Um, Remind Me What is Integrative Law about again?

Lawyer as Gladiator
Lawyer as Gladiator

The Integrative Law Movement is an international movement of 1000’s of lawyers, legal advisors, judges, mediators, law students who are questioning the existential environment surrounding the legal system. We are asking: What if we aren’t all separate and at odds with each other? What if the corrections system with its focus on retribution is ultimately dehumanizing and damaging to all of us? Maybe we will always have problems and disputes and accidents and crimes but is there a better way to address these problems than suiting up in armour and hacking away at each other, symbolically or otherwise? But how do we get from here to there?*

* the beautifully phrased questions are by Sheila Boyce, reproduced in Lawyers as Peacemakers by J Kim Wright.

You must’ve noticed that there are a lot of unhappy lawyers out there. Perhaps you are one of them? You’ve probably also noticed that public perception of lawyers is poor. Been subjected to any lawyer jokes recently? You know there is a growing sense that the legal system no longer represents societal values. You see clients turning to alternatives other than litigation and avoiding the costs of legal consultations by downloading contracts off the internet. In response to the growing dissatisfaction of both clients and lawyers and to address the fact that our legal system just isn’t meeting the current needs of society, the Integrative Law Movement has developed. It is a movement which integrates the existing system with new models and ways of practising law. It integrates learning from other disciplines like psychology and organisational development. It integrates integrity and purpose into the practice of law. If you haven’t heard about Integrative Law yet, you need to get on board.

The world is shifting radically as we all realise the systems we’ve created over the last few centuries are not really working for us. Globally we are seeing the unrest and overthrow of old systems as people question the economic systems, the political systems, food systems, health systems, education systems and legal systems. Increasingly, educated and aware clients are choosing mediation over litigation. These clients are also asking for value-based billing systems over the traditional billing by the hour method. Cutting edge law firms are responding to these requests. One such firm is Marque in Australia. This is how Marque differentiates itself:

“Marque is a law firm that does not measure the value of its people or its clients in 6 minute units of time. We do not charge by the hour. We do not charge you when we pick up the phone or send you an email. We do not charge you for taking you to lunch or travel time or any of that kind of stuff that is disconnected from the real value of what we do. We invest in long term relationships with our clients, and we measure the value of our services in the same way that you do. We have a lot to offer, and we provide it in a way that doesn’t hurt. That’s a small part of the Marque difference.”

Understanding the Integrative Law Movement can be tricky because it encompasses a wide range of different concepts and developments that at first glance, seem not to have anything to do with each other. Here are a few parts of the Integrative Law Movement.

  1. There are new models and new areas of legal practice. Examples of these include specialised Drug Courts and other Problem Solving Courts (eg Gambling Court); Preventive Law; Collaborative Divorce; Restorative Justice and Transformative Mediation. The Centre for Integrative Law is trying to network South African lawyers who are naturally gravitating towards these types of practice and to provide training in new models that do not yet exist here yet.
  2. Law firms are beginning to break away from Centuries-old traditions.  Developments include introducing flexi-time, remote working and new billing practices.
  3. Lawyers are doing personal development work. It is not by accident that we’ve ended up with a system in which most lawyers live exclusively in their intellectual zone, with no time or inclination to explore the emotional and spiritual aspects of their lives. It is not by accident that law schools teach that emotions and feelings are irrelevant and irrational to the practice of law. And it is not an accident that in order to live up to the stereotype demanded of the successful lawyer, hundreds of thousands of lawyers are suffering from chronic depression and substance abuse. All over the world there are programs being developed to help lawyers connect who they really are with the work they do. The Centre for Integrative Law is developing its own programs in conjunction with world leaders in Legal Leadership. Some of these are online programs that allow lawyers to coach themselves from the comfort of their own offices.
  4. Lawyers are beginning to take up contemplative practices to help them cope with stress and to be more present to their clients. 13 Bar Associations in the US now offer Continuing Legal Education points for lawyers who do Mindfulness Training. Law schools and universities all over the US, Europe and Australia now offer meditation courses to law students and faculty. The CIL has partnered with ex Human Rights lawyer, now Director of Mindfulness Africa to bring Mindfulness to South African lawyers.
  5. Humanizing Legal Education is a major aspect of the Integrative Law Movement. There’s a critical need to change the way we educate lawyers if we wish to bring more humanity to the legal system.

I recently chatted to a wonderful Portuguese holistic lawyer who is also a motivational speaker and the creator of a non- profit organisation dealing with domestic violence. She is of the view, along with many Integrative Lawyers, that the role of lawyers is fundamentally one of peacemaker.  She explained to me laughing that “when clients come to me and it becomes clear that they want a gladiator, I tell them they’re in the wrong century!” She is one of many amazing lawyers I meet every week, both inside and outside South Africa,who are deeply compassionate people, committed to making a difference in the world by supporting their clients. Yet these lawyers don’t fit the stereotype and they struggle to survive in a profession that an often hostile profession that rejects the notion of lawyers as emotional beings.

There is still a time and place for gladiator lawyers ready to go to battle. But it’s a limited one. The world is calling for lawyers who are not only Fighters, but who are Problem Solvers and Designers too. We are moving towards an era of Multi-Dimensional Lawyering.

“This is the place to begin: with a new mentality for lawyers and the public about the possibilities in law for securing human interaction and fulfillment in solving problems. To make that new mentality real, lawyers must develop new skills of listening, of identifying interests, of framing and investigating problems, and of finding solution systems that offer mutual gain. As lawyers use these new skills, new legal structures will evolve around them. When that happens, the law will have re-invigorated its historical function of helping to secure human goals.” ~ Thomas D. Barton and James M. Cooper

If any of this resonates with you, please get in contact with the Centre for Integrative Law and make sure you read about SAILA. 


Lawyers as Peacemakers and Healers Conference


I can’t even write this without stifling a sob – just got off the phone to the amazing J Kim Wright who told me a bit more about this amazing conference of Integrative Lawyers – being held at Phoenix School of Law, Arizona in a week’s time. (FEBRUARY 2013)

The line up is incredible – you may not have heard of  these people but I can tell you that each one has made a profound impact in the areas of:

  • Therapeutic Jurisprudence
  • Discovering Agreement: A Framework for Shifting Business Paradigms toward Trust and Partnership
  • Collaborative Law
  • Restorative Justice
  • Reflective practices in the law
  • Reducing the toxicity of law practice
  • And other approaches to law and dispute resolution that focus on human and relational wellbeing.

I am totally gutted that owing to prior commitments I won’t be able to attend, despite being asked by Kim to speak amongst these luminaries.

Presenter Bios

Phoenix School of Law (PSL) will again be hosting this exciting conference in February 2013. We will be bringing together the disciplines of the Comprehensive/Integrative Law movement to educate the public, encourage and support lawyers, judges, mediators, and other legal professionals in this work. Comprehensive Law, also known as Integrative Law, is an international movement in law that integrates concepts of healing conflict, peacemaking, and humanistic values into legal practice. 
For more info click here