When Kim Wright was first licensed as a lawyer in 1989, she thought law practice was a pretty miserable profession and she decided to avoid it. She became Executive Director of a domestic violence agency, worked in other nonprofits, and was even a telephone researcher for a while. Anything but practice law!
In 1993, she met Chicago lawyer, Forrest Bayard. He talked about peacemaking, collaboration, and dignity and how his divorce clients became friends and co-parents after the divorce. He showed her that another way of practicing was possible.
Until then, she thought that she was alone. Meeting Forrest changed her life and she soon opened a law practice based on what she saw was possible. Meeting Forrest gave her courage.
It is now Kim’s mission to follow in Forrest’s footsteps and let others know that they are not alone and that law can be transformed. Lawyers who are doing things differently are often seen as weird by their peers, even if what they’re doing is evolutionary and amazing. Having a community gives us the courage to persist.
In 1999, Kim was in a Landmark Education course that encouraged participants to think about a project that was impossible and then find a way to commit their lives to achieving it. One requirement was that no one person could do the project alone, a community was required. Kim’s impossible project was the transformation of law, to have lawyers recognized as peacemakers, problem-solvers, and healers of conflicts, being agents of transformation in their communities. She took on the project, knowing that even if she failed, the world would be a better place.
In the early 2000s, Kim attended dozens of events and conferences and began to study and experiment with a number of outlying legal practices: holistic law, therapeutic jurisprudence, law and creative problem-solving, sacred activism, humanizing legal education, plain language, PISLAP, ADR, mediation, collaborative law, restorative justice, non-violent communication, and more. Each was a separate silo and experts in one approach didn’t know what was going on in the others.
She decided to pull those common themes together by educating the legal community, showcasing the pioneers, and finding ways to support the evolution of law. She wrote the first compilation of these themes on the Renaissance Lawyer website in 2000. Those were the early days of the internet. There was no way to track who visited, just numbers of unique visitors. In the first year, 100,000 visitors viewed the RL site. The site grew into an organization, there was a conference, and the movement began to gain steam.
Transforming law wasn’t exactly a job description with a pay grade. As she turned my attention to the bigger picture, her law practice began to take time away from her mission. So in 2008, she gave up her house and office and went on the road to meet the lawyers and document the growing movement. At the time, she expected to be gone for about three months. One thing led to another. She created the original CuttingEdgeLaw website and a YouTube channel with dozens of interviews of pioneers.
In 2009, the American Bar Association (ABA) named Kim as a Legal Rebel (their designation for visionaries and trailblazers) and asked her to write a book about what she was discovering. Lawyers as Peacemakers, Practicing Holistic, Problem-Solving Law was published in 2010 and went to the ABA best-seller list in pre-sales and stayed there for months after publication.
In Lawyers as Peacemakers, Kim intentionally didn’t name the movement. At several conferences, leaders had discussed coming up with a unified name but there had never been alignment. Collaborative lawyers couldn’t quite see that they were similar to Restorative Justice practitioners. RJ didn’t see their common values with Therapeutic Jurisprudence. Etc. In 2011, Ken Jaray of Manitou Springs, Colorado, collaborated with Kim to convene a Leaders Summit. Thirty people, representing the many faces of the movement, came together with no set agenda. They arrived from around the US on a Sunday afternoon. The day was arranged around a conversational café with questions like, “What are your values? What is your vision for the world?” They didn’t introduce themselves by resumes or credentials rather they talked about what was most important to them. The next morning, with everyone in a circle for the first time, Ken said, “we really need a name!” and everyone agreed that each of them was working on a piece of a whole. Within 5 minutes, the group had consensus: they would call the movement, “Integrative Law.”
As she interviewed lawyers and met others in her travels, Kim observed common threads in the conversations, eventually identifying a common set of values and a path that many lawyers followed. Her travels took her abroad in 2012 and she began to see how that the transformation was widespread.
The ABA asked her to write another book and at the end of 2016. Lawyers as Changemakers, The Global Integrative Law Movement was released for pre-sales on CyberMonday and was the ABA’s best seller that day. It has gone on to respectable sales on Amazon (often top in its category), in addition to the ABA site.
By 2020, she had built relationships and communities on six continents. She had met the most interesting, innovative, courageous, and principled lawyers in the world.
Like a good mom, Kim had been nudging the movement along and encouraging growth. The movement had grown too big for one person to manage and she decided to turn it to the community.