Attention is paramount in the law - attention to details; to legal, ethical and moral principles; and to the hearts and minds of clients, colleagues, judges and juries. A contemplative practice (like mindfulness meditation) helps lawyers cultivate a greater ability to “pay attention.” Meditation can also help lawyers deal better with stress, develop self-awareness and understanding of others, improve concentration and creativity, and perform better as attorneys and mediators.
Recognizing the value of this practice, many law firms are initiating meditation training, including Boston firms Hale & Dorr and Nutter, McClennan & Fish, and the Minneapolis firm of Leonard, Street and Deinard. Students at seven law schools -- Denver, Hastings, Miami, Missouri-Columbia, North Carolina, Stanford, and Suffolk -- have taken mindfulness meditation instruction on campus, sometimes as part of law school courses. Charles Halpern directs a new Initiative for Mindfulness in Law at Berkeley Law. The Initiative will coordinate and expand the existing programs in the law school on mindfulness and law and explore possibilities for further development. For more information, visit the website or contact BIML@law.berkeley.edu.
Groups of lawyers across the country are gathering together to practice meditation and to reflect on their law and/or mediation practices. For instance, Zen priest and lawyer Mary Mocine leads a monthly Dharma Group for lawyers in the San Francisco Bay Area.
For many years, The Law Program at the Center for Contemplative Mind explored ways of helping lawyers, judges, law professors and students reconnect with their deepest values and intentions, through meditation, yoga, and other contemplative and spiritual practices. The program sponsored a series of insight meditation retreats for lawyers and law students, These retreats included instruction in contemplative practices and group discussions about combining these practices with a life in the law. The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society discontinued the Law Program in 2012.
The Law Program’s Coordinator was Douglas Chermak. Video interview at: http://www.cuttingedgelaw.com/video/doug-chermak-peaceful-environment
Douglas Chermak will continue working on initiatives at the forefront of the intersection of mindfulness and the legal profession as an Associate Director of the Institute for Mindfulness Studies, directing its Mindfulness in Law Program. The website is found at www.mindfulnessinlawprogram.com.
Contemplative law is gaining attention by mainstream academia not only as means for personal development stress reduction, but also to cultivate perspective and skill to be a more effective lawyer and mediator.
Meditation is also proving to be of benefit in the criminal justice arena. For instance, The Enlightened Sentencing Project is a program in St. Louis, MO in which training in Transcendental Meditation (TM) is a condition of parole. TM has been taught to tens of thousands of inmates worldwide and has shown to have significant effect on recidivism rates. See http://www.enlightenedsentencing.org/research.htm. Vipassana meditation training has also been introduced to numerous prisons in the United States and abroad. See http://www.prison.dhamma.org/.
Research is showing that such meditation instruction substantially reduces the rates of recidivism. See http://www.prison.dhamma.org/research.htm.
Mediator, meditator, lawyer, trainer and blogger, Stephanie West Allen maintains and updates a resource list for mindfulness and law at: http://westallen.typepad.com/idealawg/2008/09/contemplative-lawyers-some...
Other resources for attorneys interested in exploring how to integrate their spiritual or contemplative practice with their work as lawyer include the book Transforming Practices: Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life (Contemporary Books, 1999)by Steve Keeva, a former senior editor at the American Bar Association Journal. The Association for Conflict Resolution’s Spirituality Section: “The mission of the Spirituality Section is to transform conflict into peace through a deeper understanding of the essential unity of all beings.” The section seeks to provide a professional community to supports its members in expressing their vision in their practices, their careers and their lives. The Spirituality Section’s web page contains contact information and resources.