Category Archives: Lawyer well-being

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.

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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.

 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”.

AWARENESS OF THE LAWYER’S FACADE IS REQUIRED

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!)

MACCRATE REPORT: GET LEADERSHIP INTO LAW SCHOOLS!

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 www.integrativelaw.co.za  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 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Centre-for-Integrative-Law/639014322793298 – 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.

Employee Recognition: Let us give thanks

you-are-more-than-awesome-you-re-amazing

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

DSC00806

“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.

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.