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

A Thinking Environment Law Firm?

I’ve just finished my first online session of the Thinking Environment for Telephonic meetings.

It was brilliant. And while I don’t want to go into detail about the session, I wanted to share that this methodology could transform the way young attorneys are trained in law firms.

What a useful tool for the young attorney (or any age attorney) to learn how to conduct meetings, whether these are client meetings or with other lawyers.

When we discussed the first 3 components of the 10 components that make up the Thinking Environment, I was struck by how very far law firm culture is from this way of interacting. In most law firms the focus is on being right. There is a strong sense of hierarchy that if challenged, will mean you’re on the outside and unlikely to advance very far in your career.

In fact the characteristics of law firm meetings are often:

  • hierarchy
  • ego
  • intellectual superiority
  • hurried-ness (not everyone can think clearly at 6.30am!)
  • interruptions
  • fear of failure/ appearing stupid
  • no space for emotional release
  • no appreciation of other

In meetings juniors must listen to their seniors. I remember sitting in consultations where if I had any ideas I would scribble them on notes and pass them to the director I was working for at the time. You see I understood that I was not, as a candidate attorney, allowed to challenge an advocate that charged R4000 an hour. Yet I couldn’t help but want to share my knowledge – smart aleck that I was! So these notes would mean the director could make whatever point I was trying to make, without upsetting the status quo.

I also recall the dreaded “case summaries” at dawn where candidates would present a recent case to the department they were working in. I still remember one where a director cut the attorney off mid sentence to tell him how useless he was.  How does that contribute to anyone’s thinking?

I’m learning a new way of encouraging people’s capacity to think, simple tools that are so effective. The possibility for whole scale transformation of the learning environment in a law firm is enormous, if these tools are made mandatory for the running of all department meetings. Or at the very least, in the case summaries.

I can’t wait to tailor-make this programme for law firms, with the wonderful guidance of Nicola Strong in the UK. Watch this space.

These are the 3 elements we covered today. They are from Nancy Kline’s work, Time To Think.

 1. Attention

Listening with palpable respect and without interruption

—   The quality of your attention profoundly affects the quality of other people’s thinking.

—   As the listener you must be more drivingly interested in what is real and true for people than you are frightened of being proved wrong.

—   As the thinker, knowing you will not be interrupted frees you truly to think for yourself.

 2. Equality

Treating each other as thinking peers;  Giving equal turns and attention;  Keeping agreements and boundaries

—   Even in a hierarchy people can be equals as thinkers

—   Knowing you will have your turn improves the quality of your attention

3. Ease

Offering freedom from internal rush or urgency

—   Ease creates. Urgency destroys.

—   When it comes to helping people think for themselves, sometimes doing means not doing.

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.

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.

Girls’ Guide to Law School

I just stumbled across Alison Monahan’s blog. In an interview about her blog and life she is asked whether going to law school was worth it. I think her reply is thought-provoking and worth sharing with women lawyers.

 I don’t think you can say, in the abstract, that law school is “worth it” or “not worth it.” Sure, you could calculate the cost to attend and your expected level of earnings over a given career path, and say you’ll be financially better off (or not) if you go to law school and everything goes according to plan. But that calculation leaves out a lot – Will you like your job? Will your work be meaningful? Will you be able to eat dinner with your kids (or even have time to have them)? Will this path make you happy?

These are big questions, and most of them can only be answered in retrospect. The mission for the prospective law student is to get as close to an answer in the here-and-now as they realistically can.

The way to do that, I think, is to find out as much as possible about the profession, and to talk to lots of practicing (and former) lawyers. When people are gathering information, it’s critical to be aware of natural heuristic biases (paying more attention to information that confirms your preexisting opinion, for example, and less to information that contradicts it).

 The hardest part of this analysis is to find a way to really listen to what people are telling you. There’s a lot of wishful thinking out there, and law schools, to be frank, sometimes prey on this. The reality is that law’s a difficult profession, and it’s not a path to guaranteed riches. For the right person, it’s a good option. But far too many prospective students either fail to do their research, or put aside the feeling that maybe this isn’t a good idea, and end up bitter and disgruntled.

I’m very intrigued by the effect the legal profession has on women. So I really like the tagline of Alison’s blog – underneath the Girls’ Guide to Law School it says “Get in, Get Through, Stay You”. It touches a nerve for me  personally, because after 2 years in a law firm I felt like I had multiple personality disorder.  I’d put on a suit and sing the Ally McBeal theme song and know by the time I arrived at work I needed to be a different person. My research is showing me that hundreds and thousands of women lawyers out there have sacrificed a large part of who they are in order to survive as a lawyer. Law firms still, by and large, tend to be a very male space. It’s not about statistics, in fact it doesn’t always make a huge difference if there are are many women in the firm. The issue is that in the legal environment, everyone is expected to think and act in a masculine rather than a feminine way.

Mary Ovenstone, a leadership and executive coach, is currently researching ‘the neurological differences between the male and female brain’ for her thesis. She says it was always taught that there was only one language centre in the brain. In fact, there are six found on both sides of the brain.  The male brain uses one language centre found on the left hemisphere, the female brain uses all six.  I’m hoping I can convince Mary to share some of her work in workshops with lawyers.

Here are some more differences I’ve pulled off the ‘net:

  • The male brain is highly specialized, using specific parts of one hemisphere or the other to accomplish specific tasks. The female brain is more diffused and utilizes significant portions of both hemispheres for a variety of tasks.
  • Men are able to focus on narrow issues and block out unrelated information and distractions. Women naturally see everyday things from a broader, “big-picture” vantage point.
  • Men can narrowly focus their brains on specific tasks or activities for long periods of time without tiring. Women are better equipped to divide their attention among multiple activities or tasks.
  • Men are able to separate information, stimulus, emotions, relationships, etc. into separate compartments in their brains, while women tend to link everything together.
  • Men see individual issues with parts of their brain, while women look at the holistic or multiple issues with their whole brain (both hemispheres).
  • Men have as much as 20 times more testosterone in their systems than do women. This makes men typically more aggressive, dominant and more narrowly focused.
  • In men, the dominant perceptual sense is vision, which is typically not the case with women. All of a woman’s senses are, in some respects, more finely tuned than those of a man.

If you think about this list for a moment- can you imagine what it does to a person if they are constantly trying to behave in a way that is not their norm? Being subtly, and not so subtly, pulled towards viewing matters as others would have them see them? Denying their own feelings because they might be viewed as “inappropriate” or “unprofessional” or “illogical”.

New studies show that companies which have equal or greater numbers of women on their boards do better! That’s right, the bottom line is positively affected by a good male/female mix. Why? Because if we harness our different ways of seeing the world we can become more than the sum of our parts. We bring different styles and methods and solutions and ways of negotiating. Women and men working as teams are powerful. If the intuitive and connected half of the room are spending all their energy on trying to sound as decisive and focused as the the other (male) half, we’re not harnessing anything.

Girls, when you think about entering the legal profession, there’s a lot more to consider than if you’ll be able to read your kids stories at night.  How about being prepared to give up your way of viewing the world?

I’m currently designing a 1 day workshop for women lawyers to address some of these things, incorporating an Individual Values Assessment by the Barrett Values Centre.  Please ask if you’d like to know more.

The Times They are a Changin’

I’ve just read  a great article by Jordan Furlong in which he discusses the changing landscape of employment as a lawyer. Here is an extract:

“My message to new lawyers, really, is this: don’t gear all your career efforts towards “getting a job,” or at least, not one that you’ll hold for more than a few years. The legal economy’s traditional employment infrastructure is starting to crumble, and if you count on spending your career inside it, you could be caught in the collapse. There are plenty of markets and industries that will continue to make lots of traditional full-time “jobs” available, but I doubt very much that the law will be one of them. If you wind up in a steady law job, that’s obviously great; but you should think of that outcome as the exception more than the rule.

So instead, plan for independence. More and more legal employment will be small and entrepreneurial in nature, rewarding the self-starter who builds a reputation for value, effectiveness and foresight. Look at the legal market around you and ask: What’s missing? What client needs aren’t being met? What needs have clients not even thought of yet? What innovative new industries will flourish in the next ten years, and in what ways will they require assistance that lawyer training and legal skills can deliver? What demographic trends will take full effect in the 2010s, and what are their law-related implications? What technological advances in the legal market, no matter how sophisticated, will still require complementary high-end lawyer services?”

Furlong goes on to provide an insightful analysis of 7 characteristics that future lawyer roles might have – as opposed to characteristics of the conventional “lawyer job in a law firm” role.

As one commenter points out, this is not just good advice for young lawyers but also for “old”  lawyers who need to rethink their own career paths in a shifting profession.  

New lawyer roles might look like this:

  1. They envision multiple clients, not just one: These aren’t single-channel “jobs” in the traditional sense; they’re more like engagements or opportunities that are customized multiple times to an ever-changing roster of clients.
  2. They require the application of high-end skills or talents: Lawyers need to deploy judgment, counsel, business analysis or strategic insight to fill these roles — not process or content, which   will be systematized and automated by non-lawyers.
  3. They involve a high degree of customization. Mass-produced legal products and services will be the province of high-volume, low-cost providers. High-value services will be uniquely tailored, like designer drugs based on a patient’s DNA.
  4. They meet a need unfilled by a traditional provider. Law firms, law schools, legal publishers, CLE providers, governing bodies, and other industry mainstays could provide supply or drum up demand for these roles, but haven’t.
  5. They focus far more on preventing problems than on solving them. Richard Susskind, again, reminds us that clients want a fence at the top of a cliff, not an ambulance at the bottom. These are all fence-building positions.
  6. They presume a high degree of connectedness. The future of law is collaborative, and successful future law careers will hinge in no small part on the size, quality and effectiveness of lawyers’ networks.
  7. They deliver specific, identifiable, and actionable value to the buyer. Much of what lawyers now provide is procedural and transactional: hoops that must be jumped through. These roles are rich in direct, verifiable value to clients.

 I highly recommend reading the article in full here:

And of course, if you’re trying to understand the changing legal landscape, familiarize yourself with the Integrative Law Movement.  It will take your legal practice to a higher level of consciousness and enable you to open doors that your more conventional legal colleagues cannot.

Law School Education

I feel compelled to share this really great article on law school education from the New York Times.

It’s funny too.

It doesn’t give all the solutions but David Segal, the journalist, is quite good at pointing out some of the problems.  And it covers a range of issues concerning legal education’s failure to prepare students for actually practising law.

Below are 3 extracts from the article, which you can read in its entirety here:

“Law schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions, like the variety of property law in post-feudal England. Professors are rewarded for chin-stroking scholarship, like law review articles with titles like “A Future Foretold: Neo-Aristotelian Praise of Postmodern Legal Theory.”

“We should be teaching what is really going on in the legal system,” says Edward L. Rubin, a professor and former dean at the Vanderbilt Law School, “not what was going on in the 1870s, when much of the legal curriculum was put in place.”

“Another problem…there are few incentives for law professors to excel at teaching. It might earn them the admiration of students, but it won’t win them any professional goodies, like tenure, a higher salary, prestige or competing offers from better schools. For those, a professor must publish law review articles, the ticket to punch for any upwardly mobile scholar.”

It is my observation that while graduate schools are beginning to wisen up and focus on how people will be doing things as much as what they will be doing, law schools globally seem behind the curve.  This means that business school curricula now contain extensive courses the preparation of great business leaders who are prepared for the psychological and ethical challenges. Yet law schools still focus 99% of their attention on learning law – content as opposed to process.  There is growing dissatisfaction as lawyers globally realise they have not been adequately prepared for the challenges of the legal profession.  This is leading to a rise of services such as Lawyer Coach, which arise to meet the needs of lawyers actively seeking training in the skills they did not receive while studying. Granted, some of these are skills only suitable for lawyers with developed careers. However there appears to be a growing number of lawyers who agree that we MUST start including leadership work, including further courses on ethics, into standard law school curricula.

“Formal education in the law does not prepare lawyers for the moral challenges of the profession”

There is so much that South African Universities can learn from developments in the US and UK where law schools have been around so much longer. Yes, South Africa is different in some respects and it’s a unique legal system in a country that is partly third world and we shouldn’t just follow Eurocentric models yaddah yaddah…but it also makes no sense to re-invent the wheel. The SA legal system is based on a mixture of Roman-Dutch and English law and our legal education system is also very similar to that in Europe.  Therefore, if these countries are discovering that their legal education systems are failing to prepare lawyers for the challenges of lawyering in the 21st C, we need to sit up and take notice.

While many of our university law departments do have legal aid clinics which allow students practical experience at lawyering, there is still much work to be done on creating more innovative curricula.

As Magda Slabbert, Professor of Jurisprudence for Unisa points out in her paper on the Requirement of Being a Fit and Proper Person:

“Formal education in the law does not prepare lawyers for the moral challenges of the profession. The ultimate aim of legal training is to enable the student to become a successful attorney or advocate. Knowledge is important in order for the lawyer to be able to make a convincing case for either side in a dispute. –

BUT… 

“What this sort of learned cleverness does not require is either a developed capacity to judge what is right or a disposition to seek it”

(from Eshete A “Does lawyer’s character matter?”)

So what’s happening in the US that we can learn from?  Below are a few points from an article you can read in its entirety here.

  • Legal educators from more than 30 law schools across the country have joined together to make experiential legal education the norm and not just an afterthought.
  • Northeastern University School of Law offers an interesting example because, almost 50 years ago, it pioneered a cooperative model of legal education that integrates theory and practice by requiring students to fulfill all the traditional classroom work while also spending a year immersed full-time in practice settings as diverse as law firms; judges’ chambers; and prosecutor, public defender and legal aid offices
  • The group was formed to ensure that law graduates are ready to join the legal profession with a full complement of skills and ethical and social values necessary to serve clients and the public interest, now and in the future.
  • The symposium will bring together lawyers, judges, students, legal educators and others to begin to forge a new model for legal education and the profession.
  • There is growing recognition across the legal profession and in legal education that business as usual is not acceptable and the time is now to provide more and better educational opportunities for law students, who are the profession’s greatest assets. The alliance is adopting innovative curricula that combine theory and practice to help students puzzle through the challenges and ensure that the profession remains vibrant, dynamic and relevant. This group of legal educators is committed to educating students to hit the ground running, with experience helping clients, collaborating with colleagues, resolving disputes, facing adversaries, drafting documents and interacting with judges, so that these lawyers are ready to solve legal challenges right away.

Therapeutic Jurisprudence

I was intrigued when I came across the term “therapeutic jurisprudence”, in light of jurisprudence having been my favourite subject at law school and the amount of time I’ve spent in therapy. Jokes aside, this is a very interesting area of conscious law, or integrative law. I really hope to find more information on South African lawyers and organisations, perhaps NGO’s, who are working in this area.

The following are extracts from Wikipedia: (I put the bit I like in bold!)

Therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) is a term first used by Professor David Wexler, University of Arizona Rogers College of Law and University of Puerto Rico School of Law, in a paper delivered to the National Institute of Mental Health in 1987. Along with Professor Bruce Winick, University of Miami School of Law, who originated the concept with Wexler, the professors suggested the need for a new perspective, TJ, to study the extent to which substantive rules, legal procedures, and the role of legal actors (lawyers and judgesprimarily) produce therapeutic or antitherapeutic consequences for individuals involved in the legal process.

Therapeutic Jurisprudence also has been applied in an effort to reframe the role of the lawyer. It envisions lawyers practicing with an ethic of care and heightened interpersonal skills, who value the psychological well being of their clients as well as their legal rights and interests, and to actively seek to prevent legal problems through creative drafting and problem-solving approaches.

The impact of Therapeutic Jurisprudence on lawyering was documented in Stolle, Wexler, and Winick’s 2000 book, Practicing Therapeutic Jurisprudence: Law as a Helping Profession. TJ also has begun to transform legal education, in particular clinical legal education. These developments were documented in a 2005 symposium issue of the St. Thomas University Law Review, “Therapeutic Jurisprudence and Clinical Legal Education and Skills Training.”

In 2008, Wexler published an edited volume dedicated to therapeutic jurisprudence and the criminal defense attorney. The book is entitled Rehabilitating Lawyers:Principles of Therapeutic Jurisprudence for Criminal Law Practice (Carolina Academic Press 2008)

I hope, by writing about movements like this,  I may be able to give exposure to the positive work being done around the world to make legal systems and legal professionals more conscious.