Tag Archives: Conscious law

Kim Wright of Cutting Edge Law

J. Kim Wright, publisher and editor of CuttingEdgeLaw.com, an online community and magazine for lawyers. An attorney who practiced traditional law until she made the quantum shift to take her practice in an entirely different direction, Wright today coaches and inspires lawyers who seek to bring an ethos of care, mutual respect, and humanity to the way they practice law.

Kim’s book Lawyers As Peacemakers: Practicing Holistic, Problem-Solving Law, appears to have been welcomed by many people in the legal profession searching for a different way of practising law. You can read what people have had to say about her book here.  

A very interesting and considered review of Kim Wright’s book I found here  . Diane Levin, the reviewer, expresses some of the difficulties she had with the book, that other more conventional legal professionals might also have:

“But law — with its weight as venerable public institution, its central role in government, the presence of public oversight and accountability, its body of judicial decision making, appellate review, and codes of professional responsibility — fits uneasily with New Age theories and mystical practices. Their presence for this reader was distracting, and detracted from the joy of discovery that an informative book affords.”

Right now I too am concerned with how to talk about a conscious shift in law, a holistic approach, without conjuring up images of sage burning and a law office decorated with a dream catcher.  I think it’s possible. I think the world is becoming more open to new experiences. As the turn of the century approaches, we are beginning to see that values-driven organizations are topping the profitability and popularity polls. People are clamoring to work for organizations that care for them as a whole person, and give meaning and purpose to their lives by allowing them to express their creativity.” 

If the mainstream world is ready for books like Liberating the Corporate Soul, I think it might be ready for a little conscious law. I’m looking forward to hearing more about what Kim Wright has to say.

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The Dream of a Common Language

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

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

To contribute to the conscious transformation of the legal profession.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why a conscious approach to law is needed

  1. Law is fundamental to the continued existence of organised society. I believe it’s Utopian to maintain that should the legal system disintegrate entirely, man would work things out with his fellow men. In brief, society has become too complex for us to survive without laws. We are so completely interdependent on each other for food, water, building of shelter that by necessity we’ve created a highly complex legal system to help us co-ordinate ourselves.
  2. The more complicated the legal system becomes, the more lawyers we need to run it and to serve as brokers between this system and those that need to use the system. There is a growing realisation that the concept of “progress” is a lot more complicated than we originally thought. Statistics show that as infant mortality declines (just one indicator of progress or “civilization”) the carbon emissions of that country go up. In brief, as we save the people we’re destroying the planet. We produce genetically modified crops to feed the millions and in the process we wreck the eco-system. As society changes, law needs to change to keep pace.    From the simple “do not intentionally take the life of another” law we now have to work out laws on cloning people to harvest their organs and how that fits into our definitions of murder. We have atomic bombs which, in an instant, ended the lives of 250 000 to 350 000 people. How do our murder laws deal with this?  They become increasingly complex.
  3. Civil law or contracts between people, have likewise become increasingly complex. Whereas law once provided for who had legal responsibility for the children born to a man and a woman, now we have so many variations on this theme, from test tube babies, to surrogates, to same sex parents, to frozen embryos of women now deceased – it’s COMPLICATED!  This has required lawyers to specialise in niche areas of law.  The amount of legislation in each area of law makes a general practice unthinkable.
  4. Law firms still tend to be based on a now antiquated notion that law is simply a public service. It is a public service but it’s also a way of earning a living. History shows that in the UK lawyers once considered it an insult to have law considered a “trade” but today we must acknowledge that it is very much a trade and that much of what lawyers now do is inseparable from other professions such as financial advisors. Legal advice cannot be neatly put in a box – it’s too intertwined with finance, economics, psychology, medicine, biology…
  5. We need to think about law in a new way. We cannot solve the problem at the same level of thinking that created it. (Einstein) Therefore we must re think the notion of lawyers as a separate profession and start looking at a more integral, multi-disciplinary approach to legal matters and legal training.

Law is fundamental.

Law is complicated.

It’s time for lawyers to embrace some of the advances in other professions, whether it’s different ways of thinking about things (De Bono), systems for creating values based organisations (Richard Barrett) or business models other than the traditional partnership model, for profit or not for profit (see John Lewis Partnership).  Including lessons on ethics, morality and leadership in law school curricula should be a no-brainer, as all advanced business programs have already realized.

There are only going to be more laws and more lawyers.  It’s time for a conscious approach to transformation in law.