Typically, companies focus on economic prosperity (return on investment and growth); but society has begun to redefine “prosperity” to include sustainability. In this context, “sustainability” means meeting present business imperatives without compromising the future needs of people, planet, and profits.
While a company may sincerely aspire to social and environmental responsibility, it must nevertheless function and succeed in a ‘business as usual’ marketplace. The challenge is how to turn aspiration into reality, how to integrate sustainability into business practices and outcomes while continuing to measure up to the rubric of conventional business imperatives. Investors’ financial goals can strongly impact a company’s ability to maintain environmentally sustainable practices. Supply chain partners may not share the company’s sustainability values or may be subject to their own countervailing pressures. Retailers may resist accommodating the unique rhythms and seasons of sustainably sourced products.
Current systems evolved to serve and support the conventional understanding of prosperity; among these is the legal system. Unfortunately, the legal system tends to privilege financial imperatives over the aspirational intentions of socially/environmentally conscious companies. How can a conscious business prevent the legal system from undermining its best intentions and aspirations?  Businesses can wield such power via their contracts which establish the structures and systems for how relationships with suppliers, investors, customers, employees and others will be conducted.
Many people believe that contracts fall within the exclusive domain of the legal system. Consequently, the key document that provides the map for how they’ll conduct their relationship is essentially “owned” by someone other than the business people who must live it. When problems arise, business people look to their contracts to help them resolve disputes, make decisions, solve problems. Lawyers are consulted. Legal precedent is applied to dictate actions that often seem to defy common sense; and these dictates are imposed upon the business people by the power of the law.
The surprising truth is, it doesn’t have to be this way. The legal system sees contracts as the “private law” of the parties. What many business people do not realize (and lawyers often forget) is how much leeway the parties have to use their contracts to design their own, private legal system for how their relationship will work–choosing for themselves, the criteria by which will they’ll evaluate actions and options, and establishing customized processes for engaging disagreement and solving problems.
It is possible–even practical–to create contracts based on a company’s core values and mission, contracts grounded in common sense. Businesses can create contracts that defuse tension and that evoke side-by-side problem solving when disagreement or crisis erupts. Yes, legal expertise is needed–to ensure that the language of the contract will be supported by the legal system and is not vulnerable to subversion due to arcane legal precedent or statutes. But business people can function as lead designers of the structures and systems that will govern their relationships (as described in their contracts).
This approach to contract formation and enforcement is known by many names, among them are: Conscious Contracts, Discovering Agreement, and Values-based Contracts. Business people and lawyers across the globe are adopting this approach to harness the creative potential in disruption and disagreement. Using their own, customized problem-solving systems, they are able to engage crisis and rapidly return to productivity while remaining aligned with their key sustainability values and vision. What is more, their contracts are no longer rigid straightjackets imposing less than optimum outcomes. Instead, their contracts learn with their business as it evolves and responds to the ever changing, digital-speed, global marketplace, enabling key business relationships to endure and grow stronger.
Upcoming Training –
Conscious Contracts for Conscious Business
October 11-12, 2016; Las Vegas, NV
Hi everybody, here are some updates.
I'm co-leading two Conscious Coach trainings in October. Conscious Contracts trainings are transformative for both the individuals and the company or law practice. As you align your values and practices, you'll find that clear integrity answers a lot of questions for you. You'll also experience more ease and opportunities for collaborations.
In Las Vegas, Linda Alvarez, Glenn Meier, and I will be leading Conscious Contracts for Conscious Businesses on October 11 and 12. Sponsored by Nevada State Bank, this will be two full days of conscious business and contracts training. Open to both leaders in business and lawyers, the training includes hands-on practice and coaching.
EARLY REGISTRATION DISCOUNT ENDS AUGUST 31.
California has approved 12.5 credits of MCLE. The Las Vegas training materials include a copy of Linda's new ABA book, Discovering Agreement: Contracts that Turn Conflict into Creativity.
In the Netherlands, Dialogue BV will once again host me and Digna de Bruin in presenting Sustainable Contracting, a Masterclass in Conscious Contracts. Conscious Contracts are catching on in the NL and Digna is working with some prominent values-focused companies! In addition to the basic training, she'll share about her progress in that area.
Linda and I are creating a Conscious Contracts Certification program for lawyers and both of these programs will count toward the basic training required for that program.
Book Update: Lawyers As Changemakers
I've stopped predicting when the book will be out. The status is: in production. Edits are finished. Production staff is now composing the pages. The manuscript's table of contents shows that it is over 800 pages, so I guess it makes sense that it is taking so long. When I get a realistic date of release, I will let you know!
I've been working with a web developer on the new Cutting Edge Law site. It is a few weeks from launch, I hope. (These things tend to take longer than predicted.) The new site will have a directory and a whole academy of web-based and live courses. The old site will continue to be there, with all its content, just as a section of the new one. I'm excited about the new site and can't wait to show you!
I built a site for sharing legal jobs and volunteer opportunities that make a difference. That is, if you need someone to work for you or know of an agency that needs some help from a lawyer, list it there. If you're looking for rewarding work or a volunteer opportunity, come take a look. I posted a few to get us started. Take a look at:
Some postings, like the Our Children's Trust have multiple opportunities, from giving money to heading up a local lawsuit for young people who want to sue to protect the environment on behalf of future generations. [They train you!] There is a Bertha Foundation fellowship in South Africa and a Mediators Beyond Borders webinar on mediation in Saudi Arabia. I even placed my own Help Wanted ad!
As we populate the site, I hope to post it around social media where it will reach a lot of people. I'm still tweaking it for functionality so folks on this list can post a few opportunities to make sure everything works. Then we can go broader with it.
Not only did I create a new coaching website, I completed with a client this week so I have an opening!
I was so inspired about that last session with the client. We'd worked together for six months and we both saw miracles. She said that I'd helped her take her focus off the dysfunctional system and focus on what she has to contribute. She no longer fears that she is an impostor, she feels at home, with deep roots that nurture her. She feels that she has a more integrated professional identity. Our work helped her to not only look at what she does, but how she does it, and how she can be more intentional in staying true to her values while being a lawyer. She left our coaching relationship with a brilliant touchstone statement and a realistic and supportive strategic plan for what happens next in creating a workable, even enjoyable, life in law. Some of the next steps have already manifested and she's well on her way. I think she's a rock star.
Pretty cool results, aren't they?
Let me know if you want the slot that just opened up. My new coaching website gives you the details of how it works and different packages that are available.
Linda Warren Seely is the new director of the ABA ADR section! Linda has been an active part of the integrative law movement for many years. She was at the first integrative law summit in Manitou Springs in 2011 and has been a leader of the Lawyers as Peacemakers/Lawyers as Problem-Solvers group which has hosted many cutting-edge programs in Memphis. The ABA announcement seems to go on forever with her accomplishments, but I know for a fact that those are the tip of a very large iceberg.
I couldn't be prouder and more excited for Linda! I'm glad the ABA was smart enough to hire her.
Where is Kim now?
As my Facebook followers know, I'm still in Florida. My son became a father in January and I've been supporting him in the horror of a paternity action to establish his relationship with his son. That and some other legal matters have kept me on the family farm.
I wrote about some of the experiences of being on the client side of the lawyer-client relationship on LinkedIn, here. I thought all this would surely be over by now, but alas, it seems neverending. I miss having some of your great skills nearby.
As you can see above, in October I will be back to my nomadic ways. I'll be co-leading the CC workshops, plus I'll be speaking at the TedX in New York on October 15.
After the Netherlands, I'm heading to Spain for the first time! I'm tentatively booked there for early November. Details will come later.
I have a lot of plans for a book tour in 2017. Stay tuned.