Authenticity implies a way of being in the world wherein you remain true to the spirit of who you are at the soul level. Sadly, growing numbers of lawyers globally leave the profession early because they are unable to align their professional and personal lives. This is particularly true for women who, in addition to the challenges lawyers face generally, find themselves in environments where only a male way of operating is valued. There are thousands of studies to indicate that men and women process information differently, solve problems differently and build relationships differently. However, law firms pay little, if any, attention to this and so to most women lawyers remain oblivious to what might be causing the growing sense of unease and dissatisfaction at their chosen career path. But while attention needs to be paid to this issue, it’s not just women who are struggling. Male lawyers are also wondering, as their every waking hour is spent engaged in fighting on behalf of clients or fighting their way to a partnership, if this is really what they want from their lives.
Many lawyers who may have begun their studies viewing law as a powerful tool for justice, equality and societal change become disheartened after a few years in practice. A lot of people who go into law school have a strong sense of right and wrong and a belief in moral truths. Those values are destroyed in law school, where students are taught that there is no right and no wrong and where such idealistic, big-picture concepts get usurped. The way the majority of students deal with this is to become cynical. (See Ralph Nader & Wesley J. Smith, No Contest: Corporate Lawyers and the Perversion of Justice in America 334 (1996).
Most people choose their careers by focusing on what profession best allows them to satisfy their ego needs. The term “ego” is not used in a negative sense here, it simply refers to the basic human needs such as survival (a safe secure environment for the self), relationships (the need for belonging and feeling loved and accepted by those with whom you interact daily) and self esteem (feeling good about yourself and having pride in your performance). Once these ego needs are satisfied individuals then shift to the transformation level which is about embracing their individuality to become fully actualized and authentic. After that, one moves to internal cohesion which is where people start to find meaning for their lives by uncovering their purpose and aligning fully with who they are.
Usually it’s only after 10 or 20 years that people realise that the profession you chose in your youth is not the one that aligns with your passion.
But I don’t believe that we are called to the legal profession by accident and I don’t believe if you find yourself disillusioned that the only way you can align with your passion is to leave the legal profession. And I was so delighted to engage in deep dialogue with 40 attorneys, advocates, prosecutors and mediators in September 2012 and hear them talk about their life purpose. Many of them had found ways to move to the transformation level (embracing their individuality) but remain in the legal profession. And I was surprised to see how many had moved to the internal cohesion level – finding their life purpose and aligning fully with who they are. (Often this can be evidenced by the way people talk about what they do – the light that shines in their eyes. Sometimes you can sense they become almost tearful with the strength of their passion. Richard Barrett taught me this is their soul communicating.) Perhaps I should not have been that surprised as these were all legal professionals who had given up a day’s work to hear about Integrative Law in South Africa and connect with Kim Wright, author of Lawyers as Peacemakers. In other words, this was a group of lawyers already invested in personal transformation.
For some of them, aligning with who they really are had meant training in mediation, for others, finding a way to connect more deeply with things that gave their life meaning for example, one attorney is helping people with terminal illnesses, another is coaching people who find themselves in litigation because she knows that litigation is often merely an outward manifestation of underlying inner conflict. These stories were moving and each indicated the struggle the individual had gone through to align fully with their purpose in an often unforgiving profession.
I have made it my mission for the next few years to help lawyers uncover their purpose and find ways to live to their full potential while continuing to practise law, perhaps in a different way, shape or form. Alongside this, I’m hoping to revolutionize legal education in South Africa! Ambitious? Maybe I am, but with the contacts I have made in the last 12 months – conscious, committed lawyers (and coaches, and organisational development experts and lateral thinking experts) all over the globe who have offered me their time, assistance and intellectual property to fulfil this mission, I know I don’t have to be an expert – if I apply my mind to a problem, be it an individual’s struggle or an organisational one, I can design a powerful solution with this network at my fingertips.
I am so excited to be developing:
- Coaching programmes for lawyers (with my new inspiring and energetic coaching partner, an expert in helping people develop resilience)
- Mentoring programmes for lawyers
- Gender workshops for lawyers – some in conjunction with a psychotherapist doing a PHD in Corporate Gender Relations (note: I wrote about Mary Ovenstone in June last year here, setting my intention that one day when the time was right, we’d collaborate. And now we are. Love it when a plan comes together.)
- Depth Leadership for Lawyers (with an expert in Deep Facilitation)
- De Bono lateral thinking workshops (with top SA De Bono expert)
- The latest in Neuro-literacy Training for Lawyers (in April, with expert Pauline Tesler from San Francisco. This workshop is accredited by the ABA. I pray one day the LSSA will accredit such courses here in South Africa.)
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg…
To know more, feel free to contact me using the contact tabs on this blog. To ensure you don’t miss news of trainings, please sign up on www.cil.org.za I promise you won’t get bombarded with information. In fact you’ll be lucky to get monthly updates at this rate. But seriously, some of the experts will only be visiting South Africa once so you will need to move fast to be guaranteed cutting edge training. I look forward to meeting 1000’s more committed, conscious lawyers in the months to come.