Category Archives: My story unfolds

Sending Lawyers Pictures of Sunflowers & Superman

Mouse on Keyboard

Sending a bunch of inspirational emails to an eloquence of lawyers, a huddle of lawyers, a disputation of lawyers (my Google research has revealed a number of fabulous collective nouns) is not in itself a big deal.

So why does it feel scary? Is it because I’m daring to share my way of viewing the world with professionals renowned for their expertise in tearing apart others thoughts and arguments limb from limb? Is it because, with each email I craft, I am making myself more and more vulnerable, revealing my soft underbelly, my sense of humour, my own failings and shortcomings? Is it because I fear some of my eagle-eyed recipients are trained to pounce upon a misplaced apostrophe and then dangle it triumphantly in the air as such clear evidence of misdemeanour that all the poor apostrophe can do is hang its head in shame and squeak helplessly? Is it simply because I still have so much work to do on not taking everything personally?

I remind myself daily “we are drowning when we are disregarding the mission within us”*. Right now, this is my mission:

  • I help lawyers re-awaken to their roles as problem-solvers, peace-makers and healers.
  • I help lawyers re-connect with why they were drawn to the legal profession in the first place.
  • I help lawyers find new ways to bring their fullest selves to their legal practice.

I shall not be deterred by the “unsubscribe” messages. In fact, I am deeply grateful that rather than scowling at my bright-eyed, bushy-tailed missives until they slink in shame to the corner of the garden to die, you have taken the step of acknowledging that for now, there is no meeting of the minds. With respect, I would prefer you unsubscribe and let us go our separate ways.

To the lawyer who wrote to me about striking the right balance after the original email: you will never know how gratefully this first feedback was received. To the lawyer who thanked me for the only minutes of sanity in her day: you gave me courage to keep writing about mindfulness. To the lawyer who asked if I could re-send one of my emails that she’d accidentally deleted: it was like handing someone a small gift and then witnessing in the way they tenderly received it, that they really valued it and understood your intention.

I am not doing this for applause. Yet on the days my offerings are received with a deafening silence and dismal Mailchimp opening statistics I admit my Inner Critics begin to roll their eyes and whisper in the corridors of my mind “this isn’t going anywhere”, “no one’s interested”, “grown up lawyers don’t have time for your silly and frivolous messages”, “could you do something that makes money for heaven’s sake, rather than sending lawyers pictures of Superman?”.

When this happens, I remind myself I have done this before. I have risked everything when I originally quit the law to save my soul and found myself driving blindly from dawn to dusk across the country not knowing if I was running away in shame and fear or running towards opportunity and fulfillment. It turned into the most extraordinary two years of my life creating a college for impoverished students that grew me in ways I had not dreamed possible. I risked everything when I met the man of my dreams and decided to share all my deepest fears and darkest secrets. Admittedly it may have been a little early on in the relationship and he did nickname me “the Compulsive Disclosurist”…but I needed to jump off that cliff because some part of me knew that if he was waiting at the bottom with a bemused smile that he was the one. If I’d crash-landed and squinted back up at the cliff to see him standing there frozen, a shocked expression upon his face, well, I’d have known to run a mile.

So I shall risk looking like a fool for love and for faith and for fulfillment again and again. Despite crippling fear that sometimes has me huddled at my desk in my pajamas late into the night, despite the anxiety-induced illnesses that come with no regular income, despite the grey afternoons when all I can show for myself is a pillow wet with tears – what I have gained through risking it all, is nothing short of miraculous. I can honestly say that every year I realize I am actually living my dreams.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

I grew up in a family where it’s best you check your vulnerability in the umbrella stand by the front door. I then joined the legal profession where vulnerability does not win you cases, does not promote you to partner and definitely does not win you the corner office.

It was only when I got far away enough from my family and far away enough from the law that the bizarre truth was given to me: the gift I been given to share with the world is powerful vulnerability. It made so little sense that at first I stuffed this unwearable gift in the back of the cupboard with the gift tag still attached.

But after many years, long journeys and deep soul searching, today my powerful vulnerability happens to be one of my favourite outfits.

I’m going to keep writing to the lawyers however risky it feels. And when that feels “safe” I’ll publish the book that feels so risky to write! And then I will make videos that will terrify me! And when I’ve mastered that I will speak to audiences of 1000’s of people that will make my knees knock!

Maybe some future evolved me won’t find stuff so scary anymore. I imagine a Zen-like calm I shall one day possess, and a deep knowingness that whatever other people think of me is none of my business. But I’m not there just yet. Right now, I find a lot of things scary, I’m just not going to let that stand in the way of living the life of my dreams.

If you’d like to receive the Evolutionary Legal Leadership series, please go to www.integrativelaw.co.za and fill your details in the subscribe block. If you later decide it’s not your thing you can unsubscribe permanently at the drop of a button. 

CREDITS:

*Tama J. Kieves This Time I Dance. A wonderful book. I shall be writing a lot more about it.

The photo is my Apostrophe Mouse, scampering along the keyboard just waiting to be pounced upon by a eagle-eyed lawyer. It’s actually titled My Mouse isn’t Working Right by Nina Matthews Photography licensed under CC BY2.0

Advertisements

Beyond the Stars

I’ve never been a huge believer in star signs but I’m increasingly fascinated by the miracle of the night sky and the interpretations humans have given the constellations over centuries.

Today I looked up which constellation is linked to justice and here it is: Libra.

Libra Constellation

I am fascinated as I see this and think of the traditional image of a law building:

Law building

And then I look into the “scales of justice” image and find this, the Libra Scales of Justice:

Libra Scales image

And as I fall down the rabbit hole that is Google images…

Libra embroidered scales

Libra graphic image

There is much I have to learn but today, I am happy to just sit with renewed fascination that the origins of these well known symbols are in the stars.

A story – to help explain why I might be starting to believe in stars and star signs: during my trip to Bali in December 2012 I was thinking hard about my mother one evening and what it must be like to have a headstrong daughter like myself! I went into a restaurant, and a woman, about my mother’s age I guessed, asked if I was travelling alone and whether I’d like to join her for dinner. With my intuition on super alert mode (as it was during my entire Bali trip), I said “OK” knowing that somehow there’d be a mother/ daughter connection in this somewhere.

It was only a minute before she mentioned she had a daughter, who was 35. I was 35 at the time. She said she was struggling as her daughter was so headstrong and  was building a movement in the bootcamp fitness industry. I smiled, thinking of my work to grow the Integrative Law Movement. She told me her daughter was a Scorpio. I laughed and said “I am too.” Then she mentioned her daughter’s birth date: 18 November 1977.

That’s when it all became pretty weird. Because that is, as you guessed by now, my birthday. So having wondered what it might be like to have a headstrong Scorpio daughter born on 18 November 1977  – it took me just a few hours to find the answer.

My logical, reasonable, rational lawyer brain still dominates my ways of thinking. But increasingly, I believe in magic and synchronicity and miracles.

“I still stand in the garden at midnight, trying to eat the stars.”*

*from a poem I have loved and lost…if you can find it let me know. It’s a short, maybe 5 line poem.

 

 

 

 

 

I had a dream

I had a dream:  in February 2012  to start a centre for conscious lawyers.

What happened:  7 months later I launched the Centre for Integrative Law.

I had a dream I could one day meet Kim Wright, author of ABA best-seller Lawyers as Peacemakers. I emailed  Kim on 7 June 2012.

What happened:  Kim flew to Cape Town 3 months later to help me launch the Centre for Integrative Law and co host South Africa’s 1st Integrative Law Conference on 27 September 2012.

Here’s part of my first email to Kim:

Dear Kim

Please let me know if you’d be willing to collaborate with me, all the way out here in South Africa. I’m struggling to get this “thing” to take form – but I can see that the right sort of people, in fact a powerful network of influential people are starting to come into my sphere.

 I can’t wait to read your book – is it available on Kindle? I might try that although I must say I still like to hold an actual book in my hands!  I would love to connect with you. 

This is me and Kim, tired but glowing after hosting our conference.

I had a dream I could meet someone who saw the changes needed in the legal profession like I do.

What happened: I found Kim online and a a few weeks later, I discovered Pauline Tesler, Director of the Integrative Law Institute in San Francisco. I was lucky enough to be in Canada in July and found that San Fran was a 2 hour flight so I hopped over to meet Pauline, who shares my views on transforming the legal profession to an almost uncanny degree. I’m planning Pauline’s trip to South Africa next year to provide training in Collaborative Divorce and neuro-literacy for lawyers as well as general training in Integrative Law.

I had a dream I could make some more friends who see the world like I do.

What happened: After reading every post I’ve ever written on this blog, Laly Mourenon from Monaco wrote me the most charming fan letter I’m ever likely to receive. Laly is a conscious lawyer wishing to spread the Integrative Law Movement across Europe. Laly and I are going on holiday together in December so that we can meet and talk about Integrative Law worldwide.  Laly is half French and half Italian, and our plans to spread Integrative Law across Europe might be the reason the Universe ensured I  chose to learn French and Italian despite growing up on the tip of Africa with no ancestors from either place.

Introducing Laly Mourenon – you’ll be hearing a lot more about her.

I had a dream I could go to Bali.

What happened: I’ve booked a flight and an antique Balinese “joglo” house for 5 weeks for the end of this year.  Laly will be with me for 10 days before I become more of a yogi hermit and retreat in this paradise in the ricefields.

I’m learning that dreams really can come true. And all that stuff about “if you can dream it you can do it” actually have substance. Focusing one’s intention is a very powerful thing. (I attach this link, it’s not the best description of the difference between wishing for something and setting an intention, but it’s a good start.)

I have become aware that my powers of manifestation have increased to a startling degree. It’s not exactly like The Secret, where a guy thinking about a Ferrari suddenly finds one in his living room, but enough that I am quite startled by what’s appearing and so are those close to me who are witnessing it.

I choose to use this power for good. In fact, I believe that it can only be used for good.  The Universe only helps out if it is for the highest purpose that something occurs.

When all these wondrous things started happening, it felt like everything was moving faster and faster and I did a little too much. I went to Tanzania for work in early September, where I conducted two simulated court cases:

Followed by a 4am start in Dar es Salaam and flight after flight until I arrived for a family wedding in France.  It was the most beautiful wedding in the world – although it did require 8 hour work days for a week to pull it off! I can now  add “international boules tournament organiser” to my CV.

This was followed immediately by delayed planes and 2 nights of little sleep in airport hotels (and bed bugs!) – which meant I actually missed Kim Wright’s arrival in Cape Town! But I made it in time to attend the 3 day Barrett conference in Cape Town, which was a glorious feast of ideas around raising individual, organisational and collective consciousness. Many tears were shared in open discussion as people were so profoundly moved. Kim and I presented on mindful or conscious contracts, a new movement in the way lawyers draft agreements.

Here I am with Gita Bellin, a pioneer in the field of behavioural transformation using her 50 years of study of Eastern and Western disciplines to assist people and organisations with  Conscious Evolution.

A few days after the Barrett conference, Kim and I planned and then hosted South Africa’s 1st Integrative Law Conference, which I will write about properly in a separate post. Below you can see lawyers Alan Nelson, Mervyn Malamed and in the background, Advocate Jacques Joubert and law student Byron Schwartz.

This was followed by a road show of meetings in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria with Kim.

Here’s Kim and me meeting Judge Jody Kollapen.

What an incredible adventure it has been. These events and meetings have been extraordinary. I am profoundly grateful at the enthusiastic response and support Kim and I received wherever we went and spoke about the Integrative Law Movement. However, I tried to fit too much into this short space of time and my health suffered so that by mid October I was flattened.  I’m working at a less frenetic pace now and trusting the Centre for Integrative Law will unfold as it should even if I don’t leap on and off planes and bang away at emails until late at night. And if this post is a little overdue, I’m not sweating the small stuff.

As I plan the next Integrative Lawyer workshop for 6 December I am aware that I cannot talk about balance or fulfilment or personal/professional alignment if I’m in poor health!  I must walk my talk. There is enough time for everything.

When I look at all this year has brought me, I am amazed and astounded at my privilege, when so many are living in abject poverty and despair. I work often with the 7 levels of consciousness and am becoming increasingly aware that to be able to focus one’s time on how to be of service to humanity is a gift beyond measure – when so many are struggling with daily survival.  I’m still figuring out what this all means for the way I shall choose to live my life going forward – and I wonder who will walk this journey with me as my life changes and my priorities change. But that’s a big topic!

Just for today, I shall hold immense gratitude for what has transpired thus far and keep my eyes open for what the Universe would like me to do next.

Thank you Universe

 

Dear Universe

Wow, I apologise profusely for doubting you.

I didn’t actually think you had a plan for me and I’m sorry about that. I’ve felt for some years that I was drifting from one rather interesting career path to another, but that there wasn’t a reason for my frequent changes. I didn’t realise then it was multi-disciplinary training. Thanks for that.

I apologise too that I didn’t think you were listening when I told you about my Centre for Conscious Law in January. I thought your silence meant I was barking up the wrong tree but it’s obvious now that you were working really hard to find the right people who could help me make this happen.  There’s no way I can ever express my gratitude deeply enough, except I suppose to use all the wonderful resources you’re putting at my disposal and make the Centre for Integrative Law here in Cape Town truly amazing. I hope the Centre will play its part in the global shift towards a new way of being in the world, a shift we are seeing in economics, medicine, politics, spirituality, ecology and science, and of course , law.

I’ve been working on the Centre’s Vision and Mission – most recent drafts:

Vision: 

An educational centre for emergent thinking in the practice of law and innovation in legal education, bringing global developments in the Integrative Law Movement to South Africa

Mission:

To create a network of change agents, trained in global legal innovation, to articulate a new vision of law for South Africa.

I’m so grateful dear Universe for all your help that I want to mention a couple of specific things – I’ll try not to let it run on like a wedding speech.

Thank you for giving me a fast-paced education in Organizational Development.  Of course I had no idea until fairly recently how law and OD fit together but it is all being revealed!  Yesterday I sat with clients for whom I am re-drafting all their legal contracts to be “conscious contracts”  and I worked with them on their business’ vision, mission and values – which of course will be contained as part of their new legal contracts.  Ta dah! Now that I so clearly see the link between culture, values and legal relationships, I can’t believe I didn’t see it before. In fact it’s a big problem that these things are seen by organisations as completely separate things! Lawyers don’t even know what OD means! (Well I didn’t until a few years ago, I admit).

And as for all these organisations on culture journeys, which have archaic legal departments still writing up “screw you” contracts, well, gosh, I clearly have a lot of work to do. The Barrett conference is such a wonderful opportunity for me to share about this, I am over the moon to be presenting a break-out session there in September. Thank you.

Back to the organisational development thing – sending me two guys last week both of whom are lawyers turned OD specialists is kind of labouring the point don’t you think? Clearly you wanted me to keep pondering the law/OD/ organisational culture link. (The fact that the one guy is my neighbour is hilarious! I’ve been staring at his roof for 10 months now.)

I also think it’s pretty funny that I can see you started sending me people years ago to teach me what I needed to know! Like the consultants who taught me about Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory in 2007. And then of course my dad who introduced me to the Barrett Values Centre and the levels of organisational consciousness. And I guess you didn’t want to leave anything to chance when you ensured that I then fell in love with a man working as an Organisational Development consultant at that time, alongside his beautiful mother, a systems theory specialist.  I was so deeply blessed to have her mentor me for two short years in how to walk the sacred journey from head to heart.

I realise I have been showered with resources beyond my wildest dreams from love, patience and kindness, admiration, inspiration to physical resources including books and programmes and files on leadership, presence, systems thinking, scenario planning!  Wow. Thank you. (and that’s on top of the fact that the guy’s a keeper 😉

A special thank you that you waited until I was ready and then had me meet someone running their own “conscious law centre”, Pauline Tesler in San Francisco.  I guess I really did need to see that it could be done before I started my own. The web of conscious, aware, brilliant, caring, committed, visionary consultants and lawyers you’ve put in my path in the last 2 years astounds me. In such a short space of time I can’t believe I have such beautiful relationships with such awesome people.

I need to say a special thank you for sending me Kim Wright. Clearly you don’t do half-measures. I mean you found the world’s most qualified expert on practising law with soul and healing the legal profession and even though she lives half way round the world from me, you sent her to my door here in Cape Town? That’s outrageously cool of you. Kim and I are both so excited to work together.  And thanks – people here in SA don’t really know about Integrative Law so Kim’s visit is EXACTLY what this country needs.  And dear Universe, you’ve worked so hard to pull this off! I mean I had barely mentioned to Kim that she should attend the Barrett conference with me when you somehow got them to ask her to not only attend, but present at their conference. Sheer brilliance.

Every time my spirits have flagged or I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew I get an email from someone on the other end of the world telling me how amazing I am and how they applaud what I’m doing. I apologise for needing so much affirmation – but please keep it coming!  It really helps when I feel overwhelmed by the enormity of what I’m undertaking, correction, what we’re undertaking. It’s clear I’m not alone.

One last thing, I’m sure you have a plan for funding the Centre for Integrative Law. Some of the people like the website guy and the logo designer and the lawyer advising me on structures are going to need payment pretty soon. I trust you’ve got it covered?  Thanks in advance for making the money part easy too, so I can focus on creating the right training programs for lawyers and getting the best people in the world here to help run them.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. You’re amazing. Let me know if there’s anything more I can do – although I will have to ask for a time extension in that case! Two weeks to get the Centre off the ground and get events ready for Kim’s visit, while getting new consulting clients is proving tricky! I’m working as fast as I possibly can.

We’ll talk again soon. I might need to rest up this weekend as all this activity has left me a little physically unwell. (Great new doctor you sent me today though – really like her)

Yours in deepest gratitude, forever

Amanda

Signs & Synchronicity & San Francisco

In January this year I read a book called Synchronicity: The Inner Path of Leadership by Joseph Jaworski. It was such an amazing book it sparked off a vision for my future of creating a Centre for the Conscious Practice of Law. I should point out that the book doesn’t talk about centres for conscious law at all, but Jaworski is an ex lawyer and visionary so I suppose between the lines I came up with this sense of work I am meant to do.

Around May this year I stumbled upon the website of Kim Wright, author of a book called Lawyers as Peacemakers who seemed to be an expert on all the things I had written about in every single blog post up to that date.  I was amazed and enthralled. Kim and I set up a Skype call and spent close to 2 hours sharing and connecting ways to bring the Integrative Law Movement to South Africa. My discovery of Kim also led to my coming across the work of Pauline Tesler, now director of the recently established Integral Law Institute in California. It turns out my vision for a “centre for conscious law” is not that far-fetched at all. Pauline has recently established the Integrative Law Institute which is exactly such an organisation.

As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I also realised I had quoted Pauline Tesler in an article, without really looking into her work.

On 25 June I finally got around to reading some blog posts by the academically renowned and award-winning Pauline, I was blown away and wrote her an email that same day with the title “Wow, I want to talk to you”.

Within hours I received a wonderful response from Pauline, in which she asked me to have lunch with her, mistakenly thinking I was in the San Francisco Bay area when actually I was home in Cape Town.  To give some perspective, San Fran would be a 23 hour flight from Cape Town if you were able to fly direct. I let her know lunch wouldn’t be happening any time soon but that one day we would meet.

Using the term “Integrative Law” that I had now discovered from Kim’s work, I also stumbled across the work of Linda Alvarez, who drafts contracts based on the vision, mission and values of the parties. Sometime in June I had a wonderful  Skype chat with Linda too and found out she knows Kim quite well through the Integrative Law Movement.

Fast forward a few weeks to 12 July 2012. I was on holiday in Canada, with 2 days to spare before flying home to Cape Town.  I decided to take my credit card on a rollercoaster ride (it’s still screaming) and fly early the next morning from Victoria to Vancouver and then over to San Francisco to have meetings with Linda and Pauline. (They don’t know each other)  Considering it was only a 2 hour flight, it seemed crazy to come all the way back to South Africa without taking this risk.

So in just two and a half weeks, I was able to have that lunch with Pauline after all, on 13 July. I am so glad I did. I’ll be writing more about Pauline’s work and making arrangements to get her over to SA to share her work on neuro-science for lawyers and collaborative law (in which she’s trained over 5000 lawyers). As I got out of Pauline’s car I noticed this sticker on the back window:


Turns out her son is a surfer I think…but I saw it as a wonderful sign for the future of Shark Free Waters.

I spent Saturday 16 July with Linda Alvarez, a remarkable woman and ground-breaking lawyer who’s fitted many lives into this one – you can tell this when she casually refers to her days running a theatre company, or learning to ride bareback in the circus or working with the wonderful mystic and poet John O Donohue – and realise she sure has packed it in!  I will be sharing Linda’s work and bringing her over to SA as soon as time allows.

Linda kindly gave me a copy of Kim Wright’s book Lawyers as Peacemakers and now, back home in Cape Town, I’m devouring it. What a book! Every lawyer in the world should read this book. And every law professor too.

 

And as I flip through Kim’s book, reading as fast as I can, I jump to a page where Kim writes how she regards synchronicity as “one of the building blocks of my particular practice because of a book by lawyer and leadership expert Joseph Jaworski. His book, Synchronicity, was one of the books that launched my own journey”.

Yes, those are Kim’s words, on page 185, that I had never read until now.

My own blog post on 19 January 2012 is that Joseph’s book has:

significantly altered my thinking. I’d go so far as to say [it has] altered what I want to do with my life.”

Kim finishes this chapter of her book with the quote that begins “Until one is committed…” (sometimes attributed to Goethe). That’s the same quote I wrote about in June, and which is pasted on my fridge.

Kim says “pay attention to synchroncity”.

How could I not?

I happened to mention to a family friend here in South Africa that I had read this wonderful book by Joseph Jaworski. His response was:

“Joe’s a great guy, my wife and I really like him”.

So, to my complete astonishment and amazement, turns out that Joseph Jaworski, the ex trial lawyer from Boston and visionary creator of the American Leadership Forum, comes out to South Africa from time to time. I trust I will meet him when the time is right.

I Skyped with a leadership and development coach named Amy Powell in Australia in June. When she told me how some amazing synchronistic events unfolded after she read Jaworski’s book Synchronicity, well I just knew that Amy and I have work to do together. Turns out one of her biggest coaching clients is a law firm…

I’m choosing to feel held by a gentle web of synchronistic events guiding me towards the work I came to Earth to achieve. And achieve it I will, even at the risk of sounding like a New Age crackpot.

*photo of Golden Gate bridge taken on way to Half Moon Bay with Linda Alvarez, happily discussing law, life and love as we zipped along the Californian coastline.

Let the River Run

I’ve felt like my views on transforming the legal profession and my sharing them on this blog is just a little trickling stream. But now this little stream is turning into a river as I connect with people all over the globe who think the same way.  Several nights in the last week I have had the privilege of talking to amazing women (via Skype) from America, Australia, Bosnia – who are all working hard to transform the way lawyers practice, law firms operate and law schools teach law.  Each woman has connected me with other wonderful lawyers bringing about change and so it flows.

Last week I wondered aloud if I could find a woman lawyer in Cape Town who had done the Women Within training to help me launch the Integrative Law Movement in South Africa. Well, I got an email within 24 hours from the “right woman”. It was that easy. And I knew she was the “right woman” to help me when she emailed me this quote:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back– Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” (attributed to Goethe – but its attribution is apparently complex)

Of course I had this quotation on my fridge already.

On Saturday night I spoke to a couple at a party about my ideas and they said I should speak to their woman lawyer friend, who it turns out I had gone to law school with. I checked my phone just before I drove home at midnight and lo and behold, this long-lost law school friend had just asked me to connect with her on Linked-in.

I know it’s very New-Agey for lawyers…but I do believe in Karma and destiny.  I cannot doubt right now that the Universe is helping me do the work I am meant to be doing.

I wrote an article last week on Integrative Law and quoted Pauline Tesler at the top:

“What kind of person the lawyer is matters equally as much as the power of the lawyer’s intellect”.

To be completely honest, I was in a bit of a hurry so I didn’t actually look up Pauline’s work before I used the quote.  Today I stumbled onto her website, recognised her name and read a few posts. Wow. It was like reading my thoughts, only expressed better by someone else. Pauline teaches Practical Neuro-Literacy programs to lawyers and other professionals and while I’m not even clear what this means…I needed to know about her work because:

I met a neuro-scientist on Saturday who consults to corporates on various ways of harnessing brain function that I didn’t have time to understand. I told him I want to find out about the application of his work to lawyers.  Crash, bam, boom, whoosh, the pieces fall into place. Watch this space for neuro-science and law!

I was particularly struck by some paragraphs on Pauline Tesler’s blog (the Integral Institute) which I shall paste below.  I cannot wait to learn more about her work and bring it to South Africa. The bits I’ve chosen to quote are not about her neuro work but about the essential humanity of lawyers. Beautifully written.

And yet I,  a lawyer, saw immediately how these practices and insights could help members of my own profession reclaim meaning and integration in our daily work with clients–serving them better, and at the same time taking better care of ourselves as human beings.  It seems to me that the profound organizing purpose that most of us in the legal profession discovered in our early years and that we carry forth in our work arises out of deeply held values of fairness and peace.  Yet as we learn to be lawyers, we are socialized to move away from important human qualities and behaviors that surely are central in helping our clients find fair resolution and peace.

To become lawyers, we have struggled to hone necessary skills and to become excellent at what we do.  Although most of us brought to the table a facility with language, argumentation and logic, nonetheless it came easily to none of us to “think like a lawyer,” the first hard lesson of a legal education.  Many of us have paid a steep price as we shaped ourselves to match the professional persona of a lawyer, pruning away what doesn’t match the official job description  (empathy is often one of the early casualties) and squeezing into the box inconvenient  human qualities (our own emotions, our own most accessible ways of apprehending reality) unrelated to legalistic deductive reasoning, so as to keep them unseen and under control.

Do we have to leave behind essential humanity to practice law?  I don’t think so.  But that’s what happens to us in law school and in our on the job experiences in court.  No wonder lawyers register so high in all the indicia of a profession in trouble:  drug abuse, alcoholism, major depression, suicide.  We tend not to want our children to follow in our footsteps, and perhaps this problem–the loss of intrinsic human meaning in our daily work–is the reason.

Long may this river run.

The Dream of a Common Language

In the last few months I’ve wished I had a clearer explanation of what I do. I tend to end up explaining what I used to do (lawyer, Educational director of non-profit college, law lecturer) to arrive in a round-about way at what I do now.  I’m not sure a job title is all that important. But it does make it hard to design a business card. What am I supposed to put under my name?

Titles aside, I do have a clear sense that my mission (at least for the next while) is:

To contribute to the conscious transformation of the legal profession.

This draws many blank stares. Perhaps it’s the fact I use “conscious” and “legal” in the same sentence? I believe the phrase “conscious law” does not have to be an oxymoron. It is possible to practise law in a way that is just, equitable and humane and it is possible to develop a legal system that is efficient and effective and gives people dignity.

We live in exciting times. There is a global shift towards a new way of being in the world. New ways of eating, living, building, communicating, doing business – because, simply put, people are realising that continuing to do things as we used to, is killing both ourselves and the planet.  Recognition of this global shift is no longer the preserve of New Age hippies expounding on vegetarianism and communal living. It covers every industry and it’s reaching the legal world too.(For a list of 100 Spiritual leaders who all, in some way, write about this global shift, you can look here)

So I don’t have a title but I’m realising I am not alone. I have dreamed of a common language (phrase borrowed from the wonderful poet Adrienne Rich) to talk to others who are writing and thinking about law, legal systems and legal professionals in a new way, a more conscious way. Today, stumbling around the internet, I came across the book Lawyers as Peacemakers: Practicing Holistic, Problem-Solving Law by Kim Wright. And linked to this I’ve found

People who speak this language of a conscious transformation in law!

I don’t feel I’m such a voice in the wilderness anymore! Here’s a brief introduction to some of the people I hope, over time, to be able to call my thinking partners. I’ll be writing about each of these people as I research them and hopefully get in touch with them. (Unfortunately this sort of research doesn’t pay the rent – an obstacle I’m trying to overcome)

David B. Wexler:  Blah: Professor of Law and Director, International Network on Therapeutic Jurisprudence, University of Puerto Rico, and Distinguished Research Professor of Law and Professor of Psychology, University of Arizona. Interesting:  He writes of …a bench and bar that better serves society, and a legal profession composed of counselors, leaders, and peacemakers.

Pauline H. Tesler: Blah: co-founder of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, co-editor of the journal The Collaborative Review, fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, author of Collaborative Law: Achieving Effective Resolution in Divorce without Litigation, and in August 2002, was co-recipient (with Stu Webb) of the first American Bar Association “Lawyer as Problem Solver” award. Interesting:  In this emerging jurisprudence, as the overarching purpose of our professional work shifts from winning  legal victories to providing meaningful conflict resolution services for our clients, what kind of person the lawyer is matters equally as much as the power of the lawyer’s intellect. 

Jeff Brown:  Blah: author of Soulshaping: A Journey of Self-Creation. He calls himself an author, film maker, grounded spiritualist – and used to be a criminal lawyer. Interesting: To the extent that you identify and honour your true path in this lifetime, you will know genuine satisfaction, real peace in your skin.. You will be infused with vitality and a clarified focus, new pathways of possibility appear where before there were obstacles.

James Melamed:  co-founder of Resourceful Internet Solutions (RIS) and Mediate.com, founder of The Mediation Center in Eugene, Oregon, former Executive Director of the national Academy of Family Mediators, and professor of Mediation at the Pepperdine University School of Law’s Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution.

Dolly M. Garlo: Blah:  RN, JD, PCC is President of Thrive!!© Inc. (www.AllThrive.com) and Founder of Creating Legacy™ (www.CreatingLegacyNetwork.com) Interesting: “Turns out there is a harmony of voices in our profession—caring, committed professional lawyers who also understand that the work is not about issues or cases or parties, but about people, and how the law impacts and affects them”

Sunny Schwartz: Blah: Esq, Program Administrator, San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and author of Dreams from the Monster Factory: A Tale of Prison, Redemption, and One Woman’s Fight to Restore Justice to All. Interesting“Wright’s book is a beautiful and palpable illustration that will bring a more dignified and effective approach to American jurisprudence. Reading this book will benefit us all and is a must read for lawyers, judges, clients and the general community, as reading this book enhances our humanity.”

Linda Warren Seely: Blah: Director of Pro Bono Projects, Memphis Area Legal Services, Inc. Interesting: “ a different vision of how conflicts can be resolved, using all of the intelligences and many alternative tools to bring about real and meaningful change in people’s lives.”

John Lande: Blah: Isidor Loeb Professor and Director, LL.M. Program in Dispute Resolution, University of Missouri School of Law. His scholarship focuses on various aspects of dispute systems design, including publications analyzing how lawyering and mediation practices transform each other, business lawyers’ and executives’ opinions about litigation and ADR, designing court-connected mediation programs, improving the quality of mediation practice, the “vanishing trial,” and planned early negotiation. Interesting: He writes a book review of Kim Wright’s book and says she “ has compiled a treasure trove of ideas and wisdom for lawyers who want to use their heads and hearts to help clients in humanistic ways. 

Stuart Webb: founder of collaborative law, has appeared on the CBS Evening News and in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, and in August 2002, was co-recipient (with Pauline Tesler) of the first American Bar Association, “Lawyer as Problem Solver” award. Webb founded Collaborative Law in 1990, after becoming disillusioned with the acrimony and negativity traditionally associated with divorce. Since then, he has trained other lawyers in forty states and in Europe.

Cheryl Conner: Blah: Founder, New Prospects Collaborative, Boston, former law professor and Asst. U.S. Attorney Cheryl Conner Cheryl Conner is a thought leader, lawyer, professor and activist who, throughout her life, has empowered girls and women lawyers to powerfully be themselves for the sake of the world around them. Interesting: After practicing law as an Asst. U.S. Attorney, an Asst. A.G., as Mass. Senate Counsel and a lawyer at Goodwin, Procter, she turned to academia, where she pioneered holistic approaches to lawyering. By supporting the individual creative spirit, the inner journey and the power of collaboration, she helps unleash your fire to be your most expansive, authentic, creative self. She holds the view that these gifts are sorely needed in a system-wide collaborative effort to re-create our social institutions and save our planet.

Gretchen Duhaime: As Founder of Practicing on Purpose LLC, Gretchen developed a wellness model designed to help lawyers strive for balance and purpose in life and law. As a work-at-home mom with a toddler and baby, Gretchen’s life is built on feminine values and work/life integration. Interesting! Her journey to help other women live balanced lives began with her undergraduate Women’s Studies thesis, which gave new meaning to Simone de Beauvoir’s Le Deuxieme Sexe by setting excerpts to music sung by a capella soprano. Gretchen’s pre-law school career brought integration and collaboration to male-dominated industries and organizations, through a systems-thinking lens.

Diane Diel: past President, State Bar of Wisconsin, President-Elect, International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. She has served on the Professional Ethics Committee of the State Bar (1986-1992) and on the Trust Account Working Group (2004-2007) which restated trust account record keeping and advance fee management rules applicable to lawyers in the State of Wisconsin. She is a frequent trainer and speaker on collaborative practice and on ethical topics.

Kim Schavey: All interesting: As an M.B.A., J.D. and minister, Kim Schavey shares her perspective on the evolution of the legal profession. As a student of New Thought metaphysics for over a decade, she talks about how she sees a common path of interconnectedness and transcending the win/lose mentality of the courtroom and how the evolution is influenced by a pendulum swing of masculine and feminine energies. Kim calls for a balancing of these energies in the law and financial industries. Referring to Ken Wilber’s work, she talks about the evolution of the species, not as mutation of genes but in terms of adding truths to human consciousness.

Darity Wesley: Founder of the Lotus Law Center (www.LotusLawCenter.com), Darity practices  “A New Kind of Law™” which incorporates integrity, caring and compassion into 25 plus years of business law and strategy and is a national expert in data and technology licensing. Chief Privacy Guru and founder of Privacy Solutions, Inc. (www.PrivacyGurus.com).

So there you go! A whole bunch of people who talk about conscious law, renaissance law, ethics and humanity and morality, holistic approaches to lawyering, collaborative practice, Practicing on Purpose…

This is just the beginning of my journey. But today I am happy. These are my people. I’m finding a home.