Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bringing Love to Law

A review of Lawyers as Peacemakers: Practicing Holistic, Problem-Solving Law (Wright, J. Kim, ABA Publishing 2010)

I found J. Kim Wright (lawyer and author) the way people find people these days, by Googling something I was interested in—combining healing and positive psychology with law—and coming across her website (www.cuttingedgelaw.com), which I mentioned in a prior article entitled, “The Lawyer as Healer.”

When I wrote that article, I was afraid I was really going out on a limb. I thought healing and the law such a novel and avant-guarde concept. After all, as soon as you enter law school, you are expected to become a great warrior: a shark or a pit bull whose only job is to get out there and fight. I was certain that my desire to practice a more peace-loving and humanistic kind of law would be ridiculed and marginalized. Maybe I had just chosen the wrong profession.

Then again, maybe not.

According to Ms. Wright, there is a rapidly expanding like-minded legal community out there, actively practicing the concepts of peacemaking, problem-solving and conflict-healing. Ms. Wright has been instrumental in telling these lawyers’ stories and bringing them together. Over a dozen years of her findings are culminated in her new ABA publication, Lawyers as Peacemakers: Practicing Holistic, Problem-Solving Law.

After having carefully reviewed Lawyers as Peacemakers, my recommendation is that it be required law school reading. I encourage judges and lawyers in leadership to develop continuing legal education programs based on this book. Doing so would make great strides towards more congenial and practical legal communities. Perhaps more persuasively, in this age of increasing budget cutbacks, the implementation of programs and practices discussed in this book would promote more efficient and effective court systems.

Lawyers as Peacemakers is an accessible book, broken down into easy to digest chapters for the professional on the go. It is not some dry scholarly tome, but rather a refreshing and practical guide to how to be a happier lawyer and have happier clients. It summarizes for the general legal population and its clients where the profession is heading and how practicing mindful, people-focused law is more mainstream than everybody thought.

Ms. Wright was asked to write this book by the largest legal organization in the United States, but she also wanted to explain in plain English to regular people who happened to go to law school how they can have a more fulfilling, balanced and meaningful professional life while reclaiming their true selves and their souls from a broken, inhospitable and de-humanizing legal system. She wants lawyers to take the lead, think outside the box and be an active part of finding and implementing solutions rather than just identifying problems.

In Lawyers as Peacemakers, Ms. Wright highlights some fascinating innovations in the law, such as collaborative and cooperative law, creative problem solving, holistic justice, preventative law, restorative justice, transformative mediation and therapeutic jurisprudence. She also gives readers concrete steps to transform their lives and legal practices through simple common-sense strategies.

Although she expected this resource and reference book to be controversial and alienating to the legal establishment, there is obviously a great thirst for the knowledge and wisdom that Ms. Wright seeks to impart. So many preordered their copy of Lawyers as Peacemakers from the ABA Publication website before it was even available, it became a bestseller before it was actually released and remains at the top of the ABA Publications’ Bestseller List.

Ms. Wright is obviously on to something. She recognizes that most lawyers went to law school in the first place to make a difference in the world. Lawyers as Peacemakers is about a movement—a paradigm shift—whereby thousands of legal practitioners dare to say that they are bringing love and humanity to the practice of law. By doing so, they will get better results and satisfaction for themselves, for their clients and for society as a whole.

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