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.


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