Lawyers who heal?
(Page 2 of 2)
In the process, some talk of also helping themselves. "You are taught, as a lawyer, not to open yourself up to the emotional needs of clients. You are taught to divorce yourself from emotions. I had done that and had physical pain," says Jill Dahlquist, a holistic lawyer and energy healer in Milwaukee. "Now I have learned to embrace those emotions and deal with them - and as a consequence have made myself healthy as well as my clients."Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Burnout is common among lawyers, says Nora Bushfield, president of the 250-member International Alliance of Holistic Lawyers (IAHL). "You go into the practice of law somewhat idealistic. You think you are going to have an opportunity to impact people's lives, but then you get into the morass of the legal system ... you become a hired gun in a litigious culture. And then you burn out."
Ms. Bushfield, practiced "regular law" in Atlanta for 20 years before turning to collaborative law, which - like therapeutic jurisprudence, preventive law, restorative justice, and creative problem solving - is a way of practicing law holistically.
She says she once held the record for holding the longest divorce jury trial in her county. "I'm not proud of that," she says. "But it was all about the battle then, and all I wanted was to beat the other side." She says she knew, as Holland did, that there had to be something else.
She stumbled upon IAHL, started in 1992 by a Vermont lawyer named Bill Van Zyyerden.
The logo for IAHL is the goddess of justice, Thema, holding up one scale, not two - because, they explain on their website, justice is really about the individual and not about fairness or equanimity among many. "It's really the individual's journey of taking responsibility and accepting the consequences, playing them through, learning the lessons, and moving on," reads the explanation. The concept spoke to Bushfield, and she embraced it.
These days, while her offices are still filled with traditional cherry furniture and she wears the same conservative suits to court, Bushfield's working hours are filled with team work. She works to resolve legal problems in an interdisciplinary fashion, referring her clients to other professionals - mental-health experts, divorce coaches, child specialists, and financial planners - to gather the best counsel for them. And she tries to reach early and satisfactory settlements, instead of drawing out cases for long, painful, and often expensive years.
But being a holistic lawyer does not mean you don't go to court and argue. Tom Lynch is a top litigator in Frederick, Md. - and a holistic lawyer. "To me, this means that when I approach litigation I do it in a more civilized, respectful, and humane way," he says. Eschewing what he calls "Rambo tactics," Mr. Lynch makes sure to call his counterparts on the other side to discuss any impending legal move, and puts a premium on behaving respectfully toward clients.
"Being a lawyer is more than being a sword and cutting others down," he says.
While there are those who dismiss holistic law as everything from "soft" to "nutty," its practitioners around the country are winning cases and making a living.
"There are still critics, but hostility toward [holistic law] is lessening," says David Wexler, a professor of law and psychology at the University of Arizona. "As a movement, this kind of law has gained tremendous acceptance." According to Professor Wexler, the public is tired of lawyers and judges and their confrontational culture.
"It has all become a spectator sport, without resolving anything," he says. "Holistic law is the antidote."