Integrative Law

The Integrative Law Movement is an umbrella term and it includes a variety of existing and emerging forms of legal practice, policy initiatives, and legal education aimed at transforming the legal system to more effectively reach its basic goals. As viewed by the integrative law movement, the basic goals of a legal system include but are not limited to providing access to justice; designing, managing, and healing relationships; and providing stable, organic, flexible structures for a just, stable and harmonious community.

Kim  Wright is one of the pioneers of the Integrative Law Movement and her book Lawyers as Peacemakers is currently the best resource to understanding it.  Kim explains that “integrative law is a context for law, more of a lens than a practice area.  It is like putting on 3D glasses – your perception of the world changes.  The Integrative Law “glasses” have to do with seeing the legal system as an interconnected system of human beings.”

Other aspects of the legal system addressed by the Integrative Law movement include:

  • humanizing legal education,
  • promoting emotionally competent lawyering,
  • enhancing wisdom and compassion throughout all interactions with the legal system,
  • encouraging accountability, engagement, and restoration,
  • responding to societal changes mindfully, resolving conflicts and promoting client-centered lawyering

This is my take on Integrative Law:

There are many factors pointing to an ever-increasing need for lawyers and law firms to start shifting consciously from a rigid, hierarchical, left-brain, win/lose mindset to a more intuitive, inclusive, inter-connected world view. These shifts will not only change the perception of the legal profession in the public’s eye but will also allow lawyers to fulfil their client’s needs in a more authentic way. Neuro-scientists with expertise in gender differences tell us that the highest functioning individuals balance left brain & right brain thinking. Leadership experts tell us the best leaders balance male and female attributes, action and listening, tightly focused and diffuse thinking.  We need to take a multi-disciplinary approach and remember that law is not separate from other disciplines such as psychology and economics. In fact, contractual law, by and large, is just a process for managing fear on one hand and financial value on the other.

There is a growing body of research on leadership indicating that the leader’s worldview and level of consciousness will shape the organisation that he/she leads. In the same way, a lawyer’s worldview and level of consciousness will shape the work he does, whether in trials, or contracts or negotiations. Therefore who the lawyer is, his or her own level of development, will impact the thousands of relationships encountered through his practice.

Much of the legal profession is firmly stuck in an outdated way of doing business, in terms of law firm structure, remuneration systems, promotion systems and how matters are billed. Lawyers working in large firms are often unable to bring their full selves to work which greatly diminishes their personal effectiveness and results in many disheartened lawyers leaving the profession. Many lawyers study law with a sense that it is a profound tool for societal change. Yet after a few years in a private practice, whether it is 5 years or 10, they are disillusioned with their inability to make a difference and dissatisfied that the financial rewards have ceased to function as a motivational drive. Large numbers of these lawyers, unable to find outlets for their creativity and entrepreneurial mindsets, leave the profession to start their own businesses or join organisations that recognise people are motivated by very different things.

The profession cannot afford to lose the lawyers it needs the most –the creative lawyers, the entrepreneurial “rule challenging” lawyers and those who work from a place of sensitivity and intuition.  The legal profession was once regarded as a public service but today in Western society lawyers are referred to as “sharks”. Public perception is that lawyers, unless working for non-profits or in arenas such as human rights law, use their legal expertise to seek personal financial gain to exploit commercial opportunities.  It is time to challenge existing methods of educating lawyers, running law firms, billing clients, creating legislation, settling disputes in order to transform the legal system, wherever possible, into a value-based system that engenders harmonious societies.

For information on the Integrative Movement in the US please click here.

Clarification on terminology:

I started blogging using the term “conscious law” or a “conscious approach to transforming the law” but when I discovered  that in the US all the things I was talking about are referred  to as Integrative Law,  I started to use this term. There’s also a movement in Integral Law, which fits into the Integrative Law movement but the terms refer to different things. The term “Integral” is specifically  based on the work of the philosopher Ken Wilber. It’s about seeing systems, in this case the legal system from 4 different perspectives –

interior singular (my mindset & my personality);

exterior singular (my behaviour & actions)

interior collective (what we think/ our culture)

exterior collective (how we behave/ our society).

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One response to “Integrative Law

  1. Pingback: The Times They are a Changin’ | Shark Free Waters

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