When asked to explain Integrative Law, Kim Wright usually starts with the story of the Blind Men and the Elephant. It is based on an ancient teaching story. Six blind men encounter an elephant for the first time. Each touches a different part of the animal. One touches the leg and says, “An elephant is like a tree.” The man who touches the trunk says it is like a snake; the tail is like a rope; the ears are like fans; the back is like a wall; and the tusks are like swords. They argue about the elephant, each being convinced they are right, each seeing only a part of the whole.
For many years, Kim carried a stuffed elephant, designed and made by her doll-making friend, Diana Baumbauer. The fabric illustrates the poem: brown wood-grained legs, a brick wall back, braided rope tail, etc. It is a good teaching tool and visual for talking about systems change, a complex concept. (It also makes a nice pillow on the airplane.)
Integrative Law is like that elephant. There are many angles and pieces to the movement. Many people have a clear view of one and know nothing of the others. Some have a vague idea about the other parts of the movement. Others have a sense of the whole elephant without distinguishing the various pieces.
Lawyers work to integrate the pieces of themselves into a whole.
We often deal with the elephant in the room in conflicts – or call it out in our changemaking.