The Integrative Law Movement is an umbrella term for a global movement. It includes a variety of existing and emerging forms of legal practice, policy initiatives, and legal education aimed at transforming the legal system to more effectively reach its basic goals. As viewed by the Integrative Law Movement, the basic goals of a legal system include but are not limited to providing access to justice; designing, managing, and healing relationships; and providing stable, organic, flexible structures for a just, stable and harmonious community.
Kim Wright is one of the global pioneers of the Integrative Law Movement and her book Lawyers as Peacemakers is currently the best resource to understanding it. Kim explains that “integrative law is a context for law, more of a lens than a practice area. It is like putting on 3D glasses – your perception of the world changes. The Integrative Law “glasses” have to do with seeing the legal system as an interconnected system of human beings.”
Aspects of the legal system addressed by the Integrative Law movement include:
- humanizing legal education,
- promoting emotionally competent lawyering,
- enhancing wisdom and compassion throughout all interactions with the legal system,
- encouraging accountability, engagement, and restoration,
- responding to societal changes mindfully, resolving conflicts and promoting client-centered lawyering
Part of this shift requires understanding that a multi-disciplinary approach is required. Law is not separate from other disciplines such as psychology and economics. In fact, contractual law, by and large, is just a process for managing fear on one hand and financial value on the other so the best way to become an expert contractual lawyer is to understand what drives human behaviour and what people value. These are not subjects covered in traditional law school. Right now only the smartest law schools have recognised how much their curricula need to change to remain relevant.
Much of the private legal profession is firmly stuck in an outdated way of doing business, in terms of law firm structure, remuneration systems, promotion systems and billing systems. The public legal sector is no different – tradition dictates we retain antiquated court systems that leave no-one the better off for having had their day in court. It is time we examine deeply this refusal to innovate. Research that suggests that legal training so firmly entrenches the need to be right, that lawyers are actually trained out of innovation. In order for creativity to flourish, one must be prepared to be wrong, which lawyers never are. This is explored by Professor Carrie Menkel-Meadow in an article entitled “Aha! Is Creativity Possible in Legal Problem Solving and Teachable in Legal Education?” Professor Menkel Meadow asks:
Where do good, interesting, creative and workable solutions to legal problems come from? Are solutions to legal problems to be found exclusively within the current existing domain of legal resolutions (cases and settlements) or boilerplate clauses?
Lawyers in the Integrative Law Movement are answering these questions and pioneering new ways to approach legal problem solving. Worldwide events, including the collapse of Dewey-Leboeuf, have prompted some large law firms to re-evaluate their culture. But many law firms perpetuate rigidly hierarchical systems and foster cultures that result in very low levels of employee engagement. Many lawyers working in large firms are more often than not, unable to bring their full selves to work. This greatly diminishes their personal effectiveness and results in many disheartened lawyers leaving the profession. Although law students begin their studies with a sense that law is a profound tool for societal change, this is not nurtured at law school nor during their apprentice years. Usually, after a few years in a private practice, whether it is 5 years or 10, lawyers are disillusioned with their inability to make a difference and dissatisfied that the financial rewards have ceased to function as a motivational drive. Large numbers of these lawyers, unable to find outlets for their creativity and entrepreneurial mindsets, leave the profession to start their own businesses or join organisations that recognise people are motivated by very different things.
The profession cannot afford to lose the lawyers it needs the most –the creative lawyers, the entrepreneurial “rule challenging” lawyers and those who work from a place of sensitivity and intuition. The legal profession was once regarded as a public service but today in Western society lawyers are referred to as “sharks”. Public perception is that lawyers, unless working for non-profits or in arenas such as human rights law, use their legal expertise to seek personal financial gain to exploit commercial opportunities.
The world is changing. A new era of business is arising known as Conscious Capitalism. The same shifts are taking place in law but many lawyers are so busy slaving to make monthly billing targets that they are unaware of the changes. Globally, people are challenging existing methods of educating lawyers, running law firms, billing clients, creating legislation and settling disputes. We have created a legal system, which no longer serves society.
Lawyers identifying themselves as part of the global Integrative Law Movement are those who can see the bigger picture. They are lawyers who realise they have been called to the field of law at this time in order to work towards transformation of the legal system so that it can once again heal conflict and help us live harmoniously alongside one another.