Mindful of Rev. King’s exhortation to leaven power with love, remember the Doonesbury character Woodrow proclaiming “By God, I love the law!” Well, there’s a perspective afoot in the legal industry that may take that sentiment and turn it on its head. It sounds something like “the law is all about love!”
According to an article entitled “Attorney as Healer” in the August 2013 ABA Journal, “Sean Mason’s legal practice is all about love. Most lawyers wouldn’t associate estate planning or divorce mediation with tenderness and devotion, but Mason says ‘helping clients express love for the people who matter most in their lives’ is the principle that guides his Santa Barbara, Calif., practice…”
For those of you still befuddled, Mason is a practitioner of “integrative law,” which encompasses mediation, restorative justice, collaborative practice, and even positive psychology and social neuroscience concepts, viewing the practice of law as one of the healing professions.
Pauline Tesler, director of the Integrative Law Institute, believes that integrative law is the next “huge wave coming to the legal profession.” As she explains, this type of practice is aimed at “out-of-court solutions and the well-being of all players in the legal system, lawyers and clients included.” It’s based on the premise that lawyers who are able to integrate physical and emotional healing into their own lives are more effective at conflict resolution and achieve greater customer service and professional satisfaction. They express compassion both to themselves and all those they interact with.
AOL CEO Tim Armstrong recently became an overnight internet sensation when he spontaneously fired one of his creative directors in the room with him while a thousand coworkers listened on the phone during a company-wide conference call. His controversial conduct was another instance of leading more from strength than warmth, using the terms discussed in our last entry, and incited a barrage of comments. Many were about the lack of compassion Armstrong exhibited and the damage to the corporate culture that undoubtedly ensued.
One commentator on Armstrong’s behavior pointed out that researcher Paul Zak studies a neurohormone called Oxytocin and its effects on business decisions and relationships. “Oxytocin is released when we feel love, show compassion, and express appreciation. Zak discovered that when there’s more of this chemical in our blood, we also feel more trust towards those around us. And where there is trust, there is higher productivity, employee retention, engagement and [a sense of doing meaningful] work.” But how to cultivate that compassion in a world of hectic deadlines, grouchy clients and competitive office-mates?
Chade-Meng Tan developed the Search Inside Yourself (SIY) program for Google, a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence training program outlined in his New York Times bestseller, “Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path To Achieving Success, Happiness (And World Peace).” His program employs meditation and mindfulness–being present in the moment–to help harried engineers, under-the-gun managers and other stressed-out Silicon Valley denizens cultivate inner peace, success and, in particular, compassion.
More than 1,000 Google employees have gone through Tan’s SIY curriculum. Tan says getting Silicon Valley interested in a meditation program to enhance emotional intelligence wasn’t difficult. “Everybody already knows, emotional intelligence is good for my career, it’s good for my team, it’s good for my profits… It comes pre-marketed, so all I had to do is create a curriculum for emotional intelligence that helps people succeed, with goodness and world-peace as the unavoidable side-effects.” Tan explains that mindfulness training helps to boost self-compassion first and foremost, which then expands to compassion for others. “[After the program], people say, ‘I see myself with kindness.’”
But the benefits of cultivating compassion go beyond greater kindness towards oneself and others. In addition to improving happiness, compassion can also boost a business’s creative output and bottom line, according to Tan—a sentiment that LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, a leading proponent of compassionate management, would agree with. “The one thing [that all companies should be doing] is promoting the awareness that compassion can and will be good for success and profits,” says Tan.
And how specifically do we achieve those feelings of compassion towards ourselves and others? Particularly when we’re all quarrelsome lawyers?
“To create sustainable compassion, you have to be strong in inner joy,” says Tan. “Inner joy comes from inner peace—otherwise it’s not sustainable. And inner peace is highly trainable.”
That inner peace is trainable through mindful meditation, according to Tan. Daily meditation is Mason’s practice as well. And also the route to ditching damaging rumination, according to a recent post. “Mindfulness has two important sub-components: the ability to attend to the present moment and the ability to accept experiences without judging them… both aspects of mindfulness predicted helping behavior,” according to C. Daryl Cameron, a doctoral candidate in social psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose research focuses on the causes and consequences of compassion.
Let’s meditate! Then we can really love the law.