Healing and the Law

Since the mid 1980's organizations and movements have developed in the United States which reflect a desire to transform the practice of law into a healing, helping profession. There is now growing international interest in this movement, for example in Canada, Australia, Italy, Brazil, Thailand and Sri Lanka.


A landmark book that supported the movement was TRANSFORMING PRACTICES, by Steve Keeva, an editor of the American Bar Association. Sobering statistics in it, for example that the rate of suicide among lawyers was higher than for any other profession in the US and that the majority of lawyers in California would not encourage their children to be lawyers, confirmed the concern that pervaded the profession. During these years the American Bar Association has worked with state bar associations to create offices or sections in the state bar associations to support lawyers facing depression or addiction. The book, and others around this time, also encouraged lawyers to slow down and use methods like meditation to calm their minds and be present for their clients. Some law firms and non-profit organizations now sponsor meditation retreats for lawyers.

Among the organizations that sprung into existence in the 1980's and 1990's were the International Alliance of Holistic Lawyers, the Renaissance Lawyers Society; and the Project on Integrating Spirituality, Law and Politics. National and international conferences and retreats sponsored by these organizations and others fostered networks of like-minded lawyers. There were movements to bring the concept of healing and transformation of the profession to law students and in about the turn of the century, law faculty in the United States created an organization called Humanizing Legal Education, now a section of the Association of American Law Schools called Balancing Legal Education, with the objective of transforming law school curricula to include philosophy, psychology and deep ethics.   

Before these developments, the International Academy of Law and Mental Health, based in Canada, started arranging annual meetings to bring together psychiatrists, psychologists and lawyers to look at how the legal system and the practice of law functioned from a therapeutic point and mental health point of view. Their 31st Annual Meeting will be at New York University Law School from June 29 to July 4, 2009. From this came the movement for Therapeutic Jurisprudence, which integrates law and psychology. As a result of these activities and others, Susan Daicoff, on the faculty of Florida Coastal University, created the concept and phrase, Comprehensive Law Movement, to include all the aspects, organizations and lawyers involved in this transformative process.

Compatible with these developments has been the growth in alternative dispute resolution, especially mediation, which enables parties to speak directly to each other and solve their disagreements in a safe atmosphere. This is being offered, or parties are being required to consider it, before many court systems will proceed to judicial determinations. Teenagers are being trained in Peer Mediation to resolve conflicts in schools. The Restorative Justice movement has brought the concept of healing into the criminal justice system by setting up processes for the defendant and victim to interact in a safe environment in the course of determining sentencing or during incarceration--with the result that the victim sees the defendant may assuming responsibility and also may receive the healing benefit of an apology.

These movements are part of the growing national and international awareness that a healthy balance is needed in the professions, the business world and our economic systems in order to support a healthy and sustainable society. 

    

 

 

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