Category Archives: Multi-disciplinary thinking

Neuro-law: A New World of Law Part 3

 

BRAIN SPIKE IMAGE LIGHTS

Why should you, as a lawyer, care about Neuroscience?

This is part 3 of my series in Neurolaw – in which I provide some extracts explaining developments in legal thinking that you may not be aware of.

The Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, is an interdisciplinary collaborative initiative with two main goals: (1) to help the legal system avoid misuse of neuroscientific evidence in criminal law contexts, and (2) to explore ways to deploy neuroscientific insights to improve the fairness and effectiveness of the criminal justice system.

The MacArthur Foundation laid the cornerstones for the Network by drawing together several dozen of the nation’s top researchers beginning in 2007 to conduct a coordinated and comprehensive investigation of basic issues at the intersection of law and neuroscience, funded by a four-year grant. In 2011, the new MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience began to build on those cornerstones with an interconnected program of research with three foci: Mental States, Development, and Evidence.

A conference on the Future of Law and Neuroscience is being held on 27 April 2013 in Chicago, sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, the American Bar Association, Vanderbilt Law School, the Gruter Institute for Law and Behavioral Research, the American Bar Association Criminal Justice Section, and the American Bar Association Science & Technology Section.

The program will feature a law and neuroscience curriculum specifically designed for lawyers, and will draw on new research from the MacArthur Foundation Research Network. Topics to be covered include: An introduction to cognitive neuroscience (including brain imaging techniques) for lawyers; neuroscience and criminal justice; decision making; the developing brain; memory and lie detection; and evidentiary issues surrounding neuroscientific evidence.

You have a chance to learn about Neuroscience and Law here in South Africa in April 2013 with a global legal in this field, Pauline Tesler from San Francisco.

Make sure you don’t miss out.

Cape Town: 10 April 2013

Johannesburg: 23 April 2013

Click here to register.

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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.

3 Models of Consciousness

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.

Richard Barrett’s 7 levels of consciousness framework

Richard Barrett (FRSA) is an author, speaker and social commentator on the evolution of human values in business and society. He is the Founder and Chairman of the Barrett Values Centre and an internationally recognized thought leader on values, culture, leadership and consciousness. Richard was a successful engineer for many years and studied Psychology, Spirituality, Physics, and Personal Transformation in his spare time. Only much later in his life did he become a consultant in organisational levels of consciousness and achieve international recognition for this work.  He now does a lot of work on country’s levels of consciousness and global levels of consciousness.

The Barrett Values Centre website has links to all Barrett’s thinking and models.  This is an extract below, which you can read in full here:

Every human being on the planet evolves and grows in consciousness in seven well‐ defined stages. Each stage focuses on a particular existential need that is common to the human condition. These seven existential needs are the principal motivating forces in all human affairs.  The level of growth and development of an individual depends on their ability to satisfy their needs.  

 7-Levels-Personal-Consciousness

The first three levels of consciousness focus on our personal self‐interest—satisfying our physiological need for security and safety, our emotional need for love and belonging, and our need to feel good about ourselves through the development of a sense of pride in who we are, and a positive sense of self‐esteem. Abraham Maslow referred to these as “deficiency” needs. We feel no sense of lasting satisfaction from being able to meet these needs, but we feel a sense of anxiety if these needs are not met.  When these needs are paramount in our lives, we are conditioned by the expectations of those around us—by our social environment (the family and the culture we were brought up in). We align, and are loyal to the groups with which we identify.

 The focus of the fourth level of consciousness is on transformation—learning how to manage, master or release the subconscious, fear‐based beliefs that keep us anchored in the lower levels of consciousness.  During this stage of our development, we establish a sense of our own personal authority, and our own voice. We are able to let go of our need to identify with our social environment because we have learned how to master our deficiency needs. We now choose to live by the values and beliefs that resonate deeply with who we are. We begin the process of self‐actualisation by focusing on our individuation.  

The upper three levels of consciousness focus on our need to find meaning and purpose in our existence; actualising that meaning by making a difference in the world, and leading a life of self‐less service.  Abraham Maslow referred to these as “growth” needs. When these needs are fulfilled they do not go away. They engender deeper levels of motivation and commitment. During this stage of our development, we increasingly develop the capacity to stand back and reflect on the strengths and limitations of our own ideology. We learn how to become our own self witness, and develop an inner compass that intuitively guides us into making life affirming decisions.    Individuals that focus exclusively on the satisfaction of the lower needs, tend to live self‐centred, shallow lives. They are significantly influenced by the anxieties and fears they hold about satisfying their deficiency needs.   Individuals that focus exclusively on the satisfaction of the higher needs tend to lack the skills necessary to remain grounded and operate effectively in the physical world. They can be ineffectual and impractical when it comes to taking care of their basic needs.  

The most successful individuals are those who balanced both their “deficiency” needs and their “growth” needs. They operate from Full Spectrum Consciousness. They are trusting of others, are able to manage complexity, and can respond or rapidly adapt to all situations.

Doctor David Hawkin’s Map of Consciousness

IMAGE REMOVED – (after receiving the most aggressive legal request of my life!  However it does re-affirm the dire need for Conscious Contracts and all training in the humanizing the profession work which falls under Integrative Law. I have a dream that somehow I will be able to work with the Institute for Spiritual Research, Inc. dba Veritas Publishing, to create a new letter to send people in situations like this. Let us set this intention) 

Hawkins is far more “alternative” than Richard Barrett and there is much controversy surrounding his work. He died recently (2012) having gained a cult-like following around the world. Though many people have attacked his credentials on a scientific basis, Hawkins did achieve considerable mainstream recognition as you can see on his publisher’s site which gives these biographical details:

Sir David R. Hawkins, M.D., Ph.D. is a nationally renowned psychiatrist, physician, researcher, spiritual teacher and lecturer. The uniqueness of his contribution to humanity comes from the advanced state of spiritual awareness known as ” Enlightenment,” “Self–Realization,” and “Unio Mystica.”Rarely, if ever, has this spiritual state occurred in the life of an accomplished scientist and physician. Therefore, Dr. Hawkins is uniquely qualified to present a spiritual path that is scientifically compelling to modern society.

Founding Director of the Institute for Spiritual Research, Inc. (1983) and Founder of the Path of Devotional Nonduality (2003), Dr. Hawkins has lectured widely at such places as Westminster Abbey; Oxford Forum; Universities of Notre Dame, Michigan, Argentina, Fordham and Harvard; University of California (SF) Medical School; Institute of Noetic Sciences; and Agape Spiritual Center (Los Angeles). In addition, he has been an advisor to Catholic, Protestant, and Buddhist monasteries. He has conferred with foreign governments on international diplomacy and has been instrumental in resolving long–standing conflicts that were major threats to world peace.

 Dr. Hawkins entered the field of medicine to alleviate human pain and distress, and his work as a physician was pioneering. As Medical Director of the North Nassau Mental Health Center (1956–1980) and Director of Research at Brunswick Hospital (1968–1979) on Long Island, his clinic was the largest practice in the United States, including a suite of twenty–five offices, two thousand outpatients, and several research laboratories. In 1973, he co–authored the ground–breaking work, Orthomolecular Psychiatry with Nobel Laureate chemist Linus Pauling,initiating a new field within psychiatry.

Despite the fact that Hawkins’ work has attracted much criticism (eg: “Power Vs. Force is filled with attempts to be scientific that wind up worthy of ridicule rather than respect”) I believe, along with thousands or maybe hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, that he made a significant contribution to the study of human consciousness.

According to Hawkins all people live at vastly different levels of consciousness, which he has mapped on a logarithmic scale of 1-1000. Any person, concept, thought or object that calibrates at 200 (The level of Integrity) or above is positive (“power”); anything below 200 is negative (“force”).

Hawkins map can be used in a variety of ways, some of them are more esoteric than others (I recently did basic training in how to use these methods to test for allergies and for underlying beliefs that people hold which hold them back in life. Fascinating! But I’ll stick to basics here. )

Because I plan to work with Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness in the legal profession and for the purposes of personal development, I am going to stick to its use as a tool for raising one’s own consciousness.

I found a good basic explanation of Hawkin’s map on Steve Pavlina’s blog:

Here is what Steve Pavlina says:

In the book Power vs. Force by David R. Hawkins, there’s a hierarchy of levels of human consciousness. It’s an interesting paradigm. If you read the book, it’s also fairly easy to figure out where you fall on this hierarchy based on your current life situation.

From low to high, the levels of consciousness are: shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, pride, courage, neutrality, willingness, acceptance, reason, love, joy, peace, enlightenment.

While we can pop in and out of different levels at various times, usually there’s a predominant “normal” state for us. If you’re reading this blog, chances are you’re at least at the level of courage because if you were at a lower level, you’d likely have no conscious interest in personal growth.

I think you’ll find this model worthy of reflection. Not only people but also objects, events, and whole societies can be ranked at these levels. Within your own life, you’ll see that some parts of your life are at different levels than others, but you should be able to identify your current overall level. You might be at the level of neutrality overall but still be addicted to smoking (level of desire). The lower levels you find within yourself will serve as a drag that holds the rest of you back. But you’ll also find higher levels in your life. You may be at the level of acceptance and read a book at the level of reason and feel really inspired. Think about the strongest influences in your life right now. Which ones raise your consciousness? Which ones lower it?

Spiral Dynamics, a model developed by Dr Don Beck

integralinsights spiral dynamics

Spiral Dynamics is often presented in a very complex way. I found a wonderfully simple and eloquent explanation by Aubyn Howard on her website which I hope to use in the future!

Here is what Aubyn says about Spiral Dynamics:

The theory argues that it is possible to identity a series of worldviews that together describe the essentially different ways in which people see and engage with the world. The emergence of these codes or worldviews in the development of an individual, the maturation of a organisation or the evolution of a society can be seen to follow a clear sequential pattern, although the way in which this takes place in practice is unique to each person, group or society. This approach suggest that these worldviews are activated within us according to our history, core personality and the life conditions and challenges we are facing. It does not say that we go through stages of development in a discreet, linear fashion, progressing neatly from one stage to another, but that each of these worldviews can be more or less activated in each of us at any one time. Therefore each of us has a unique value systems profile that tells our unique story.

The general principles of the evolution of these value systems include:

  • a progression from less complex to more complex and sophisticated expressions
  • a spiral alternation between individualistic and collectivist worldviews, between expressing self and sacrificing self
  • that each value system needs to become activated within an individual at some basic level (even if not very apparent) before subsequent more complex systems are able to emerge

Understanding these different value systems, the sequence and pattern in which they emerge, is key to a number of challenges and issues including:

  • facilitating the development of individuals, groups, organisations and communities
  • understanding and resolving conflict (within a personality, a group, a society or globally)
  • knowing what motivates people and what language to use to engage them
  • changing deeply embedded mindsets, attitudes and behaviours

An understanding of these different worldviews or value systems and how they work, gives you an essential insight into the underlying patterns that shape the way the world is changing today. Personally, it helps me make sense of almost everything that I see going on, not just with individuals and groups within organisations, but also at a societal, global and historical level. In organisational work it complements the use of horizontal systems for profiling personality (such as Myers-Briggs, Belbin, Strengthsfinder, Insights, etc).

Unfortunately the way in which the Spiral Dynamics approach has been packaged and presented doesn’t always make it easily understood and accepted by organisational leaders and practitioners, so I have been working away over the years at making it more accessible and developing relevant diagnostic tools for use in organisational work, which I present in my courses or workshops.

Below is another Spiral Dynamics map which shows organisational culture. Have a look at it and try and determine at which level your law firm is operating?

spiral dynamics levels explanations

Why is any of this stuff useful to lawyers?

Many lawyers globally are sensing greater and greater levels of dissatisfaction with their profession. Developing an understanding of your personal values using Richard Barrett’s 7 Levels of Personal Consciousness can help you start to look at what is important to you and how to align who you are with the work you do.

I believe lawyers are drawn to the profession for a reason and that it is tragic when so many lawyers with so much to give leave law as a result of feeling utter disconnection between their personal and professional lives. My intention is to help lawyers find a way to practise law, an organisation in which to practise law and/ or a niche area of law that allows them to live an authentic and fulfilling life.

If you use the Spiral Dynamics model and determine you are probably at the “Green” level where relationships are prioritized and building a community is very important to you, you will struggle if you’re in a law firm at the “Blue” level which is focused on the task and not the person and conformity is the name of the game. Should you find yourself in a “Red” level law firm where there are high levels of internal competition, you may well find yourself suffering burn out. As I recently discovered, one large South African law firm has an arrangement with a local mental health facility so that their lawyers can regularly be accommodated there when they suffer breakdowns.

Discussions with women lawyers have shown me that those who choose to have children often find that they change with motherhood. This makes sense – one’s values and priorities should change when you bring a new life into the world. Many of these mothers find they are unable to practise law in the way they did before not because they are sleep deprived or have lost brain cells (as their male colleagues  may try to argue!) but because they no longer view the world in the same way. Relationships often become more important than achievement at this stage which is a natural progression. Such a lawyer may find themselves drawn to the field of mediation rather than litigation or wanting to have fewer but more meaningful relationships with clients.  Law firms operating at higher levels of consciousness can make space for these developments which can actually hugely enhance the firm’s potential if they can harness the new skills on offer.

Lawyers who deepen their understanding of worldviews will also find it helps all their interactions with clients. Using Barrett’s model, some lawyers actually ask their clients to list their values so that the lawyer has a deeper understanding of what it is the client really seeks through litigation or through a business contract. Using Spiral Dynamics may help a lawyer understand why his/ her client sees the world in the way he does. Where there is a major difference in levels of consciousness between one side to a contract and the other, it could explain why negotiation is not possible.

 Why is this useful to law firms?

Most law firms are stuck in the Blue to Orange levels and only those at the cutting edge are moving towards Yellow where they are embracing personal development. Lawyers tend to be very Orange  – it’s all about achievement, success and results.

But the world is changing and law firms which are still operating on the same levels of awareness as law firms of 100 years ago are losing market share. Increasingly there are more women studying law, at least South African statistics back this up. Therefore law firms that are not adapting their structures and worldviews are finding it difficult to attract and retain women lawyers.  Law firms have high staff turnover rates and high levels of employee disengagement which cost them millions without many of them being aware of this.  Firms operating at higher levels of consciousness are surveying their employee needs and adapting work policies, structures, billing policies and working hours accordingly. They realise that by meeting their employees’ needs, the firm will do better. The industrial age model where you work people as hard as you, in return for undying loyalty, a greater share of firm profits and a gold pen upon retirement simply doesn’t hold sway anymore. The world has changed. People are motivated by things other than financial gain as books like Daniel Pink’s “Drive” show.

Focusing only on power – growing a firm as big as possible so that the firm website can claim it is the biggest firm in the country or the world with offices in places no one has heard of – this is a very “Red” world view. As the collapse of the massive Dewey-Leboeuf law firm showed us in 2012, bigger is not necessarily better. Reports show that senior partners of this firm in the US and the UK were not even on speaking terms as the firm headed to its demise.

The work of Richard Barrett, David Hawkins and Don Beck all point towards a changing world order. In business there is the rise of a new movement called “Conscious Capitalism” which is underpinned by all these frameworks mentioned here. (People thinking and working at this level collaborate frequently and share materials  – they are not obsessed with copyright and ownership. Don Beck has worked alongside Richard Barrett.  The founder of Conscious Capitalism, Raj Sisodia, author of “Firms of Endearment” was a guest speaker at the Barrett Values Centre conference in Cape Town 2012. Gita Bellin, who spoke at this conference too, also referenced Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness. )

Law firms who wish to survive the global changes need to become more conscious of their lawyer’s worldviews and values, their clients’ worldviews and values and the firm’s own worldview and values.

Why is this useful to the legal profession in general?

Increasingly there is evidence that shows clients who win their cases are not actually any happier afterwards.  In depth studies of thousands of cases are showing that what most clients want from their day in court is two fold:

  • a chance to tell their story to be heard
  • to be respected and have their feelings validated

And yet the system is not designed with this in mind and in fact actively thwarts the fulfilment of these goals. Firstly, by giving the lawyers all the power (a friend recounts how her lawyer actually said to her “this is MY case now, not yours”) and secondly by actively discouraging any emotional responses to proceedings, by clients, lawyers, judges or juries. This negates the basic understanding that the reason most people end up needing lawyers is emotional rather than factual. Even where disputes are largely factual, they are always muddled up with the parties’ stories about the events, their interpretation of the events and their particular worldviews which determine the extent to which believe it necessary to get retribution or ensure punishment for the guilty or receive compensation for their loss, whether financial or emotional.

“Consciousness has changed in the past, and it can change again in the future. A positive change is urgent and crucial. How could people shift their values, perceptions, and behaviours unless they evolve their consciousness? How could they come up with the will to pull together to confront the threats they face in common and elect political leaders who support projects on cooperation and solidarity? Without a more evolved consciousness the motivation for change would have to await the coming of crises and catastrophes – and if these have already reached the point of no return, it will be too late. ” Worldshift 2012, Ervin Laszlo

When I look around I see so many incredible tools available at the tips of our fingers thanks to the internet. Yet we are so focused and consumed by what is immediately in front of us – the need to do more, faster, that we are not using these tools to advance ourselves and find solutions to global problems.

It is my intention to share some of these tools with those to whom they may be of use, for the greater good of the legal profession globally, and ultimately humanity.   For better or for worse, we have created a legal system to help us co-exist peacefully but the systems are broken. They need to evolve, (including all those who work in these systems)  so that these systems can efficiently and effectively serve humanity’s needs to live in greater harmony. This is only possible through gaining greater consciousness of ourselves and our world.

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.

What do you consider your greatest weakness?

Here’s an article on how to answer the question “what is your greatest weakness” in a job interview. But to be honest, I don’t really agree with much of what the author says. You can read the whole article here if you wish, but essentially it gives the advice:

Prepare an answer that is true, trivial, brief, and not a fault. Some examples:

  • My biggest weakness is that my professional network is in San Francisco, but I am looking for a job in Boston to be with my fiancé.
  • My biggest weakness is that my undergraduate degree is from a college that has a good reputation in the East, but is not well-known in the Midwest.
  • My biggest weakness is that while I’m great at advocating for something I believe in, I find it uncomfortable to talk about myself.

I don’t think this is useful. As one of the readers of the article points out:

Interviewers aren’t stupid – they know when someone is trying to skate around the issue.  The question is designed to see if the person will admit they have a weakness because someone who won’t can be difficult to work with.  A “weakness” is a personal trait, not lack of training on some type of software, not where your network is, not setting high standards, and not seeing the positive side.  

Another reader suggests this:

An excellent statement is “I love to get involved with tasks that I feel I may have worthwhile input but I have a problem accepting responsibility for my achievements over that of the team.”

NOOOOOOO. Firstly, it sounds rehearsed. Secondly, it sounds like politician-speak where you’re unable to simply make whatever point it is you’re trying to make. Thirdly, there’s a passive aggressive undertone to the notion of “worthwhile” projects that would immediately make me wary of this candidate. Finally, it sounds like a suck-up job “I value teamwork over individual achievement” is usually not true and just the type of thing someone spouts in an interview in the attempt to sound like a team player.

The most useful contribution to this issue, in my opinion, is the one offered by a reader who calls himself “iamdm” below.

Here is a way to ask the question about weakness in a more indirect way, but with a very direct result. As corporate trainer I coach interviewers to ask behavioral based questions. For example:

When I speak with your previous supervisor (this statement implies that you plan on do a thorough back ground check) what area of your job will they say you need improvement in?

You can also ask them to site recent reviews or development plans in current or previous positions.

After years of doing interviews that were in hindsight, polished and rehearsed I have adopted a method that makes it really hard for the candidate to prepare for. I don’t want answers by a script. I want to find the behaviors that support my organization and the position I’m trying to fill.

I start every question with:

  • Can you tell me about a time when…
  • Can you give me an example of…
  • Describe how you have handled… in the past. 

The reason for this approach is to get past what the candidate thinks I want to hear to reveal past behaviors. Behaviors are the key to abilities, productivity and success.

This is the closest I can find as a link to the person who posted the above comment, which I think is valuable advice to interviewers.

For candidates – use commonsense. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by going into a diatribe about your inadequacies. This is chance to show you’re self-aware and that you work on your weaker areas. A true leader is not someone who doesn’t have weaknesses, but one who is aware of their weaknesses. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to assess your strengths and weaknesses at some point. If not, then see what’s out there.  There are many tools that help develop this awareness – the one that I’m familiar with and have been asssessed in and can offer to others is the LVA, or Leadership Values Assessment, designed by the Barrett Values Centre.

The LVA is a powerful coaching tool for promoting self- awareness, personal transformation, and an understanding of the actions a leader needs to take to realise his or her full potential. The LVA compares a leader’s perception of his or her operating style with the perception of their superiors, peers and subordinates.  Emphasis is placed on a leader’s strengths, areas for improvement, and opportunities for growth.

The LVA reveals the extent to which a leader’s behaviours help or hinder the performance of the organisation, and to what extent fear influences decision-making. 

Something quite profound shifted in me when I had my LVA done. Shout if you want to know more.

Finally – I loved this!

I was interviewed for a CEO post last year. My answer was ‘the range of my limitations is broad and detailed, covering almost every feature of professional and human endeavour relevant to this position. Alas there is insufficient time to do that vast array of imperfections justice in the time we have available.” I got the job. To be fair, I had already dealt reasonably well with the questions in the previous hour up to that point. They had asked about faults but got a message about sense of humour and confidence under pressure.

This guy seems self-aware enough to send up the question without mocking the interviewer, and give a sense of who he is in the process. I get the sense if they’d persisted he’d have been able to give a few examples.

If you’re interviewing or being interviewed…Good luck! Remember to be real. Life is not a dress rehearsal.

It has always been frowned upon to feed lawyers

It has always been frowned upon to feed lawyers, but it was always considered worse to interact with lawyers. To touch lawyers. But for me interacting with lawyers is the only way to truly show what lawyers really are, and they are beautiful and amazingly intelligent animals. These interactions are opportunities to share with the world the other side of lawyers. A curious playful animal that sometimes enjoys a nose scratch just like many other species of animals do. The bottom line is people will save what people love, and with lawyers’ current image, it is hard to love lawyers. But what if there was a way to show the world that lawyers are capable of being loved? Well that’s what my life’s journey and work is all about…

Ok, so I plagiarized the above paragraph. I’m sure you’re smart enough to figure out what the original paragraph was about.

Thinking that all lawyers are aggressive, out to make a quick buck, and are morally dubious is an example of what Edward de Bono terms “Adversary Thinking”.  With adversarial thinking each side takes a different position and then seeks to attack the other side. Each side seeks to prove that the other side is wrong. This is the type of thinking established by the Greek Gang of Three (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle) two thousand four hundred years ago.

Let’s not fall into Adversary Thinking.  I don’t want to engage in this debate at the level of “you are wrong and I am right”. In other words you say “lawyers are sharks” and I say “lawyers are not sharks”. Instead let’s engage in Parallel Thinking, described by De Bono as follows:

With ‘parallel thinking’ both sides (or all parties) are thinking in parallel in the same direction. There is co-operative and co-ordinated thinking. The direction itself can be changed in order to give a full scan of the situation. But at every moment each thinker is thinking in parallel with all the other thinkers. There does not have to be agreement. Statements or thoughts which are indeed contradictory are not argued out but laid down in parallel. In the final stage the way forward is ‘designed’ from the parallel thought that have been laid out.

Let’s agree that some lawyers are sharks. No doubt about it. There are indeed morally bankrupt, devious, greedy and exploitative lawyers out there. Let’s move past this to a full scan of the situation and begin to ask why the profession in general tends to be so misaligned. Let’s ask how current situations might be contributing to creating money-hungry and unscrupulous lawyers. Let’s widen our view not only to include ‘good’ lawyers and ‘bad’ lawyers but some of the categories in between: intimidating lawyers, obnoxious lawyers, incompetent lawyers.  Let us ask questions, all manner of questions to learn more.

  • What might we be missing in the way we educate lawyers?
  • In what way might the structure of various parts of the legal profession be contributing to this problem?
  • How are lawyers affected by the fact that most law firms still resemble the form of law firms in the United Kingdom 100 years ago?
  • How might the fact that law is still a largely male-dominated profession be contributing to the problem?
  • In what way does the dominant thinking pattern in law, black & white, right or wrong leave very little room for new forms of legal solution, such as mediation?
  • It’s understood by many that being wrong in the legal world is seen as failing. How might this mindset prevent lawyers from exploring their full creative potential when drafting contracts or looking for ways to resolve clients’ disputes?

Like it or not, the average Joe is going to have to have contact with lawyers in his lifetime. You will have to feed the lawyers at some stage whether it’s getting an ANC drawn up, buying a house or starting a business. You may find that actually dealing with a lawyer is an opportunity to change your mindset about lawyers in general. But perhaps not. More often than not people hold a construct or belief and then look for evidence of it. Beware of what negative views of lawyers you may be holding when you walk into that consultation.

I’m hoping that the work I do around the transformation of law will allow me to dive deeply. To probe the depths of this habitat of “sharks” and develop an understanding of why they act as they do. I’m ready to dive. Without a cage. 😉