Category Archives: Multi-disciplinary thinking

Why a conscious approach to law is needed

  1. Law is fundamental to the continued existence of organised society. I believe it’s Utopian to maintain that should the legal system disintegrate entirely, man would work things out with his fellow men. In brief, society has become too complex for us to survive without laws. We are so completely interdependent on each other for food, water, building of shelter that by necessity we’ve created a highly complex legal system to help us co-ordinate ourselves.
  2. The more complicated the legal system becomes, the more lawyers we need to run it and to serve as brokers between this system and those that need to use the system. There is a growing realisation that the concept of “progress” is a lot more complicated than we originally thought. Statistics show that as infant mortality declines (just one indicator of progress or “civilization”) the carbon emissions of that country go up. In brief, as we save the people we’re destroying the planet. We produce genetically modified crops to feed the millions and in the process we wreck the eco-system. As society changes, law needs to change to keep pace.    From the simple “do not intentionally take the life of another” law we now have to work out laws on cloning people to harvest their organs and how that fits into our definitions of murder. We have atomic bombs which, in an instant, ended the lives of 250 000 to 350 000 people. How do our murder laws deal with this?  They become increasingly complex.
  3. Civil law or contracts between people, have likewise become increasingly complex. Whereas law once provided for who had legal responsibility for the children born to a man and a woman, now we have so many variations on this theme, from test tube babies, to surrogates, to same sex parents, to frozen embryos of women now deceased – it’s COMPLICATED!  This has required lawyers to specialise in niche areas of law.  The amount of legislation in each area of law makes a general practice unthinkable.
  4. Law firms still tend to be based on a now antiquated notion that law is simply a public service. It is a public service but it’s also a way of earning a living. History shows that in the UK lawyers once considered it an insult to have law considered a “trade” but today we must acknowledge that it is very much a trade and that much of what lawyers now do is inseparable from other professions such as financial advisors. Legal advice cannot be neatly put in a box – it’s too intertwined with finance, economics, psychology, medicine, biology…
  5. We need to think about law in a new way. We cannot solve the problem at the same level of thinking that created it. (Einstein) Therefore we must re think the notion of lawyers as a separate profession and start looking at a more integral, multi-disciplinary approach to legal matters and legal training.

Law is fundamental.

Law is complicated.

It’s time for lawyers to embrace some of the advances in other professions, whether it’s different ways of thinking about things (De Bono), systems for creating values based organisations (Richard Barrett) or business models other than the traditional partnership model, for profit or not for profit (see John Lewis Partnership).  Including lessons on ethics, morality and leadership in law school curricula should be a no-brainer, as all advanced business programs have already realized.

There are only going to be more laws and more lawyers.  It’s time for a conscious approach to transformation in law.

Talking About a Revolution

The internet provides us with more information than you can shake a mouse at. We can google any topic and find ridiculous amounts of information – that to read in its entirety would take months if not years. I could give a billion examples. There’s nothing you can’t look up, except for maybe the restaurant a friend told me she’d heard about called something like “Alibaba’s 9 wives”. I’ll admit I never was able to locate it. So let’s say you have a problem to solve: your company is failing or your dog is ailing. You can start reading but you will have to be selective or else your company assets could be sold off and the dog dead by the time you’ve read all the potentially useful stuff.

Say you follow anywhere from 200 to 500 people on Twitter. (I have no idea what the averages are for this…bear with me). And say 100 of these people post links to articles on subjects you’re interested in professionally or personally. That’s 100 articles a day to choose from, on subjects of your choice, popping up in your Twitter account. 500 articles a week. 26 000 a year. And that’s if these people you’re following only post one link a day.

So there’s a tipping point. The point at which you stop researching and decide to take action. The point at which you stop researching models of cars you might like to buy and walk into a dealership.  The point at which you stop researching different diets and pick one to try. I believe the increasing availability of information is leading to analysis paralysis. There is simply too much available, too quickly. You need to act. Most of the time, you’ll be able to go back and research the next step.  Unless you were researching property prices or birth methods and have sold the house and had the baby.

I believe the universe is calling upon us to develop other skills. Not recalling information as much as being able to process information and intuit what will serve us. A surgeon can look up 10 ways of doing an operation instantly, but will still be required to choose which method is most suited to the case in front of him. And then the small task of performing the actual surgery of course. A lawyer can look up precedents instantly but will still be required to select which will support his case and which nuance of facts is most closely aligned to those before him. He’ll then have to actually weave the arguments together to convince the judge. I sense that the internet is forcing us to evolve faster and think smarter.  Schools and universities have not, for the most part, recognised that this is not a shift in emphasis, but a full scale revolution in learning. Information is not much of a currency anymore. Knowing STUFF is not that valuable. Knowing HOW things work, deep understanding and being able to critically evaluate options – that is valuable. For this reason it may make more sense for a company to upskill an existing employee who understands the HOW, rather than employ a graduate who knows the WHAT, but will take at least 2 years to develop the intuition and confidence to  be able to apply that knowledge.

I think the expression “Of those to whom much is given, much is expected” is applicable – in a different sort of way to the concept it usually refers to. In this sense it means that we have been given so much information, that with it comes a greater responsibility. A responsibility to use the information available to heal ourselves and the planet.  (At the risk of sounding a little Michael Jackson.)

The research on how our brains have developed as a result of things like the ice-age and human diet is fascinating. If we could look far into the future, I think we’d find that the rise of the internet will significantly affect how human brains think and how we evolve as a species.

But it could go any which way. Let’s imagine just 3 people surfing the net tonight. One is researching how to build nuclear bombs, one is looking up Heal The World lyrics while switching back and forth to Facebook and one is researching solutions to child malnutrition. What are YOU doing with all the information at your fingertips?









You shouldn’t have to choose between being a fireman, a horse-rider, a truck driver and spiderman. You can do all of them. A fireman that knows trucks and can climb like spiderman would be an asset to the profession.

Why are we made to specialize? You can study law OR politics OR finance OR psychology OR art OR drama OR accounting…and most students pick fairly randomly because who knows what they want to do at 18 years old? And many people stay stuck in a field because it’s expensive and time consuming to change direction. Yes, there are certainly some issues with the concept of the Renaissance Man (or woman). One could argue that if you have serfs running your farmlands then of course you’d have time to learn archery and how to write poetry. I don’t want to get into that debate. I just want to make the point that it’s time to stop separating disciplines so rigidly.  The world is calling for multi-disciplinary thinkers – not just people trained in engineering or economics or law or biology. All of the above.

We should all be studying lots of different things and bringing the diversity of that knowledge and those skills to all we do.

I love the fact there’s a growing trend towards multi-disciplinary thinking all over the world. I’m so inspired by the stuff I’ve been reading by Ken Wilber, Peter Senge, Joseph Jaworksi, Betty-Sue Flowers, Richard Barrett, Prof Henry Mintzberg.

Here’s just one example of the trend in this article I found through twitter (tweeted by the Graduate School of Business of the University of Cape Town). It’s by Ken Starkey, professor of management and organisational learning at Nottingham University Business School. You can read the whole article here:

Encouraging this type of leadership requires us to integrate management and education best practice, eastern and western philosophy, psychology, the arts and humanities, systems thinking, action and narrative inquiry, story-telling, life histories, scenario planning, management learning and personal development.

Our overarching goal should be to facilitate the creation of more humane, more inclusive narratives of self, business and society that acknowledge that the social responsibility of business is much more than just increasing its profits.

I’m a lawyer and a lecturer and a writer and a consultant in organisational consciousness and a counsellor and a philanthropist and a blogger and a mountainbiker and a wannabe triathlete. And that’s just today. 

It doesn’t matter what you do, just try new things and you will develop new skills and new perspectives. My friend who’s a trauma surgeon is an excellent chef  – she can cook a 5 course dinner for 20 without breaking a bead of sweat. Why? Because remaining aware of a timeline and focusing on 10 things simultaneously, all of them critical, is what she is trained to do. Surgery helps her cook and her cooking probably helps her surgery!

Tending plants might make you a more patient maths teacher.

Mountainbiking helped me become a more decisive lawyer.

The world’s your oyster.  Why not try scuba diving?

Theory U: A slideshow

<div style=”width:425px” id=”__ss_90541″> <strong style=”display:block;margin:12px 0 4px”><a href=”; title=”Theory U Intro” target=”_blank”>Theory U Intro</a></strong> <div style=”padding:5px 0 12px”> View more <a href=”; target=”_blank”>presentations</a> from <a href=”; target=”_blank”>ericaliang</a> </div> </div>

Um, this doesn’t look right…I’m trying to embed a slide show from on Theory U, which I think explains it really well and obviates the need for me to explain at length what it all means. I’m going to be referring to it a lot and using it a lot. This I know. I think this may be a highly useful tool for the conscious lawyer.