Category Archives: Legal Education

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.

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Neuro-law: A New World of Law Part 2

David Eagleman (1)

 

Photo: David Eagleman from The Initiative of Neuroscience and the Law at the Baylor College of Medicine who spoke with federal judges at the D.C. Circuit Court bi-annual conference in 2012 about the importance of a scientifically-guided legal system. He has done dozens of public lectures across the US and has been featured on CNN.

All around the world institutions and organisations are being created to harness learning from neuroscience in the world of law. The point of a legal system is to resolve conflict and help people live alongside each other on Planet Earth.  It doesn’t take a genius to see that the legal system is falling way short of its goal. So how do we start shifting the legal profession? We do it by going back to understanding how people function and what lies at the heart of conflict.

Extract from Baylor College of Medicine’s Initiative on Neuroscience and Law:

Baylor College of Medicine’s Initiative on Neuroscience and Law addresses how new discoveries in neuroscience should navigate the way we make laws, punish criminals, and develop rehabilitation.  The project brings together a unique collaboration of neurobiologists, legal scholars, ethicists, medical humanists, and policy makers, with the goal of running experiments that will result in modern, evidence-based policy.

Emerging questions at the interface of law and neuroscience challenge fundamental notions at the heart of our criminal justice system. Because brains develop as a complex interaction of genes and environment, can we really assume that people are ‘practical reasoners’, and deciding in exactly the same way? Is mass incarceration the most fruitful method to deal with juveniles, the mentally ill, and the drug-addicted? Can novel technologies such as real-time brain imaging be leveraged for new methods of rehabilitation? Can large scale data analysis give us insight into patterns of crime, recidivism, and the effect of legislation? 

Because most behavior is driven by brain networks we do not consciously control, the legal system will eventually be forced to shift its emphasis from retribution to a forward-looking analysis of future behavior. In the light of modern neuroscience, it no longer makes sense to ask “was it his fault, or his biology’s fault, or the fault of hisbackground?”, because these issues can never be disentangled.  Instead, the only sensible question can be “what do we do from here?” — in terms of customized sentencing, tailored rehabilition, and refined incentive structuring.

Lawyers all over the world are starting to see how learning from other disciplines, such as Neuroscience can have a profound effect on how we practise law. The Centre for Integrative Law’s mission is: To create a network of self-aware legal professionals, trained in global legal innovation, to articulate a new vision of law for South Africa.

If you’re interested in being a self-aware legal professional, trained in global legal innovation, come to hear the brilliant legal thought leader Pauline Tesler, from San Francisco, talking about Neuro-Literacy for Lawyers.

Cape Town: 10 April 2013

Johannesburg: 23 April 2013

Click here to register.

Neuro-law: A New World of Law Part 1

Triune brain artist impression

If you’re a lawyer (and chances are high if you’re reading this 😉 then you may well wonder what NEUROSCIENCE has to do with law or why you should care.

Here are some extracts explaining what’s going on around the world that you may not be aware of, understandably given the high demands of the legal profession and the pressure of billing by the hour.

Do you have time to read this? I’d argue you do for 2 reasons:

  1. You’re a lawyer and read really fast so you’ll soon decide if this is worth your while.
  2. Sometime you have to stop and sharpen the axe – even when it means you lose 15 minutes of billable tree-cutting time.

Extracts from Negotiation & Neuroscience by Kay Elliot.

Every day we are expected to make decisions that may have lasting effects: Do I negotiate with the customer that is obnoxious, demanding and unreasonable? Do I end a business relationship when the other party injures me financially? Do I negotiate with my life partner who has betrayed me about how much time I get to spend with our child? On a macro scale – should the USA negotiate with the Taliban when it is publicly dedicated to acts of terrorism against our country? Was Nelson Mandela right to negotiate with the apartheid regime of South Africa? Was Churchill wise to not negotiate with Hitler during World War II? When should we say no and fight? When should we say let’s negotiate? Is there a paradigm for making wise decisions in these difficult settings? Should we ever bargain with the “devil”?

Wise dispute resolution poses three challenges: avoiding predominately emotional decision making; taking the time to do a decision tree of alternatives; and assessing the ethical and moral issues involved in any situation. Neuroscientists and psychologists tell us that we all make these types of decisions using different parts of our brains: the intuitive, emotional brain and the rational, analytical brain. Other writers call these structures the old brain (the so-called snake brain) and the newer brain.

So take a look at the image again – thanks to Dr Paul Maclean – and see the 3 parts of the brain:

  1. Neo-cortex or new brain – cognitive section of the brain, the rational, figuring stuff out part
  2. Limbic system (in the middle)  – responsible for emotional attachments, also known as mammalian brain
  3. The Survival/ Reptilian/ Old brain – this is our flight or fight response that helps us act instantly when there isn’t time to weigh up pros and cons.

Some more from Kay Elliot:

The preference for distributive conflict styles prevents integration. In another context we see that narrowing the issues is beneficial for trying a law suit – fewer points to prove – but broadening the issues provides more scope for trades. The litigator in negotiating a settlement might only use the parts of the brain best suited for math problems and fail to utilize other parts of the brain better suited to creative tasks…

Neuroscience, while exciting, is still in its early stages of development. Neuroimaging holds the promise, however, of allowing unprecedented access to the mechanisms of the brain as it makes decisions. We are finally able to advance our understanding of just what is happening in the brain during negotiation and mediation, not by words but with pictures… 

There are many workshops being offered to mediators and negotiators in this and related fields. In the summer of 2010, for example, Pepperdine University School of Law presented Mindfulness for Conflict Resolvers: Lawyers, Mediators, Negotiators, Judges, Arbitrators & Managers, led by Len Riskin, Professor at the University of Florida College of Law, and Rachel Wohl, Director of the Maryland Supreme Court Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office. In June of that year a webinar on Contemplative Neuroscience with Richard Davidson from the University of Wisconsin was presented. On October 22, 2010, the University of California-Hastings College of Law sponsored a symposium on Emotions and Negotiation. Two leading authorities on non verbal communication, Paul Ekman and Clark Freshman, presented the latest research findings on using emotional information to negotiate more effectively…

In June, 2010, a course in Neuro-Collaboration was offered by Pauline Tesler (Attorney) and Thomas Lewis (MD and Neuroscientist) at Pepperdine. One observation from that course crystallizes the intersection of Neuroscience and Law:

“Collaborative lawyers undertake a task and if they are to do well at it, their beliefs and behaviors must support the ends they pursue and the processes they offer, must match up with what their clients and colleagues reasonably expect, and with what is known about how human beings actually do behave during conflict and conflict resolution processes. This does not mean that a collaborative lawyer must be a neuro-scientist or a psychotherapist or communications specialist. But collaborative lawyers do have a responsibility to make their work congruent with how they and their clients are biologically wired to think, feel, and decide, if they are to deliver what they promise.”

Lawyers all over the world are starting to see how learning from other disciplines, such as Neuroscience can have a profound effect on how we practise law.

Are you interested in innovation in law or do you aspire to the nostalgia of a law office lined with books and a mahogany desk with a jar of quill pens?

The Centre for Integrative Law’s mission is: To create a network of self-aware legal professionals, trained in global legal innovation, to articulate a new vision of law for South Africa.

If you’re interested in being a self-aware legal professional, trained in global legal innovation, come to hear the brilliant legal thought leader Pauline Tesler, from San Francisco, talking about Neuro-Literacy for Lawyers.

Cape Town: 10 April 2013

Johannesburg: 23 April 2013

Click here to register.

Part 2 of Neuro Law will follow.

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

DSC00236

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.

Girls’ Guide to Law School

I just stumbled across Alison Monahan’s blog. In an interview about her blog and life she is asked whether going to law school was worth it. I think her reply is thought-provoking and worth sharing with women lawyers.

 I don’t think you can say, in the abstract, that law school is “worth it” or “not worth it.” Sure, you could calculate the cost to attend and your expected level of earnings over a given career path, and say you’ll be financially better off (or not) if you go to law school and everything goes according to plan. But that calculation leaves out a lot – Will you like your job? Will your work be meaningful? Will you be able to eat dinner with your kids (or even have time to have them)? Will this path make you happy?

These are big questions, and most of them can only be answered in retrospect. The mission for the prospective law student is to get as close to an answer in the here-and-now as they realistically can.

The way to do that, I think, is to find out as much as possible about the profession, and to talk to lots of practicing (and former) lawyers. When people are gathering information, it’s critical to be aware of natural heuristic biases (paying more attention to information that confirms your preexisting opinion, for example, and less to information that contradicts it).

 The hardest part of this analysis is to find a way to really listen to what people are telling you. There’s a lot of wishful thinking out there, and law schools, to be frank, sometimes prey on this. The reality is that law’s a difficult profession, and it’s not a path to guaranteed riches. For the right person, it’s a good option. But far too many prospective students either fail to do their research, or put aside the feeling that maybe this isn’t a good idea, and end up bitter and disgruntled.

I’m very intrigued by the effect the legal profession has on women. So I really like the tagline of Alison’s blog – underneath the Girls’ Guide to Law School it says “Get in, Get Through, Stay You”. It touches a nerve for me  personally, because after 2 years in a law firm I felt like I had multiple personality disorder.  I’d put on a suit and sing the Ally McBeal theme song and know by the time I arrived at work I needed to be a different person. My research is showing me that hundreds and thousands of women lawyers out there have sacrificed a large part of who they are in order to survive as a lawyer. Law firms still, by and large, tend to be a very male space. It’s not about statistics, in fact it doesn’t always make a huge difference if there are are many women in the firm. The issue is that in the legal environment, everyone is expected to think and act in a masculine rather than a feminine way.

Mary Ovenstone, a leadership and executive coach, is currently researching ‘the neurological differences between the male and female brain’ for her thesis. She says it was always taught that there was only one language centre in the brain. In fact, there are six found on both sides of the brain.  The male brain uses one language centre found on the left hemisphere, the female brain uses all six.  I’m hoping I can convince Mary to share some of her work in workshops with lawyers.

Here are some more differences I’ve pulled off the ‘net:

  • The male brain is highly specialized, using specific parts of one hemisphere or the other to accomplish specific tasks. The female brain is more diffused and utilizes significant portions of both hemispheres for a variety of tasks.
  • Men are able to focus on narrow issues and block out unrelated information and distractions. Women naturally see everyday things from a broader, “big-picture” vantage point.
  • Men can narrowly focus their brains on specific tasks or activities for long periods of time without tiring. Women are better equipped to divide their attention among multiple activities or tasks.
  • Men are able to separate information, stimulus, emotions, relationships, etc. into separate compartments in their brains, while women tend to link everything together.
  • Men see individual issues with parts of their brain, while women look at the holistic or multiple issues with their whole brain (both hemispheres).
  • Men have as much as 20 times more testosterone in their systems than do women. This makes men typically more aggressive, dominant and more narrowly focused.
  • In men, the dominant perceptual sense is vision, which is typically not the case with women. All of a woman’s senses are, in some respects, more finely tuned than those of a man.

If you think about this list for a moment- can you imagine what it does to a person if they are constantly trying to behave in a way that is not their norm? Being subtly, and not so subtly, pulled towards viewing matters as others would have them see them? Denying their own feelings because they might be viewed as “inappropriate” or “unprofessional” or “illogical”.

New studies show that companies which have equal or greater numbers of women on their boards do better! That’s right, the bottom line is positively affected by a good male/female mix. Why? Because if we harness our different ways of seeing the world we can become more than the sum of our parts. We bring different styles and methods and solutions and ways of negotiating. Women and men working as teams are powerful. If the intuitive and connected half of the room are spending all their energy on trying to sound as decisive and focused as the the other (male) half, we’re not harnessing anything.

Girls, when you think about entering the legal profession, there’s a lot more to consider than if you’ll be able to read your kids stories at night.  How about being prepared to give up your way of viewing the world?

I’m currently designing a 1 day workshop for women lawyers to address some of these things, incorporating an Individual Values Assessment by the Barrett Values Centre.  Please ask if you’d like to know more.

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.

Law School Education

I feel compelled to share this really great article on law school education from the New York Times.

It’s funny too.

It doesn’t give all the solutions but David Segal, the journalist, is quite good at pointing out some of the problems.  And it covers a range of issues concerning legal education’s failure to prepare students for actually practising law.

Below are 3 extracts from the article, which you can read in its entirety here:

“Law schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions, like the variety of property law in post-feudal England. Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship, like law review articles with titles like “A Future Foretold: Neo-Aristotelian Praise of Postmodern Legal Theory.”

“We should be teaching what is really going on in the legal system,” says Edward L. Rubin, a professor and former dean at the Vanderbilt Law School, “not what was going on in the 1870s, when much of the legal curriculum was put in place.”

“Another problem…there are few incentives for law professors to excel at teaching. It might earn them the admiration of students, but it won’t win them any professional goodies, like tenure, a higher salary, prestige or competing offers from better schools. For those, a professor must publish law review articles, the ticket to punch for any upwardly mobile scholar.”

It is my observation that while graduate schools are beginning to wisen up and focus on how people will be doing things as much as what they will be doing, law schools globally seem behind the curve.  This means that business school curricula now contain extensive courses the preparation of great business leaders who are prepared for the psychological and ethical challenges. Yet law schools still focus 99% of their attention on learning law – content as opposed to process.  There is growing dissatisfaction as lawyers globally realise they have not been adequately prepared for the challenges of the legal profession.  This is leading to a rise of services such as Lawyer Coach, which arise to meet the needs of lawyers actively seeking training in the skills they did not receive while studying. Granted, some of these are skills only suitable for lawyers with developed careers. However there appears to be a growing number of lawyers who agree that we MUST start including leadership work, including further courses on ethics, into standard law school curricula.