaries.

I can’t wait to tailor-make this programme for law firms, with the wonderful guidance of Nicola Strong in the UK. Watch this space.

These are the 3 elements we covered today. They are from Nancy Kline’s work, Time To Think.

 1. Attention

Listening with palpable respect and without interruption

—   The quality of your attention profoundly affects the quality of other people’s thinking.

—   As the listener you must be more drivingly interested in what is real and true for people than you are frightened of being proved wrong.

—   As the thinker, knowing you will not be interrupted frees you truly to think for yourself.

 2. Equality

Treating each other as thinking peers;  Giving equal turns and attention;  Keeping agreements and boundaries

—   Even in a hierarchy people can be equals as thinkers

—   Knowing you will have your turn improves the quality of your attention

3. Ease

Offering freedom from internal rush or urgency

—   Ease creates. Urgency destroys.

—   When it comes to helping people think for themselves, sometimes doing means not doing.

The First Step

In the United States there is a non-profit association called The Other Bar which describes its work like this:

“The Other Bar is a network of recovering lawyers and judges throughout the state, dedicated to assisting others within the profession who are suffering from alcohol and substance abuse problems. We are a private, non-profit corporation. Our organization is founded on the principle of anonymity and provides services in strict confidentiality. The program is voluntary and open to all California lawyers, judges and law students.”

On The Other Bar’s website there are also links to further organisations and associations across the US including:

International Lawyers in Alcoholics Anonymous

Lawyers in Recovery

The Commission of Lawyers Assistance Programs of the American Bar Association (COLAP) 

The very fact that these places exist indicate that there’s a serious problem in the legal profession.  It’s not just the odd lawyer who has a drinking problem. Statistics are available but let’s leave them aside for now. If you have even the flimsiest grasp of supply and demand, you’d be able to see that there must be a helluva lot of broken legal professionals in the US if there’s a demand for lawyers-only AA and NA meetings and sobriety retreats.

To turn to South Africa, which is where my efforts are based, I want to share this. I was recently told that one of South Africa’s largest law firms has a relationship with a private psychiatric clinic where they check in their broken lawyers whether it’s as a result of substance abuse, depression or failed relationships.  I wouldn’t have believed it had the source of this news not come from someone I trust absolutely. A few days later I met a young candidate attorney and asked her if she thought this were true. Without hesitation she said “Yes, my friend from that firm was there last year, she spent time in that clinic. Shame, she’s really struggling”.

Weirdly, that same day I ran into a lawyer who was once a friend’s boss while this friend was completing her articles at the same large firm in question. I remember her sharing with me how she was subjected to a particularly harrowing performance appraisal that left her quite shattered. It was only two years later that I discovered (via the Cape Town grapevine) that her boss had had a major drug problem at the time. I have no doubt that a significant part of what my friend experienced was her boss’s projections of his own self-doubt and incompetence at that time. So what now? He cleaned up his act and as far as I know is still sober, which is great. And my friend? Well, she’s not a lawyer anymore.  It’s sad because she’s super smart and very funny and was a good lawyer.  She could have made a significant contribution to the profession had she stayed. But from the occasional news I hear of her, these days she’s really happy.

If substance abuse is a significant problem in the legal profession, why isn’t there more information on it? If you Google Search terms like “South African lawyers & alcoholism” you’ll just find a few links to the laws on drunken driving or attorneys that will help you divorce an alcoholic partner. Nothing about the lawyers themselves. Likewise if you Google “South African lawyers & recovery”. Here you’ll see links to various lawyers involved in fraud recovery etc.  Why aren’t we seeing anything about lawyers and substance abuse? (Police and substance abuse receives a lot more attention).

Here is my thinking:

  1. South Africa has ridiculously high levels of substance abuse overall.  Basically unless every second lawyer was wasted on a daily basis I’m not sure anyone would notice the problem as being worse in the legal profession than it is in the general population!
    1. Drug consumption in South Africa is twice the world norm (CDA-2009)
    2. 15% of South Africa’s population have a drug problem (CDA).
    3. South Africa is amongst the top 10 nations in alcohol consumption.
    4. Over 30% of our population have an alcohol problem or are at risk of having one.
  2.  I think South Africa is still behind culturally in terms of its attitudes towards addiction.  There is far more shame and stigma attached towards substance abuse issues than there is in many states in the US. For example, in Hollywood it’s a joke that NA meetings are the best place to rub shoulders with big shot producers, screenplay writers and actors.
  3. Our population size simply doesn’t warrant the creation of specialist organisations (lawyers with substance abuse problems) like those I listed above. According to the American Bar Association there are currently 1,116,967 lawyers practicing in the United States. I recall some LSSA figures of approximately 20 000 attorneys in South Africa and another 10 000 in the justice department, making a total of 30 000. Let’s add another 10 000 for advocates and non-practising attorneys bringing it to 40 000. So if 25% of US lawyers had a problem that would mean there’s a market of 280 000, if half seek treatment that is 140 000 people.  Enough to fill a few retreats and regular meetings. In SA, even if 40% of our legal population had a problem it would only amount to 16 000, if half sought treatment, that’s only 8000.

I’m trying to show that even if a significant percentage of the legal community has substance abuse problems in SA, we simply don’t have the numbers that would warrant the type of attention this gets in the US.

In most major SA law firms there is a bar. If you value your career in the firm it’s unspoken that one should be rubbing shoulders with partners in the bar every Friday afternoon. The drinking culture is pretty firmly entrenched. But I’ll leave a full analysis of law firm bars for another time.

Substance abuse issues aside, there is a wealth of information that lawyers globally are unhappy.

There is work being done in the US to address these issues: Professor Susan Daicoff (author of Lawyer, Know Thyself, 2004) describes a “tripartite crisis” facing the legal profession:

1) low levels of job satisfaction and mental well-being among lawyers. Lawyers experience depression at least twice as frequently as it occurs in the general population (almost 18% of lawyers are depressed.) Lawyers also suffer higher than normal levels of anxiety, paranoia, obsessive-compulsiveness, insecurity, hostility, stress, anger and marital dissatisfaction. And 18% of lawyers, again about twice the general population, are alcoholics;

2) a lack of professionalism on the part of both lawyers and judges, as demonstrated by frequent complaints of incivility and discourtesy, inappropriately aggressive litigation, and behavior verging on the unethical; and

 3) low public opinion of lawyers and the legal profession

It’s time we got serious in South Africa about addressing lawyer unhappiness. There is a wealth of resources from abroad and in this country that can help lawyers whether this is in the form of books like Susan Daicoff’s Lawyer, Know Thyself; Kim Wright’s Lawyers as Peacemakers, continuing education workshops, retreats, changing the way we educate lawyers, support by the LSSA and Bar Association for lawyers’ emotional well-being.  The Integrative Law Centre soon to be established in South Africa will help make these resources available to those who need them.

But the first step is admitting we have a problem.