Category Archives: Law firms

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”.

 

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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.

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Employee Recognition: Let us give thanks

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Employee Recognition is only just beginning to, um, get the recognition it deserves.

It is particularly important for law firms as research on lawyer’s personality profiles (including MBTI research and brain imaging data and studies by Carol Gilligan) all show that lawyers are great at critical analysis but less so at the touchy-feely stuff, or in fact any of the feeling stuff. In plain English, it is far easier for a lawyer colleague or boss to point out the 3 things a junior did wrong than it i for them to pay a tribute to something someone did right. Because lawyers are trained and paid to criticize and see flaws and ways of improving things.  And because this way of viewing the world the default setting, most lawyers are not even aware of this.

It would also be helpful for lawyers to understand the 3 basic types of Employee recognition that I have just read about in some fascinating research entitled:  Employee Recognition: a Lynchpin Value for Cultural Transformation by Judith Mills and Joan Shafer. Here they are:

PAST Accomplishments i.e.: work done goals achieved contributions

PRESENT Acknowledgement of the importance of particular talents, current contributions or character

FUTURE Promise of potential: promotions, positions, projects

Which type do you think would be the hardest for lawyers? Yip, the middle one: Acknowledging WHO someone really is, their character does not come naturally to lawyers – it’s far too right brain.  Law firms tend to recognise employees more often than not, on accomplishment – while sometimes what people most need is recognition of who they are and what they bring to the workplace aside from the obvious accomplishments of winning a case or bringing in a new client.

A firm called Sullivan & Cromwell held a training session in 2006 for its partners on associate appreciation. This presentation encouraged partners to give associates feedback, to say “thank you” and “good job” and to return associates’ calls as quickly as you would a partner’s or clients’. The firm also arranged periodic associate lunches with the chairman of the firm and implemented a 360 degree review process – to give associates feedback from subordinates and peers as well as supervisors. In 2007 the firm’s attrition rate dropped from 30 plus percent to 22 percent. (The Happy Lawyer p.195)

Still not convinced?

Here’s another interesting piece of research mentioned by Mills and Shafer:

Employee Recognition affects the bottom line. In their book “The Carrot Principle”, Gostick and Elton demonstrate this. In response to the question ‘My organisation recognises excellence’, the results show that organisations that scored in the lower fourth quartile had an average return on equity (ROE) of 2.4%, whereas those that scored in the top fourth had an average ROE of 8.7%. In other words, companies that most effectively recognise excellence enjoy a return that is more than triple the return of those that are least effective.”

How people are lead and managed is important. People who report the highest morale at work, 94.4% agree that their managers are effective at recognition. In contrast, 56% of employees who report low morale give their manager a failing grade on recognition and only 2.4% of people who have low morale say they have a boss who is great at recognition.

Two final pieces of advice that I’ve gleaned from Mills & Shafer

The people delivering the recognition need to:

Match what and how they deliver recognition to what is meaningful to the employee. To do this they need to strengthen their powers of observation, feedback systems and articulation skills.

And importantly:

When acknowledgement is needed, it has a more powerful punch if it is delivered by someone high up in the organisation.

For recognition to be effective, the recipient needs to:

  • Trust that the recognition is true.
  • Respect the source of the recognition.
  • Believe that there is no hidden motive behind the appreciation.

People are not aware of all the gifts they have to offer. It is a transformative act to tell people how they have affected others’ lives. This not only increases their self-awareness, but empowers them to express themselves more freely to others. It reduces the fear belief of ‘Am I good enough’? Do not assume that other people know how effective, good or talented they are.

CVA data (CULTURAL VALUE ASSESSMENTS) are a powerful tool for gathering data on the issue of employee recognition.

An analysis of 106 CVA’s show that it is not just lower level employees that want to be recognised but people at all levels “including the CEO, senior leadership, middle management, and staff. People at the top have just as strong a need to be appreciated as staff, possibly because it can be lonely at the top. This is evidenced by the response senior leaders demonstrate during Leadership Values Assessment (LVA) debriefs where their strengths and contributions are acknowledged by their colleagues. They are almost always touched and surprised by how highly regarded they are and the extent and richness of their strengths. This feedback from others enhances their confidence and belief about themselves in all they have to offer.”

Mills & Shafer have also developed a great model showing 7 levels of Employee Recognition, that aligns with the 7 Levels of Organisational Consciousness.

I am SO excited to be taking this cutting edge work being done in corporates around the world, and bringing it to my niche market of South African law firms. The Barrett Cultural Transformation Tools mentioned here – the CVA and LVA – are such brilliantly simple yet powerful ways to deepen an organisation’s understanding of dynamics which have a huge effect on the firm, but aren’t readily visible.

I am finalising the LEARNS product: (Lawyer Engagement & Recognition Nexus Survey) designed specifically to assist law firms in understanding the nexus, or connection between:

  • Employee recognition patterns
  • Employee engagement patterns
  • Attrition rates
  • Firm profitablity

It is early days but the Centre for Integrative Law gets closer every day to its vision To be South Africa’s leading  consultancy for emergent thinking in integrative ways to practise and teach law.

Click here for more details.

“Don’t leave me now, Don’t say it’s the end of the road”

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Authenticity implies a way of being in the world wherein you remain true to the spirit of who you are at the soul level.  Sadly, growing numbers of lawyers globally leave the profession early because they are unable to align their professional and personal lives. This is particularly true for women who, in addition to the challenges lawyers face generally, find themselves in environments where only a male way of operating is valued. There are thousands of studies to indicate that men and women process information differently, solve problems differently and build relationships differently. However, law firms pay little, if any, attention to this and so to most women lawyers remain oblivious to what might be causing the growing sense of unease and dissatisfaction at their chosen career path.  But while attention needs to be paid to this issue, it’s not just women who are struggling.  Male lawyers are also wondering, as their every waking hour is spent engaged in fighting on behalf of clients or fighting their way to a partnership, if this is really what they want from their lives.

Many lawyers who may have begun their studies viewing law as a powerful tool for justice, equality and societal change become disheartened after a few years in practice.  A  lot  of  people  who  go  into  law  school  have  a  strong  sense  of  right  and wrong  and  a  belief  in  moral  truths.  Those  values  are  destroyed  in  law school,  where students  are taught  that  there  is  no  right  and  no wrong  and where  such  idealistic,  big-picture  concepts  get  usurped.  The way  the majority of students deal with this is to  become cynical. (See Ralph Nader  & Wesley J. Smith, No  Contest: Corporate  Lawyers  and  the Perversion of Justice in America 334  (1996).

Most people choose their careers by focusing on what profession best allows them to satisfy their ego needs. The term “ego” is not used in a negative sense here, it simply refers to the basic human needs such as survival (a safe secure environment for the self), relationships (the need for belonging and feeling loved and accepted by those with whom you interact daily) and self esteem (feeling good about yourself and having pride in your performance).  Once these ego needs are satisfied individuals then shift to the transformation level which is about embracing their individuality to become fully actualized and authentic. After that, one moves to internal cohesion which is where people start to find meaning for their lives by uncovering their purpose and aligning fully with who they are.

Usually it’s only after 10 or 20 years that people realise that the profession you chose in your youth is not the one that aligns with your passion.

But I don’t believe that we are called to the legal profession by accident and I don’t believe if you find yourself disillusioned that the only way you can align with your passion is to leave the legal profession.  And I was so delighted to engage in deep dialogue with 40 attorneys, advocates, prosecutors and mediators in September 2012 and hear them talk about their life purpose. Many of them had found ways to move to the transformation level (embracing their individuality) but remain in the legal profession. And I was surprised to see how many had moved to the internal cohesion level  – finding their life purpose and aligning fully with who they are. (Often this can be evidenced by the way people talk about what they do – the light that shines in their eyes. Sometimes you can sense they become almost tearful with the strength of their passion. Richard Barrett taught me this is their soul communicating.) Perhaps I should not have been that surprised as these were all legal professionals who had given up a day’s work to hear about Integrative Law in South Africa and connect with Kim Wright, author of Lawyers as Peacemakers. In other words, this was a group of lawyers already invested in personal transformation.

For some of them, aligning with who they really are had meant training in mediation, for others, finding a way to connect more deeply with things that gave their life meaning for example, one attorney is helping people with terminal illnesses, another is coaching people who find themselves in litigation because she knows that litigation is often merely an outward manifestation of underlying inner conflict.    These stories were moving and each indicated the struggle the individual had gone through to align fully with their purpose in an often unforgiving profession.

I have made it my mission for the next few years to help lawyers uncover their purpose and find ways to live to their full potential while continuing to practise law, perhaps in a different way, shape or form.  Alongside this, I’m hoping to revolutionize legal education in South Africa! Ambitious? Maybe I am, but with the contacts I have made in the last 12 months – conscious, committed lawyers (and coaches, and organisational development experts and lateral thinking experts) all over the globe who have offered me their time, assistance and intellectual property to fulfil this mission, I know I don’t have to be an expert – if I apply my mind to a problem, be it an individual’s struggle or an organisational one, I can design a powerful solution with this network at my fingertips.

I am so excited to be developing:

  • Coaching programmes for lawyers (with my new inspiring and energetic coaching partner, an expert in helping people develop resilience)
  • Mentoring programmes for lawyers
  •  Gender workshops for lawyers  – some in conjunction with a psychotherapist doing a PHD in Corporate Gender Relations (note: I wrote about Mary Ovenstone in June last year here, setting my intention that one day when the time was right, we’d collaborate.  And now we are. Love it when a plan comes together.)
  • Depth Leadership for Lawyers (with an expert in Deep Facilitation)
  • De  Bono lateral thinking workshops (with top SA De Bono expert)
  • The latest in Neuro-literacy Training for Lawyers (in April, with expert Pauline Tesler from San Francisco. This workshop is accredited by the ABA. I pray one day the LSSA will accredit such courses here in South Africa.)

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…

To know more, feel free to contact me using the contact tabs on this blog. To ensure  you don’t miss news of trainings, please sign up on www.cil.org.za I promise you won’t get bombarded with information. In fact you’ll be lucky to get monthly updates at this rate. But seriously, some of the experts will only be visiting South Africa once so you will need to move fast to be guaranteed cutting edge training.  I look forward to meeting 1000’s more committed, conscious lawyers in the months to come.

I wanna be like you hoo hoo…I wanna walk like you

Baloo and Mowgli

 

“Oh, oobee doo

I wanna be like you

I wanna walk like you

Talk like you, too

You’ll see it’s true”  From the Jungle Book: I wanna Be Like You

But is it true? 

“One of the largest national studies on associate attrition found that the availability or lack of mentoring and feedback frequently affected associates’ decision to stay with their firm or to leave”.  (US Study – NALP Foundation for Research and Education. Keeping the Keepers: Strategies for Associate Retention in a time of Attrition, 1998)

The buzzword in many South African law firms right now is “mentoring programme”. These programmes are being introduced to combat a number of issues facing law firms in today’s climate:

  • High attorney turn-over rates
  • Lack of collegial atmosphere – (workplace cultures focused solely on profit and pleasing clients don’t build staff relationships)
  • Young attorneys ill-equipped to withstand the pressures of the legal profession as their university training focused on academic training only

Firms are realising that “Associate happiness is also likely to be increased if you encourage development of each lawyer’s specific strengths and skill sets”. (from The Happy Lawyer, Nancy Levit and Douglas O Linder). But many of the firms are not entirely sure how to do this and are placing the success or failure of such programmes at the door of already over-burdened HR managers.

If you are implementing or designing a mentoring programme in a law firm right now, here are 5 things to bear in mind,  based on global research.

  1. Most lawyers don’t naturally make good mentors. Mentoring is a different skill to lawyering. The first example: lawyers don’t like to listen! They are trained to give advice! The very opposite is required in a mentor who needs to listen and help the mentee find their own solution.  It’s likely that most young associates if given the choice will choose the same partner or group of partners as mentors.  However, mentoring skills can be taught, to an extent, if mentors are willing to put in the time necessary to learn them and are incentivised to do so.*
  2.  Forward thinking firms are including in their compensation plans “an upward evaluation of partners by associates in categories of supervision availability, respect for associate work-load…openness to questions,…career guidance”. In other words, partners who are good mentors and managers are rewarded.
  3. Most young attorneys have not been encouraged to consider their vision for their careers or to assess what areas of law best match their personality, values and skills. If they’re academically strong, they end up in large firms by default, based on a fairly swift hiring process before they’ve graduated. The complex process of helping someone with personal discovery and insights, learning what one’s values are and being familiar with one’s strengths, is not really part of the senior attorney’s job description.  Bring in professionals.
  4. Low levels of trust can be an issue: for example, will a senior partner be willing to hold an honest conversation with a junior about the downsides of her job, if the conversation might get back to her superiors and affect her own career trajectory?
  5. Generational differences: “Lawyers from Generation X (born between 1965 and 1979) and Generation Y (born between 1980 to 2000) often work in law firms where the senior partners are Baby Boomers (born between 1946-1964) – The Happy Lawyer.  These are not arbitrary distinctions but crucial to understanding each other. Some examples:  Boomers want the corner office, Gen X’ers see freedom as the ultimate reward, while Gen Y’ers seek work that is meaningful to them. Gen X’ers want to work smarter rather than harder and they tend to like flexibility. Gen Y’ers want to be judged on their productivity and the quality of their work, not their seniority. 

The best mentoring programme is one that recognises the limitations of its attorneys as mentors, and supplements associate training with professional coaching.

A professional coach can design a far-reaching programme that can be transformational for both the mentors and mentees. In the next few posts I will lay out some of what a Professionally Designed Law Firm Mentorship Programme might contain.

 

The Conscious Lawyer

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“Without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness nothing will change for the better in the sphere of our being as humans, and the catastrophe for which the world is headed — be it ecological, social, demographic, or a general breakdown of civilization — will be unavoidable.”

–   Vaclav Havel, playwright, activist, Czech independence leader, Czechpresident, and what the New York Times obituary called “a global ambassador of conscience”.

World conditions indicate we now need individuals, (in my case the focus is on lawyers), who have “high ethical standards and moral integrity, who dedicate themselves to developing new ways of thinking and acting to help resolve the social, political, economic and ecological challenges of the twenty first century” (Worldshift 2012, Making Green Business, New Politics And Higher Consciousness Work Together” Ervin Laszlo).

The purpose of my work is to raise consciousness in the legal profession. This concept, while crystal clear to some people, who go on to ask how I do this, is completely impenetrable to others who look at me quizzically and ask “what consciousness?” To me it’s quite amazing that something that has been written about since people could first write (ancient Sanskrit texts) is still relatively unknown in large tracts of the Western world.  But whether we know about consciousness or not, even a rudimentary understanding of global changes should be sufficient to show us that unless we shift our consciousness, there will be a general breakdown of civilization.

According to the ever-useful Wikipedia, Consciousness is the quality or state of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined as:

subjectivityawarenesssentience, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind.”

One of the issues in trying to define “consciousness” is that each field of study defines it in a different way. So philosophers go into long-winded explanations about how anyone can ever really know anything (if we use our senses, these could be faulty – for example the discovery of colour blindness showed us that cannot know if we all see the colour red the same way).

Psychologists and neuro-scientists look at different parts of the brain and how and where information is stored for example often we think we don’t know something but later we recall it, so that information must have been there all along.

“In medicine, consciousness is assessed by observing a patient’s arousal and responsiveness, and can be seen as a continuum of states ranging from full alertness and comprehension, through disorientation, delirium, loss of meaningful communication, and finally loss of movement in response to painful stimuli.”

When I talk about consciousness I’m generally referring to our awareness, what we are able to know, sense, feel, and intuit on all levels: physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual.

How does this relate to lawyers?

Take a moment to imagine this: a lawyer sits in his office surrounding by files and law books. His level of consciousness is informed by his education, the firm he is working in, the colleagues he associates with daily, the materials available to him and his interactions with his clients – in other words the things that comprise “his world”.

What I propose is a deepening of consciousness that is two fold:

  1. the inward journey: Helping lawyers develop a greater understanding of themselves, their own values and worldviews and how this affects their thinking, their ability to help their clients intellectually, emotionally, and perhaps even spiritually (to help a client find forgiveness after suffering a deeply painful wrong is surely spiritual assistance?) This type of personal development work helps lawyers connect with why they were drawn to the profession of law in the first place and can help the lawyer find alignment between their personal and professional lives. It can also help the lawyer uncover a purpose or mission far more fulfilling than that of “providing for the family” or simple material gain.
  2. The outward or upward journey: Helping lawyers shift their perspective from

 the pile of files on the desk in front of them:

to their law firm’s level of organisational consciousness and values and the effect this has on the individual lawyer and his clients

to the legal profession generally in the country, its general orientation and world view and how the individual lawyer can function within this system (understanding systems thinking is helpful here)

To the shifts taking place globally – that there is a growing realisation that the true interests of people include physical survival, stable relationships in society, a meaningful cultural and social identity and remunerated and socially useful work. 

Lawyers who are able to shift their perspective from the immediate (their client files needing urgent attention) to a much higher “helicopter” view of their role in society as one of healing conflict and contributing to stable relationships or helping create a judicial system dedicated to social and economic justice – these are the lawyers the world needs now.

At present, the frameworks most influencing my thinking on consciousness are:

  • Richard Barrett’s 7 levels of consciousness framework
  • Doctor David Hawkin’s Map of Consciousness which is contained in his book “Power v Force”.
  • Spiral Dynamics, a model developed by Dr Don Beck and Chris Cowan in the 1990’s, based on the work of the late Professor Clare W Graves.

These are all very weighty models about which many books have been written by hundreds of people taking the ideas further and in some cases criticising them. To try and capture such complex frameworks in brief is daunting and I don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel so I will try to find the simplest explanations online of each of these frameworks and models, and present them in the next post.

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 Times They are a Changin’

I’ve just read  a great article by Jordan Furlong in which he discusses the changing landscape of employment as a lawyer. Here is an extract:

“My message to new lawyers, really, is this: don’t gear all your career efforts towards “getting a job,” or at least, not one that you’ll hold for more than a few years. The legal economy’s traditional employment infrastructure is starting to crumble, and if you count on spending your career inside it, you could be caught in the collapse. There are plenty of markets and industries that will continue to make lots of traditional full-time “jobs” available, but I doubt very much that the law will be one of them. If you wind up in a steady law job, that’s obviously great; but you should think of that outcome as the exception more than the rule.

So instead, plan for independence. More and more legal employment will be small and entrepreneurial in nature, rewarding the self-starter who builds a reputation for value, effectiveness and foresight. Look at the legal market around you and ask: What’s missing? What client needs aren’t being met? What needs have clients not even thought of yet? What innovative new industries will flourish in the next ten years, and in what ways will they require assistance that lawyer training and legal skills can deliver? What demographic trends will take full effect in the 2010s, and what are their law-related implications? What technological advances in the legal market, no matter how sophisticated, will still require complementary high-end lawyer services?”

Furlong goes on to provide an insightful analysis of 7 characteristics that future lawyer roles might have – as opposed to characteristics of the conventional “lawyer job in a law firm” role.

As one commenter points out, this is not just good advice for young lawyers but also for “old”  lawyers who need to rethink their own career paths in a shifting profession.  

New lawyer roles might look like this:

  1. They envision multiple clients, not just one: These aren’t single-channel “jobs” in the traditional sense; they’re more like engagements or opportunities that are customized multiple times to an ever-changing roster of clients.
  2. They require the application of high-end skills or talents: Lawyers need to deploy judgment, counsel, business analysis or strategic insight to fill these roles — not process or content, which   will be systematized and automated by non-lawyers.
  3. They involve a high degree of customization. Mass-produced legal products and services will be the province of high-volume, low-cost providers. High-value services will be uniquely tailored, like designer drugs based on a patient’s DNA.
  4. They meet a need unfilled by a traditional provider. Law firms, law schools, legal publishers, CLE providers, governing bodies, and other industry mainstays could provide supply or drum up demand for these roles, but haven’t.
  5. They focus far more on preventing problems than on solving them. Richard Susskind, again, reminds us that clients want a fence at the top of a cliff, not an ambulance at the bottom. These are all fence-building positions.
  6. They presume a high degree of connectedness. The future of law is collaborative, and successful future law careers will hinge in no small part on the size, quality and effectiveness of lawyers’ networks.
  7. They deliver specific, identifiable, and actionable value to the buyer. Much of what lawyers now provide is procedural and transactional: hoops that must be jumped through. These roles are rich in direct, verifiable value to clients.

 I highly recommend reading the article in full here:

And of course, if you’re trying to understand the changing legal landscape, familiarize yourself with the Integrative Law Movement.  It will take your legal practice to a higher level of consciousness and enable you to open doors that your more conventional legal colleagues cannot.