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?



One response to “Honouring Nelson Mandela: The Lawyer

  1. I am not a lawyer and I am not even aspiring to be one… What I can tell you about the experiences I have had with lawyers is, they revere the law so much that even if there is a part of the law that is obviously irrelevant, instead of challenging it, they will say, “it is the law and we uphold it,” as of it is written in stone and should not be changed or challenged…


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s