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50 Ways to Leave your Lawyer

 

CT divorce training group

“The problem is all inside your head” she said to me

“The answer is easy if you take it logically

I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free

There must be fifty ways to leave your lawyer”

Why do so many people continue to use lawyers they don’t respect, like or value?

I am part of a global movement known as the Integrative Law Movement. Integrative Lawyers believe that clients have the right to a lawyer who will listen empathetically to their story. We believe you have the right to a lawyer who will encourage you to follow the voice of your higher self, no matter how hurt or angry you may currently be. We believe you have the right to a lawyer who cares deeply about assisting you with meaningful conflict resolution rather than a short term legal victory. We believe that law can be a healing profession and that this requires Integrative lawyers who look inwards and strive to become whole themselves in order to better assist their clients in using the legal system. As you can imagine, being an Integrative Lawyer is sometimes lonely.

If you admit you’re a lawyer at a social gathering the best you can hope for is someone tries to get a free consultation over a boring issue. The worse reactions range from suddenly seeing physical evidence of mistrust in your dining companion such as tensed shoulders or narrowed eyes right down to being told blatantly offensive lawyer jokes. The most recent ones I’ve been subjected to are “What do lawyers use for birth control? Their personalities” and “What is the difference between a lawyer and a sperm cell? At least the sperm has a 1 in 600 million chance at becoming a human being.”

I’m not jumping to the defence of the profession just yet. After all, I managed only two years in a large firm before I ran for the hills, literally.  I went from working in a glass skyscraper in Cape Town to an abandoned municipal building with no toilet seats and broken windows in a village of 150 inhabitants – where I set up a college for township students.  ( NO experience is ever wasted! My heart and mind expanded there in ways I didn’t know were possible). But I digress.

Studies have been done that show the public has less respect for attorneys than any other professional group. The crisis in the legal profession has been described by Susan Daicoff, a US law professor and qualified psychologist, as a “tripartite crisis which includes poor job satisfaction, poor public perception and combative litigation and incivility”. I’m going to simplify that and say there are 3 parts to the crisis:

Lawyers don’t like themselves. People don’t like lawyers. Lawyers don’t like each other.

How do we know lawyers don’t like themselves? There are abnormally high rates of depression and substance abuse throughout the profession. In February this year a London lawyer, who was regularly featured in the Who’s Who list of International Trademark lawyers, threw himself in front of a train in the middle of a high-pressure trial. Although he’d told a colleague the day before that he wanted to kill himself, no one had taken it seriously. In Australia the top 5 firms got together to create a DVD on Depression in the legal profession (Resilience@law).

Lawyer jokes ranging from funny to pretty insulting show what the public thinks of lawyers. As for lawyers not liking each other, there is a lot of US research showing high levels of aggression between lawyers in and out the courtroom. In South Africa, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence about the bullying and often sexist behaviour that characterizes our profession, both from advocates and attorneys.

Lawyer, Know Thyself, Daicoff’s book, explores this crisis and presents some interesting findings such as the fact that people drawn to study law tend to come from families that are very achievement oriented and which value action and results over feelings. Most potential lawyers have a preference for dominance and leadership abilities and not so much emphasis on emotional or interpersonal matters. In addition to the research that shows certain types of people are drawn to law in the first place, there are also many studies that show that law school continues to emphasise these characteristics by encouraging competition and discouraging collaboration and actively teaching that emotions and feelings are irrelevant and irrational to the practice of law.  Daicoff explains that “Law students become less interested in community, intimacy, personal growth and inherent satisfaction and more interested in appearance, attractiveness…and the esteem of others”. There is also evidence to show that law schools’ attempt to teach students to “think like a lawyer” has the effect of shifting students from an ethic of care to a rights-based orientation. In other words, no matter what type of person you are going into law school, it is certain by the time they leave they’ll have learned to be more emotionally neutral, to put it politely. Lawyers are taught to make rational and logical decisions about who’s right and not worry too much about how everyone feels. If, by the time they graduate, they haven’t sufficiently learned how to focus solely on their intellectual powers and to ignore their own and others’ emotional needs (which obviously get in the way of good clear decision-making) then they will certainly master these skills in their further training. Whether a lawyer chooses the attorney route and spends 2 years doing articles at a law firm or becomes an advocate and enters a contract of “pupillage” at the bar working for another advocate, every day in subtle and not so subtle ways, lawyers are pushed towards living firmly from their intellectual worlds and ignoring their emotional, physical and spiritual needs.

So Daicoff’s research has shown us that a lawyer is likely to come from a family which doesn’t do a whole lot of “touchy feely” stuff and in which they tend to learn that thinking is a whole lot more important than feeling. During law school this becomes more deeply ingrained and by the time the lawyer makes it to a law firm and surveys all those on the ladder ahead, it will be clear that success only comes to those who focus on getting ahead and making a name for him or herself. The price for being nice and caring too much about clients is high – promotion will be unlikely. The sad reality is that lawyers who spend significant amounts of time and energy attending to their clients are not going to be billing as many hours as those who do the bare minimum. It’s starting to emerge that the answer to “where are all the nice lawyers?” is pretty complex. The systems currently in place are not designed to produce, protect or promote lawyers who care!

But the systems are failing. Clients are starting to demand lawyers who care, lawyers who they genuinely believe have their best interests at heart and who are capable of deep, empathetic listening. A forward thinking US law professor uses the term “multi-dimensional lawyering” to explain the shift taking place in which we need lawyers who are not just Fighters but also Designers and Problem Solvers.   “The Fighter puts together a case by “rewinding the tape,” i.e., reconstructing the events that give rise to liability.  Formal pleadings and the expert, precedent-following quality of legal argument are scrupulously devoted toward reaching a precise, reliable result based on these events.  Rewinding the historical tape of events and behaviors accurately is thus crucial, both to supplying victory for the Fighter and to supplying legitimacy to a court judgment that ultimately must affix blame to one party.” Lawyers who can operate preventively and creatively are Designers and Problem Solvers and they are more likely to look forward than backward. Their work is designing environments and facilitating relationships to prevent conflict and is a creative role rather than a reactive role.

What type of lawyer do you want when you are having an ante-nuptial contract or a will drawn up? What type of lawyer will you hire if you decide to get divorced and have children, making an ongoing relationship with your spouse a necessity? The type of lawyer the public demands is the type of lawyer the market will produce to fill the need.

“Most sustainable improvements in community occur when citizens discover their own power to act…when they stop waiting for the professionals or elected leadership to do something, and decide that they can reclaim what they have delegated to others.” Peter Block, “Community: the Structure of Belonging”.

 

Dewey  box

Many law firms have outdated methods for treating and billing their clients because the clients have not demanded they change! We need clients who seek creative lawyers, entrepreneurial lawyers, lawyers prepared to risk being wrong by inventing completely new contracts that clients actually understand. I work with lawyers every week who are afraid if they wear what they really want to wear that clients won’t take them seriously, so they continue to don grey suits and white shirts even when they set up their own practice. Lawyers worry about what they put in their office because they wonder what signal it sends if the client sees that the lawyer has a crystal collection or some self-help books or does belly-dancing as a hobby. I know lawyers who do all these things and they are brilliant lawyers as well as well-rounded individuals because they have a life outside the office.

Rhiannon & Amanda at SAILA 5 Feb

A local lawyer who decided to advertise in the alternative Link-Up Magazine was initially quite concerned her colleagues would stop taking her seriously.  I find it sad that every week I come across story after story of lawyers who become aware, often through personal loss or illness but sometimes through becoming a parent or other such life-altering event, that they’ve cut off parts of themselves to meet the stereotype the profession has demanded of them. Sadly, many of them find that the only way they can allow these new parts of themselves to flourish is by leaving the law.

It is as a result of all these issues in the legal system that the Integrative Law Movement grew. A movement dedicated to bringing greater levels of consciousness and compassion to the legal profession. It includes thousands of lawyers, legal advisors, judges, law school professors and law students along with members of the public who are questioning the way the legal system currently functions and creating a new vision of law that utilizes not only the powers of intellectual reasoning but the even more powerful characteristics of heart and soul.  The Integrative Law Movement integrates the existing system with new models and ways of practising law. It integrates emotions with logic and rationality and it integrates learning from other disciplines like psychology and organisational development, into the legal system.  I have created the Centre for Integrative Law to bring these wonderful developments to South Africa and to grow the Integrative Law Movement in this country.  I’m working with law schools, law societies, law firms and individual lawyers who are ready to be part of the change but there’s a long way to go.

The next time you’re at a dinner and someone makes a crack about lawyers, I hope you’ll remember some of this. Most of all I hope you’ll remember that to “be the change you wish to see in the world” as Gandhi (who was a lawyer) told us. YOU need to choose a lawyer that dares to be different. Choose a multi-dimensional lawyer who knows when to be a Fighter, when to be a Designer and when to be a Problem-Solver. Ask your lawyer what their personal values are or why they do the work they do and see if the responses resonates with your needs.  Personally, I’d suggest you risk choosing the lawyer with the self-help books on their shelf!  Or one you meet at a Mindfulness course. Choose a lawyer that you feel has not only the legal competency, but resonates with who you are and what you stand for.  These lawyers are out there. You just need to look.

Honouring Nelson Mandela: The Lawyer

Mandela In Law Office

Here is Nelson Mandela in the office of Mandela & Tambo, SA’s first black law firm. Mandela combined a lawyer’s intellect with the wisdom of a tribal elder. We need more lawyers with these skills.

He was an Integrative Lawyer and believed in the concept of “Lawyers as Peacemakers” decades before these terms were used. The Integrative Law Movement is only now asking how we can bring the wisdom of tribal elders to law and how we can shift focus from exclusively a debate on “rights” to what is in everyone’s best interests, not only the individuals but also the community and the planet.

Integrative Lawyers today are learning about dialogue, about Non Violent Communication and Powerful Non-Defensive Communication and forgiveness and reconciliation. These are Mandela skills! The narrow set of skills being taught in law schools is not enough. Being a Multi-Dimensional Lawyer is knowing when to shift from being a Fighter, to being a Designer and Problem-Solver. Mandela’s story shows us this journey. He put down his weapons and learned the skills of negotiation and mediation, diplomacy and problem-solving. He learned how to understand “the Other”.

There are many, many parts of the justice system that are broken. We need to support those who are trying to fix it. Like Mandela, many Integrative Lawyers know that sometimes one has to become a lawyer to change the legal system from the inside.

So this week, as we honour Madiba, the most revered lawyer-turned-statesman, I want people to see another side to the much maligned legal profession. And I want to ask you to support Integrative Lawyers who are challenging the current legal paradigm. Support the lawyers who are brave enough to admit they’re taking a course on “reconciliation” or “Mindfulness”.

How many young lawyers out there, inspired by Gandhi or Mandela have chosen the legal profession in order to make a difference in the world? And how many are finding their passion ignored or ridiculed at our universities and law firms? Before these lawyers quit and find something else to study, I want them to know about the Integrative Law Movement. To know that they are not alone in thinking they can use legal skills to heal individuals, families and society.

Reflect on this:

“I regard it as a duty which I owed, not just to my people, but also to my profession, to the practice of law, and to the justice for all mankind, to cry out against this discrimination which is essentially unjust and opposed to the whole basis of the attitude towards justice which is part of the tradition of legal training in this country. I believed that in taking up a stand against this injustice I was upholding the dignity of what should be an honorable profession.”

To all lawyers reading this:

What are you doing to uphold the dignity of what should be an honorable profession? 

What contribution are you making to the justice for all mankind?

 

Colours, Numbers & Asking the Right Questions

Image

Several times in the last few weeks I have wondered what I do. I ask myself whether I am accomplishing enough and then try to figure out what “enough” might be.

Taking time to ask the right questions is important. Slowly reason is emerging from the mound of files and books, notepads, folders, to-do lists and radically-overpinned noticeboard that I call my “work” although I know it’s much more than that.

I have clarified these 3 things:

I help lawyers awaken to the possibility that their work can be about healing conflict. 

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 heads and their hearts to their legal practice.  

I’ve worked out that my mission right now is really: to keep those lawyers, who have had a shift of consciousness, in the profession. 

Systems Theory 101 teaches us that “every system is perfectly designed to produce the results it is currently producing”. The legal education system is perfectly designed to produce cognitively smart but unconscious lawyers.

The term “unconscious” is somewhat ambiguous – what I am referring to can be viewed in a number of ways. One would be Spiral Dynamics, the 8 stage spiral of development in which you would see that the legal profession as a whole is at the Orange Level which is defined by materialism; consumerism; success; image; status; growth.

Or you can view it through the lens of 7 Levels of Human Motivation and you will understand that lawyers tend are at levels 1, 2 and 3 with a few at level 4. Without digressing radically (which I do frequently) here is some detail:

Level 3 is about SELF ESTEEM –  the motivation is satisfying your need to feel good about yourself, your ability to manage your life, and building pride in your performance.

Level 4 is the level of TRANSFORMATION – at this level the motivation is becoming more of who you really are by uncovering your authentic self and aligning your ego with your soul.

Level 5, (where it would be good to have more lawyers!) is the level of INTERNAL COHESION: Finding meaning for your life by uncovering your passion or purpose and creating a vision for the future you want to create.

But there is an enormous shift happening globally as people are waking up. (see for eg WorldShift 2012 by Ervin Laszlo.) In the legal profession we’re starting to see more and more lawyers who, in Spiral Dynamics terms, are moving towards Green: egalitarian; feelings; authentic; sharing; caring; community. And in 7 Levels speak – are moving into the transformation level (4) and above to levels 5, 6 and 7 and asking “how do I find meaning in my life?” and “how can I use my skill as a lawyer to make a difference in the world?”.

The problem is that the lawyers who start asking these questions find it very difficult to stay in the profession. Their values are no longer in alignment with their environment. So many of them leave to pursue different avenues that are less restrictive, allow for greater creativity and original thinking and allow for empathy and deep connection. Some even become healers. And in the photo above you will see a group of women who all started off in law but most of whom left the profession  when they awoke, to do healing work.

So back to my mission: to keep those lawyers, who have had a shift of consciousness, in the profession. 

It doesn’t mean stopping anyone moving on to greener pastures! Or that an ex lawyer shouldn’t become whatever they want to become. But if every lawyer that walks the sacred journey from their head to their heart, leaves the profession, it won’t be possible to reclaim law as a healing profession. It won’t be possible to transform the profession to one that truly heals breaches in the social fabric.

I have realised I don’t do measurables that well and I can barely utter the term “deliverables.”

I can tell you that pretty often, sometimes once a week, I hear from a lawyer who is so excited that there may be a way to practise law and stay true to who they are, that I can feel their excitement zooming through their words. They write to me sometimes after we have talked face to face about finding their passion or about vision-led and value-driven legal practice, or after they have read a blog post, or have found the Centre for Integrative Law’s website.  

I read Seth Godin’s blog often. Today he wrote:

As soon as we measure something, we seek to improve the numbers.

Which is a worthwhile endeavor, if better numbers are the point of the exercise.

The other path is to focus on colors, not numbers. Instead of measuring, for example, how many people click on a link, we can measure how something you wrote or created delighted or challenged people… You can see the changes in emotion, or dignity improved or light shed.

The questions we ask change the thing we make. Organizations that do nothing but measure the numbers rarely create breakthroughs. Merely better numbers.

So today I choose to be OK with the fact I’m working with colours, not numbers. I don’t know how many lawyers I may have played some small role in helping to keep in the profession this year. I can tell you I have connected deeply with lawyers in Cape Town, in Johannesburg, in the US, in Brazil, in Australia, in Amsterdam and in India.

I have no numbers for you today. But I do have emails like this one:

“I honestly just want to hug you for the amazing work you are doing. You are bringing consciousness to the legal profession.  That’s what I felt was missing in the first place when I left all those years ago.Keep up the great work. Remember : To be a visionary is to walk alone until everyone begins to buy into your vision. When that happens, you will be amazed at the momentum as a reality far beyond what you could imagine begins to manifest.”

It is an email from a woman I have never met.

It was very affirming to receive this at a time I sat wondering if I do enough.

So no numbers. No deliverables. No measurables. Just colours. Regular explosions of dazzling sunrise colours that fill my skies.

King of Wishful Thinking

Map_of_Convergent_Thinking

“How much are we, as lawyers, limited by what we know and understand about law and legal systems, which prevents us from experiencing what is and what could be possible, for our clients?”

The above thought is from notes I took during Collaborative Divorce training by my mentor and fellow legal visionary, Pauline Tesler, who was brought to South Africa by the Centre for Integrative Law in April 2013. You can read more about her trip and trainings here.

This thought, around the limitations of lawyer’s thinking has been wandering around my mind for the last few weeks as I try to make better sense of what exactly this means. I share Pauline Tesler’s view that lawyers, unknowingly, and as a result of their specialised training, are often limited in their ability to solve problems in the most client-centric way.

I think that one of the major causes of this is that lawyers are trained to focus – to sift through masses of information and choose the critical issue on which the case will turn. This is a significant skill – the ability to sniff out the most pertinent issue when wading through a morass of unnecessary paperwork and extraneous detail. But as I see it, there are two major downsides to this ability:

  1. Not seeing the whole picture
  2. Not seeing non-legal solutions

Without our being aware of it, we lawyers have been trained so consistently in convergent thinking that this way of thinking has become an unquestioned habit. Wikipedia gives this explanation:

Convergent thinking is the type of thinking that focuses on coming up with the single, well-established answer to a problem.[1] It is oriented toward deriving the single best, or most often correct answer to a question. Convergent thinking emphasizes speed, accuracy, and logic and focuses on recognizing the familiar, reapplying techniques, and accumulating stored information.[1] It is most effective in situations where an answer readily exists and simply needs to be either recalled or worked out through decision making strategies.[1] A critical aspect of convergent thinking is that it leads to a single best answer, leaving no room for ambiguity. In this view, answers are either right or wrong. The solution that is derived at the end of the convergent thinking process is the best possible answer the majority of the time.

The opposite of convergent thinking, is divergent thinking and it’s my view that this is what lawyers need more training in. So let’s look at the definition of “Divergent Thinking”:

Divergent thinking is a thought process or method used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. It is often used in conjunction with convergent thinking, which follows a particular set of logical steps to arrive at one solution, which in some cases is a “correct” solution. Divergent thinking typically occurs in a spontaneous, free-flowing manner, such that many ideas are generated in an emergent cognitive fashion. Many possible solutions are explored in a short amount of time, and unexpected connections are drawn. After the process of divergent thinking has been completed, ideas and information are organized and structured using convergent thinking.[1]

And now for the interesting part – if lawyers are so smart, why are they not able to see the faults in their thinking? Why are they not able to adopt a divergent approach to problem solving? Wikipedia has this to say:

“Psychologists have found that a high IQ alone does not guarantee creativity. Instead, personality traits that promote divergent thinking are more important. Divergent thinking is found among people with personality traits such as nonconformity, curiosity, willingness to take risks, and persistence.”

Lawyers are trained to be risk-averse, they are experts in compliance, and they are paid to help everyone adhere to the accepted norms and standards of society. (I’m generalising here, but you get the picture). Lawyers are exactly the opposite of the types of people likely to think in a divergent way.

One of the many reasons mediation is growing, and will continue to grow as an alternative to litigation is that mediators are trained to think as broadly as possible, whereas attorneys, and advocates are trained to narrow down the options. Instead of seeing a huge range of possibilities and ways something could be resolved, the lawyer sees only one – the most expedient, and of course law-based solution. In fact, the entire way our court system is structured is around convergent thinking –  if advocates don’t include in a  prayer for specific relief (“my client seeks X Y and Z”) then he is barred from asking for this later in the trial – regardless of whether it might bring a swift and speedy resolution to the trial and make all the parties happy.

What does this mean for the legal profession? I think we need to draw lawyers’ attention to how they think, not just the content of their thinking, but the process. The best work for this, to my knowledge, is Edward de Bono, the international bestselling author of Lateral Thinking and Six Thinking Hats. I’m so passionate about his work that I am qualifying as a de Bono consultant so I can teach this stuff myself to law firms and lawyers-to-be.  De Bono is the leading authority in the field of creative thinking and the direct teaching of thinking as a skill.

Over and over again, I come back to the notion that IQ is not sufficient for a lawyer to be a good lawyer. Everywhere we are being told that the legal profession needs to change. The introduction to the Altman Weil Law Firms in Transition Survey 2012 states

“These findings suggest that change management will be a required core competency of law firm leadership going forward. The leadership challenge will be to drive change, not just react prudently to external conditions.”

If you’re a lawyer reading this, my challenge to you is take the next 20 (non-billable) minutes and write this in the middle of a blank page:

“How much are we, as lawyers, limited by what we know and understand about law and legal systems, which prevents us from experiencing what is and what could be possible, for our clients?”

And allow yourself to brainstorm – using a spider chart, random lines linking things, bubbles and colours, rather than using boxes, (these are all creative thinking tools) –  what could be possible for your clients if YOU could be open to change?

Ps. The ways in which lawyers don’t see the non-legal solutions will be explored in a separate post.

The Demeaning SA Attorneys Oath!

So here it is: the long awaited ATTORNEYS OATH – that is known by very few attorneys in South Africa, despite the fact we all had to swear to this when we were admitted.

IN THE HIGH COURT OF SOUTH AFRICA

(WESTERN CAPE HIGH COURT, CAPE TOWN)

I,  do swear/affirm that I will truly and honestly demean myself in the practice of

ATTORNEY

according to the best of my knowledge and ability, and further, that I will be faithful to the Republic of South Africa

……………………………………………..

The deponent acknowledges that she knows and understands the contents of the declaration.       

AFRIKAANS VERSION

IN DIE HOOGGEREGSHOF VAN SUID-AFRIKA

(WES-KAAP Hoë HOF, KAAPSTAD)

 Ek sweer/bevestig dat ek my eerlik en opreg in die praktyk van

ATTORNEY

na my beste wete en vermoë sal gedra en verder dat ek trou sal wees aan die  Republiek van Suid-Afrika

Die verklaarder erken dat sy vertroud is met die inhoud van die verklaring en dit begryp.

I think the Afrikaans version is better. With regards to the English, well I think we have a problem here.   While the dictionary definition of “demean” shows:                                             

de·mean

 

tr.v. de·meanedde·mean·ingde·means

To conduct or behave (oneself) in a particular manner: demeaned themselves well in class.
The issue is that 99% of English speakers understand “demean” by its more common usage:

de·mean

to lower in dignity, honor, or standing; debase:  eg He demeaned himself by accepting the bribe. (synonyms: degrade, disgrace)

Language is a powerful tool. We use it to shape our understanding of our world. If, every time an attorney is sworn in, he commits to truly demeaning himself…Well, enough said.

It’s time for a new oath.

Feel free to comment.   

If you are an attorney and you believe it is time for us to create a new, voluntary oath, along the lines of the initiative by MBA students, please read the information below and get in touch.         

The MBA Oath is a voluntary student-led pledge that asks graduating MBAs to commit towards the creation of value “responsibly and ethically.” As of January 2010, the initiative is driven by a coalition of MBA students, graduates and advisors, including nearly 2,000 student and alumni signers from over 500 MBA programs around the world.[1] By formalizing a written oath and creating forums for individuals to personally commit to an ethical standard, the initiative hopes to accomplish three goals:

  1. to make a difference in the lives of the individual students who take the oath,
  2. to challenge other classmates to work towards a higher professional standard, whether they sign the oath or not, and
  3. to create a public conversation in the press about professionalizing and improving management.[2]

MBA Oath (short version)

As a manager, my purpose is to serve the greater good by bringing people and resources together to create value that no single individual can create alone. Therefore I will seek a course that enhances the value my enterprise can create for society over the long term. I recognize my decisions can have far-reaching consequences that affect the well-being of individuals inside and outside my enterprise, today and in the future. As I reconcile the interests of different constituencies, I will face choices that are not easy for me and others.

Therefore I promise:

  • I will act with utmost integrity and pursue my work in an ethical manner.
  • I will safeguard the interests of my shareholders, co-workers, customers and the society in which we operate.
  • I will manage my enterprise in good faith, guarding against decisions and behavior that advance my own narrow ambitions but harm the enterprise and the societies it serves.
  • I will understand and uphold, both in letter and in spirit, the laws and contracts governing my own conduct and that of my enterprise.
  • I will take responsibility for my actions, and I will represent the performance and risks of my enterprise accurately and honestly.
  • I will develop both myself and other managers under my supervision so that the profession continues to grow and contribute to the well-being of society.
  • I will strive to create sustainable economic, social, and environmental prosperity worldwide.
  • I will be accountable to my peers and they will be accountable to me for living by this oath.

This oath I make freely, and upon my honor.

 

Neuro Law: A New World of Law Part 4

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

This is part 4 of my series in Neurolaw – in which I provide some extracts explaining developments in legal thinking that you may not be aware of.

Just found yet another organisation looking at the benefits of Neuroscience to other fields: The Centre for NeuroScience And Society at the University of Pennsylvania. 

Why Neuroscience Boot Camp?

Neuroscience is increasingly relevant to a number of professions and academic disciplines beyond its traditional medical applications. Lawyers, educators, economists and businesspeople as well as scholars of sociology, philosophy, applied ethics and policy are incorporating the concepts and methods of neuroscience into their work. For any field in which it is important to understand, predict or influence human behavior, neuroscience will play an increasing role. The Penn Neuroscience Boot Camp is designed to give participants a basic foundation in cognitive and affective neuroscience and to equip them to be informed consumers of neuroscience research.

A testimonial about the course:

“The Penn Neuroscience Boot Camp provides a well-planned and accessible introductory curriculum, delivered by a team of terrifically engaging speakers. Short of enrolling in a full-time neuroscience program, this is the best available immersion. So people wanting to learn the basics about neuroscience, and why it is so significantly affecting so many disciplines (including law), should take this course.”

Owen D. Jones, J.D.
Director, MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience; Prof. of Law & Prof. of Biological Sciences at Vanderbilt Universit

Warning: it does appear from photos on the site that they served a cake made like a brain that looks unbelievably gross but apart from that the course seems good.

 

… no woman is really an insider

“… no woman is really an insider in the institutions fathered by masculine consciousness.” Adrienne Rich

DSC00333

This post is actually a comment I made regarding Pierre de Vos’  post on Constitutionally Speaking which you can read here. These are some extracts:

Currently, only two of the eleven judges on the Constitutional Court are women. For a while there were three women on the Court, but in our patriarchal society it is no surprise that this state of affairs did not last.

For the latest appointment the JSC shortlisted five candidates for interviews – all five of them male.

Judges Selby Baqwa; Lebotsang Bosielo; and Brian Spilg are all competent lawyers, but none of these judges have (as far as I can tell) demonstrated any progressive streak or deep insight into the ways in which our legal culture could and should be transformed. Advocates Jeremy Gauntlett and Mbuyiseli Madlanga are both good advocates, but I suspect they suffer from the same deficit than the nominated judges: a lack of legal imagination and daring and a lack of enthusiasm for the transformation of the legal system.

how many of the shortlisted candidates have a deep commitment to feminism and insight into the manner in which seemingly neutral legal rules often promote the interests of men (and male domination) in our society?

I have been fascinated by the studies from Harvard and other well-recognised journals and publications that show conclusively that companies with equal numbers of women on the board, perform better. It’s not that women are better than men – simply that by having balanced boards the company is able to harness different ways of thinking about the world; different approaches to problem solving – it’s like doubling your ability to see the issues at hand. The same arguments should be made for the bench of the Constitutional Court and all courts.

However, in the legal profession, new research is providing evidence that women lawyers are forced early on to abandon their female way of viewing the world and the feminine approaches to problem solving. How? Because the law school curriculum and law firms themselves and the Bar are so deeply mired in a patriarchal mindset that the only way women succeed and climb the ranks in these places is to show that they can adopt a male mindset. This is highly detrimental to the profession because to put it bluntly it means there is no harnessing of this “other” perspective if all the women who make it are thinking and behaving exactly like men.

This is not to say that we don’t need women on the bench! But I think it’s important to add to the debate around how many women are on the bench this issue:   our failure to allow women lawyers to bring their fullest contribution to the profession. The way we educate lawyers actively discourages emotions. As mentioned above, there is now research that shows that these areas of the lawyers’ brain are undeveloped as a result! In other words – there is physical evidence which gives deeper understanding as to why lawyers are referred to as “sharks”.

The CIL is bringing an expert in neuro-literacy for lawyers (accredited by the American Bar Association) to SA in April.  Her name is Pauline Tesler, she’s the founder of the Integrative Law Institute in San Francisco and I’ve written about her here.

I would love to set up a platform for a panel discussion around gender and law while Pauline is in South Africa in April 2013. … I’ll send that out into the Universe and see what comes back.   In this realm I am also working with an Executive Coach specialising in Gender issues, on a programme for law firms, particularly around assisting women lawyers to focus on retaining their ability to think like women but express themselves in ways that men can understand. This is critical for them to succeed in male dominated work places.

Watch this space! Mail me using the contact tab on this blog if this interests you and you’d like to know more.

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.

Strange Attractor Patterns, Chaos Theory and Change

Sometimes movement appears chaotic, such as the movement of clouds or the swirling motion of a liquid. Yet when these movements are plotted by scientists onto 2 or 3 dimensional graphs, it emerges that they are not random. Instead, they form into strange and beautiful shapes which show that there is a complex self organising structure underpinning the chaotic system.  These are known as “strange attractor patterns”.

As Margaret Wheatley, the systems thinking expert, explains in Leadership and the New Science, when one is trying to “fix” a system often this requires the existing system being broken or dismantled. The system then goes into a period of oscillation swinging backwards and forwards between different states.  The final state in a system’s movement away from order is chaos, although not all systems move into chaos. We tend to see chaos as a bad thing because it’s totally unpredictable, but high energy chaos or disorder actually contains the seeds of order. Just as we think the system has reached the point where everything should fall apart, the strange attractor comes into play and a new kind of order emerges from the chaos.

I am one of many people in the Integrative Law Movement who see the legal system as broken. This statement obviously requires detailed substantiation but for now I shall limit this to mentioning these already established factors:  The legal profession is badly regarded by clients, often fails to reach any of the goals it has set for itself (managing conflict) and is filled with disillusioned lawyers who had once hoped to make a difference in society. (for more information refer to Susan Daicoff’s explanation of the tripartite crisis in the profession). Although it’s not suggested that the entire legal system could or should be dismantled, there are parts of the system, or systems within systems, which require fundamental re-organisation.  For example, legal language for many centuries has remained virtually unchanged with the result that most people can’t understand the contracts by which they are bound, without legal assistance. Sentencing drug addicted offenders to prison is another system that has been dismantled in some parts of the world after years of research proves that such practices serve neither the offender, the victims of the crimes nor society at large.

 

Jurisprudence is founded on principles of maintaining the status quo, mitigating risk, quantifying the immeasurable, reducing uncertainty. All of this means lawyers operate poorly in disorder or chaos. But the world is shifting very fast and the legal system is being forced to change to keep pace. The legal profession will have to prepare itself to deal with chaos however uncomfortable this may be.  Old systems need to be abandoned in order to bring new ones into being. Changes may include embracing new technology; creating new billing systems; developing new ways to structure law firms; looking at alternative sentencing mechanisms for criminals (particularly youth and addicted offenders); pioneering approaches such as collaborative law divorce (removing court from the process) or teaching lawyers to be healers and peacemakers instead of soldiers armed for battle.

When collaborative law in divorce was introduced many thought that dismantling the current divorce regime was untenable and unsustainable and that clients would not want it. But today more than 25 000 lawyers across the world have been trained in and are practising collaborative law divorce and thousands more are seeking such training. It was originally thought that court brought order to the divorce process and that facilitating an adversarial divorce without the court structure in place would be chaotic but in fact the opposite proved true. Someone was bold enough to challenge the existing system.

It is time for change but in order to change, legal professionals will have to start examining their own deeply entrenched inclination not to change. What’s holding you back from change?

 

The First Step

In the United States there is a non-profit association called The Other Bar which describes its work like this:

“The Other Bar is a network of recovering lawyers and judges throughout the state, dedicated to assisting others within the profession who are suffering from alcohol and substance abuse problems. We are a private, non-profit corporation. Our organization is founded on the principle of anonymity and provides services in strict confidentiality. The program is voluntary and open to all California lawyers, judges and law students.”

On The Other Bar’s website there are also links to further organisations and associations across the US including:

International Lawyers in Alcoholics Anonymous

Lawyers in Recovery

The Commission of Lawyers Assistance Programs of the American Bar Association (COLAP) 

The very fact that these places exist indicate that there’s a serious problem in the legal profession.  It’s not just the odd lawyer who has a drinking problem. Statistics are available but let’s leave them aside for now. If you have even the flimsiest grasp of supply and demand, you’d be able to see that there must be a helluva lot of broken legal professionals in the US if there’s a demand for lawyers-only AA and NA meetings and sobriety retreats.

To turn to South Africa, which is where my efforts are based, I want to share this. I was recently told that one of South Africa’s largest law firms has a relationship with a private psychiatric clinic where they check in their broken lawyers whether it’s as a result of substance abuse, depression or failed relationships.  I wouldn’t have believed it had the source of this news not come from someone I trust absolutely. A few days later I met a young candidate attorney and asked her if she thought this were true. Without hesitation she said “Yes, my friend from that firm was there last year, she spent time in that clinic. Shame, she’s really struggling”.

Weirdly, that same day I ran into a lawyer who was once a friend’s boss while this friend was completing her articles at the same large firm in question. I remember her sharing with me how she was subjected to a particularly harrowing performance appraisal that left her quite shattered. It was only two years later that I discovered (via the Cape Town grapevine) that her boss had had a major drug problem at the time. I have no doubt that a significant part of what my friend experienced was her boss’s projections of his own self-doubt and incompetence at that time. So what now? He cleaned up his act and as far as I know is still sober, which is great. And my friend? Well, she’s not a lawyer anymore.  It’s sad because she’s super smart and very funny and was a good lawyer.  She could have made a significant contribution to the profession had she stayed. But from the occasional news I hear of her, these days she’s really happy.

If substance abuse is a significant problem in the legal profession, why isn’t there more information on it? If you Google Search terms like “South African lawyers & alcoholism” you’ll just find a few links to the laws on drunken driving or attorneys that will help you divorce an alcoholic partner. Nothing about the lawyers themselves. Likewise if you Google “South African lawyers & recovery”. Here you’ll see links to various lawyers involved in fraud recovery etc.  Why aren’t we seeing anything about lawyers and substance abuse? (Police and substance abuse receives a lot more attention).

Here is my thinking:

  1. South Africa has ridiculously high levels of substance abuse overall.  Basically unless every second lawyer was wasted on a daily basis I’m not sure anyone would notice the problem as being worse in the legal profession than it is in the general population!
    1. Drug consumption in South Africa is twice the world norm (CDA-2009)
    2. 15% of South Africa’s population have a drug problem (CDA).
    3. South Africa is amongst the top 10 nations in alcohol consumption.
    4. Over 30% of our population have an alcohol problem or are at risk of having one.
  2.  I think South Africa is still behind culturally in terms of its attitudes towards addiction.  There is far more shame and stigma attached towards substance abuse issues than there is in many states in the US. For example, in Hollywood it’s a joke that NA meetings are the best place to rub shoulders with big shot producers, screenplay writers and actors.
  3. Our population size simply doesn’t warrant the creation of specialist organisations (lawyers with substance abuse problems) like those I listed above. According to the American Bar Association there are currently 1,116,967 lawyers practicing in the United States. I recall some LSSA figures of approximately 20 000 attorneys in South Africa and another 10 000 in the justice department, making a total of 30 000. Let’s add another 10 000 for advocates and non-practising attorneys bringing it to 40 000. So if 25% of US lawyers had a problem that would mean there’s a market of 280 000, if half seek treatment that is 140 000 people.  Enough to fill a few retreats and regular meetings. In SA, even if 40% of our legal population had a problem it would only amount to 16 000, if half sought treatment, that’s only 8000.

I’m trying to show that even if a significant percentage of the legal community has substance abuse problems in SA, we simply don’t have the numbers that would warrant the type of attention this gets in the US.

In most major SA law firms there is a bar. If you value your career in the firm it’s unspoken that one should be rubbing shoulders with partners in the bar every Friday afternoon. The drinking culture is pretty firmly entrenched. But I’ll leave a full analysis of law firm bars for another time.

Substance abuse issues aside, there is a wealth of information that lawyers globally are unhappy.

There is work being done in the US to address these issues: Professor Susan Daicoff (author of Lawyer, Know Thyself, 2004) describes a “tripartite crisis” facing the legal profession:

1) low levels of job satisfaction and mental well-being among lawyers. Lawyers experience depression at least twice as frequently as it occurs in the general population (almost 18% of lawyers are depressed.) Lawyers also suffer higher than normal levels of anxiety, paranoia, obsessive-compulsiveness, insecurity, hostility, stress, anger and marital dissatisfaction. And 18% of lawyers, again about twice the general population, are alcoholics;

2) a lack of professionalism on the part of both lawyers and judges, as demonstrated by frequent complaints of incivility and discourtesy, inappropriately aggressive litigation, and behavior verging on the unethical; and

 3) low public opinion of lawyers and the legal profession

It’s time we got serious in South Africa about addressing lawyer unhappiness. There is a wealth of resources from abroad and in this country that can help lawyers whether this is in the form of books like Susan Daicoff’s Lawyer, Know Thyself; Kim Wright’s Lawyers as Peacemakers, continuing education workshops, retreats, changing the way we educate lawyers, support by the LSSA and Bar Association for lawyers’ emotional well-being.  The Integrative Law Centre soon to be established in South Africa will help make these resources available to those who need them.

But the first step is admitting we have a problem.