In an age where chaos abounds, politically, economically and socially, marked by much dissatisfaction with one’s chosen profession, it is comforting to behold hope on the horizon. The legal profession is no exception. The multitude of lawyers leaving their line of work is reaching significant, if not alarming, proportions. The adversarial atmosphere and the combative confrontational approach ultimately wears thin on the brows or psyches of those whose sole aim is to bring order and stability to the lives of they who seek their services.
A newer, more beneficent methodology is becoming more widespread and more mainstream, bringing with it a more fulfilling result for the parties to a controversy or dispute and a greater sense of accomplishment for the advocates within. There is a shift in paradigm, or worldview, a set of beliefs about what is real and true.
Suddenly, terms like restorative, collaborative, and cooperative found their way in front of the word law as categorical adjectives as commonly as “criminal,” “civil,” “administrative” or any of the typical branches of the law. What distinguished the differences in approach can be summed up in the magnificent label, “holistic,” defined as relating to, or concerned with wholes or with complete systems rather than with the analysis of, treatment of, or dissection into parts, such as in medicine when attempting to treat both the mind and the body .
J. Kim Wright lives her entire life that way, and just as holistic thinking and methodology has led patients and doctors to alternative medicine and enhancement of existing traditional forms thereof, the same can be said of holistic law, which carries a spiritual perception of life into legal practice and enhances both the well-being of the practitioner, the client, and the system by its compassionate and pragmatic perspective. Lawyers as Peacemakers is Kim Wright’s nuts and bolts manual to this visionary and revolutionary means of rendering legal services.
Kim is co-founder of the Renaissance Lawyer Society and has been the clarion to make lawyers aware of another way to achieve the lofty goals they set out to reach when they decided to pursue a legal career.
The book itself, as the author tells you, is not necessarily one to pore through cover-to-cover, but to use as a continual reference source, “and a possible source of inspiration on those days when you would rather be doing something else. ” It is a guide to a holistic approach to law that includes the lawyers’ well being and the best interests of the client and society. We as lawyers have been so totally embedded and captured by the adversarial paradigm that a massive mental metamorphosis must take place so that we who might be interested in this other way of lawyering can make the shift.
A paradigm shift requires objectives and methodology which has to move away from the divisions between members of society and the segmented disposition of legal concerns. The path must aim toward the overall benefit of compassion and transformation of the relationship between citizens and the legal system. Instead of us against them, it is all of us together seeking a solution in each area of law that has a long term, mutually beneficial solution Too much to hope for? Not at all, as is being demonstrated by lawyers all over the country. We are conditioned to an adversarial system where the resolution may be satisfactory for the moment and can produce satisfaction for one or a few of the parties, but not with lasting and continuous benefit to society on a larger scale.
The author details how to go through making the shift, suggesting a coach, or a therapist, or both. It is hard to believe how badly one or both are needed, but the rewards are great in the sorting-out process.
One major question always revolves around the viability of making a living in the new legal frontier. The reviews are mixed, but encouraging. The author and her wealth of contributors warn of the need for training and reorientation. But there appears to be virtual unanimity in the pronouncement that one by-product of the new legal specialty is happiness, satisfaction, peace of mind and yes, in some instances economic improvement.
The Movement is the transition from the adversarial to the restorative and the collaborative. Probably hard to conceive for those of us who are so ingrained in the stereotypical call to battle. The author starts with a chapter describing holistic law, a methodology that focuses on the spiritual aspects of a legal person’s nature and to find a commonality of purpose between those with opposite interests and positions. It seems revolutionary to employ devices such as love and religion or spiritually in the process of resolving legal confrontation but it actually bears fruit more in producing a durable outcome, emotionally than a knockdown drag-out court battle…where no one wins and a bitter taste lingers.
There is something labeled “cooperative law,” which basically starts with a determined aim toward reaching a settlement, pledging civility and cooperation. There is implicit in this approach, full disclosure of all relevant financial information, thus heading off the individual appraisal and expert opinions by obtaining joint appraisals and joint expert opinions. There is the promise to cooperate by obtaining meaningful input, for example obtaining an expert child specialist before requesting appointment of a guardian to be appointed by the court, good faith negotiation sessions and four way meetings where appropriate, to reach fair compromises based on valid information. And of course a prime requisite is cooperation by conducting oneself in a respectful, civil and professional manner.
Kim proceeds to tell those aspiring to enter the area of law how to go about making the transition. There is a step by step guide to the changes that must be undergone to reach the “promised land.” Some will find it easier than others if they have a predisposition toward spirituality. And that is something that everyone in any vocation or way of life can use more of.
Kim Wright is the author of Lawyers as Peacemakers: Practicing Holistic, Problem-Solving Law,
An ABA Flagship Book and bestseller.