Integrative Law is a movement in law that is relational and values-based.
In Lawyers as Changemakers, Kim Wright set out the four pillars of the movement which she had identified in her research. This is an excerpt from the book:
- Integrative Lawyers are reflective.
They reflect on their motivations, their purposes, and the human condition. They bring those reflective skills to their work, and the world around them. They reflect as individuals and together, seeking a world that works for all. Integrative Lawyers tend to bring their whole selves (body, mind, soul, and emotions) to work together to create a better legal system. This is a group that likes personal growth and is spiritually curious. Many of us engage in contemplative practices such as meditation. I know litigators who are yogis and bring principles of balance from yoga into their trial practices. There are Buddhists and Hindus and Catholics and Muslims in this movement. We walk different paths with authenticity.
- Integrative lawyers are guided by purpose and values.
The values tend to be intrinsic, not extrinsic. Research has shown that the law school ethos tends to sway students toward the prestige of a big law partnership with its corner office. Integrative lawyers seek to align with important intrinsic principles that guide their lives and how they practice law. Integrative lawyers are inclined to believe that integrity is vital to the well-being of themselves and society. They encourage integrity in their clients’ matters. In the movement, some values tend to appear in a lot of lists. Love is a foundational value for a great number. Compassion, authenticity, openness, connection, harmony, transparency, accountability, trust, and healing are popular among this crowd.
- Integrative lawyers are design-thinkers and have a systemic view of the world.
Integrative Lawyers often have an experience of the interconnectedness of all things. They believe they are part of a system where each person has the power to make a difference. They recognize that society is becoming more complex and that it is necessary to embrace the complexity while seeking to make the law understandable and workable. Many of us are on a quest to find the pivot points where small change can lead to big shifts. We realize that there are many stakeholders in every conflict. We see that collaboration and cooperation are more workable than divisiveness and polarization. Integrative Lawyers default to collaborative approaches to problems, but are not afraid to take stands. We understand that full self-expression can lead to conflict, and that, when approached consciously, can be prevented or resolved in ways that are productive and preserve the relationships between all stakeholders. We don’t have to agree to be kind to each other and grant dignity to Life.
- Integrative lawyers are the harbingers of a new cultural consciousness and are leaders in social evolution.
Integrative Law isn’t just legal procedures. It has to do with a fundamental shift in world view and models that express the shift. Integrative Lawyers are leaders in an emergent worldview which honors the wisdom and best parts of all previous worldviews. They are open to exploring and drawing upon many disciplines and wisdom traditions, such as, philosophy, science, metaphysics, psychology, and spirituality. They bring this consciousness into the law and are partners with our colleagues in other disciplines.
From the four pillars, new models are arising. Many have recognized kindred spirits in pathfinders like Stu Webb and have been early adopters of models like Collaborative Law. Some bring this perspective to Restorative Justice and Therapeutic Jurisprudence. Conscious Contracts, Sharing Law, Earth Jurisprudence, Purposeful Estate Planning are among the ever-expanding list of innovative approaches and practices for serving the needs of legal clients and legal professionals.
The process of evolution feels slow to those who envision a better world, but with consistency and determination, momentum can be reached. I compare it to riding a bicycle up a steep hill. We undertake that hill in our personal lives and in our practices. We may put in a lot of effort in the beginning, but eventually we reach a point where something shifts and we can move faster. Soon, we’re gliding down the hill, not sure why it took so much energy to get there.
What we are integrating
One of the obvious questions that I’m asked is, “If this is integrative law, what are we integrating?” There are several different aspects of this integration.
The first integration is that of what works in the old system being integrated with new models and knowledge. For example, a problem-solving court brings a new approach to case management and support to the process in the courthouse, which is part of the old system. The approach of Conscious Contracts integrates what we’ve learned about trust, neuroscience, purpose and values into a document, a contract, which has been part of the old legal system for thousands of years.
Integrative law takes ancient wisdom and brings it up to date with new discoveries. For thousands of years, people have been meditating. Now, we’re learning from neuroscience and other medical discoveries that meditation is actually good for our health.
The old legal system was designed for some good reasons. Previously justice was arbitrary and based on emotional reactions like revenge. Dueling, jousting, Feudal Justice, Wild West shoot-outs, posses who carried out “justice” with a rope and a tree, evolved into verbally dueling champions arguing in front a judge. Bringing in rules of evidence and standards balanced out a system which could quickly go wild and capricious. The adversarial system brought stability and a measure of predictability and certainty to the resolution of conflicts. In so doing, the system attempted to sterilize the interaction from all emotional content. In so doing, it left out the human perspective.
A lot of problems came from removing the human element: Clients and the public are so suspicious of lawyers and hold them in such low esteem, there is a whole genre of lawyer jokes. Lawyers experience depression, addiction and relationship dysfunction at a rate higher than the public. Encouraging adversarial behavior leads to incivility in the profession. Integrative law brings back emotion and human values in ways that temper and balance the analytical. It isn’t a rejection of “thinking like a lawyer,” but an expansion of the kinds of intelligence that are brought to the system.
Masculine and feminine energy are not meant to refer to male and female, although there is often a correlation is how we are socialized. The law has been the purview of the masculine traits: Analytical, Competitive, Singularly Focus, Rational, Determined. Linear, Logical, Objective, Assertive and Goal-Directed. Feminine traits have not been as valued: Intuition, Collaboration, Multi-tasking, Emotional, Creative, Empathetic, Receptive, and “Going with the Flow.”
This integration of masculine and feminine is also recognized in the Conscious Capitalism movement. Author, professor and Conscious Capitalism leader Raj Sisodia often speaks of this phenomenon. With more women in business, he says that feminine values have become more present in the workplace. Workplaces are now moving from male-centric aggressor style domination (with language filled with military jargon – i.e., maneuver, plan of attack, aggressive tactics to capture market share) to a more caring and cooperative business environment.
We’re moving from law as an isolated legal institution to one responsive to the needs and desires of our clients, society and other institutions. Complex issues, scientific and social science discoveries, a public with unprecedented access to legal information, all call for new ways of doing things.
And finally, but not the least, we’re integrating our internal world with the external world and bringing them into alignment so we are congruent with the world we’re living in.