We know that lawyers don’t do touchy feely. We also know that there are a lot of lawyers in South Africa trying to do things differently and feeling like they’re alone. So we have created SAILA, Southern Africa’s Integrative Lawyers Association.

It’s a community of integrative lawyers supporting each other to transform the practice of law towards problem-solving, peacemaking and healing.  Some are more into the problem-solving and some are more into the healing, there’s space for a wide variety of worldviews in SAILA!

To date we’ve held 6 gatherings and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. One lawyer told us that the support of SAILA has finally given her the courage to start doing the type of legal work she’s always wanted to try. Her practice is still composed of 75% of her traditional area of law, but she’s devoting 25% of her time to a new offering that she’s really excited about. Two other lawyers are delighted that SAILA has put them in touch with each other because we could see they both work with legal visual contracts. As neither of them has written or received much publicity about their work (yet) they haven’t been able to find each other online.

In September 2014 SAILA will begin operating on a subscription basis. For the cost of approximately two hours of billable time, you can join a community of lawyers across the country practicing law in new ways.

Being a SAILA member will enable you to:

  • Attend SAILA meetings with like-minded lawyers to support you in your professional and personal development. Some meetings are discussion groups, others are presentations of interest to lawyers eg: executive coaching for lawyers; dealing with anxiety; Creative Problem Solving Tools; Understanding the Neuroscience of Conflict
  • Be part of a Membership directory for the public looking for lawyers who practice client-centred lawyering and do things differently
  • Have access to discussion forums that will allow you to learn from colleagues on subjects such as “moving beyond the billable hour to project based fees” and other Integrative law topics.
  • Have a place to debrief some of the more taxing aspects of your practice
  • Have access to articles, sites and blogs relating to new practice areas and new practice methods
  • Receive significant discounts for CIL trainings and events, including the Annual Conference, more about that HERE.

Joining SAILA will help you realize you’re not alone in your thinking, it may give you the courage to design your practice in alignment with who you truly are and it may encourage you to take better care of all the parts of yourself – to realize your body is not just a life-support system for your intellect!

Lawyers tearful with gratitude is something we’re quite familiar with at the Centre for Integrative Law. Why? Because we work in a profession that brings us into daily contact with people in the grip of rage, tragedy grief, loss, separation and insecurity. It is a profession that expects us to miraculously not take on board any of our clients’ stuff. It is a profession that doesn’t allow for us to have our own emotions about these things or ways of releasing these emotions. Crying about cases is not going to help you in your quest for partnership or the corner office. It is a profession that demands we always have an answer to everyone’s problems. Often we work in organisations where there is very little tolerance for being wrong which cripples any desire we may have to try something new or be creative. Law is based on precedent. We do things this way “because we’ve always done it this way” and we don’t show chinks in the armour of our suits.

Is it any wonder that lawyers find it a relief to realize they are not alone in carrying this burden? To realize that there is indeed a whole repertoire of skills they did not get taught at law school that it might be time to learn. It is always a privilege to work with lawyers ready for change and grateful for support in the change process. This was our experience with many of the delegates during 3 days Integrative Law Training with Legal Aids Justice Centre Managers and senior managers from around the country in January 2014. These are lawyers doing brave work with the poorest of clients and limited resources.  But while in some ways the Legal Aid Lawyers’ experience may be very different from lawyers in private practice, in others it is very similar. Research shows that all over the world there are lawyers thinking:

  • The way I currently practice is not why I joined the legal profession.
  • I sometimes look around the legal system and feel like I am profoundly out of place, like I have landed on an alien planet.
  • I wish I could help my clients understand their own role in creating this conflict!
  • On this case I’d like to use a problem-solving model I’ve been told about and I’d like to see what happens if we brought everyone involved in this conflict into one room but I’m not sure I have the courage to try it.
  • I wish I had the ability to give each case the full benefit of my attention instead of being permanently rushed. I realize when I lie awake at night that mostly what my clients want is someone to tell their story to.

As more lawyers question the legal system and their role in it, they are wanting to connect with colleagues who are not despondent, but are actively pioneering change. The Global Alliance of Integrative Lawyers is beginning to take shape and it is hoped that SAILA will eventually become part of a global network.

You will be sent an invitation to join SAILA in August! Please contact the CIL with any suggestions or comments you may have regarding SAILA.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *