What is the Global Holistic Law Movement?
Something very curious emerged around the 1980s in different spaces across the globe. Lawyers who had never met, never connected before, began awakening to a new approach to their legal practice. For this reason, they each named their ‘way’ using different terms, yet the underlying essence was the same; understanding law practice as a pathway for lawyers and clients to attain peace, reframing justice from a win- lose duality lens, to a win-win non-duality viewpoint; that is, from an adversarial to a non-adversarial approach to law practice.
Incorporating lawyer and client self-care
The implications ran deep: rather than continue working in a legal justice system designed to maintain and sustain the brick wall of separation between each party in a legal dispute or conflict, and which judges, finds fault, can be aggressive and hostile, now, there was a 180-degree shift towards uniting (where appropriate and possible) these parties. This is achieved through the application of processes incorporating lawyer and client self-care, awareness, understanding, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, non-judgement, conciliation, and healing.
Lawyers as Peacemakers Practising Holistic Problem-Solving Law
American lawyer, changemaker and peacemaker J Kim Wright who Amber met in 2018 in London, provided one of the first comprehensive textbooks on this paradigm shift in her book ‘Lawyers as Peacemakers Practising Holistic Problem-Solving Law’, in 2010. Here Kim chronicles the diverse modalities in holistic law practice such as: collaborative law, restorative justice, therapeutic jurisprudence, preventative law, transformational law, creative problem-solving, and so on. “All of these new practices optimize the well-being of the people involved in each legal matter and acknowledge the importance of concerns beyond simply strict legal rights… Holistic law can describe one vector or philosophy of practice, or a collection of some or all of the philosophies” (page 3).
Under the umbrella of holistic law, emerged the notion of law as a healing profession. Integrative law has also been suggested as an umbrella term.
Optimizing well-being for all the involved parties
Kim continues saying that the new approaches add more cooperative, comprehensive, humanistic, healing and even spiritual aspects to the traditional forms of law practice being taught and utilized in the profession. They are focused on optimizing well-being for all the involved parties by expressly seeking to eliminate brutal and contentious adversarial approaches to advocacy and problem solving, as well as endeavouring to avoid legal problems altogether. Rather than defining problems only as legal concerns- strict legal rights and obligations demarcated by the boundaries of published statutes and judicial opinions- these more comprehensive approaches include humanistic values such as overall well-being, relationships, feelings, needs, resources, meaning, values, and psychological goals (page 4).
“These visionary approaches tend to spring from ‘the heart stuff,’ qualities like collaboration, healing, restoration, peace-building, and human connection” says attorney Stella Rabaut… -qualities the legal profession has always considered soft or suspect. It’s not that the ‘head stuff’ must disappear; on the contrary, analytical skills and legal knowledge are crucial. But “there has to be more recognition of the human, relational aspects”, she says. “It’s not either/ or. It’s both/and.” As quoted by Barbara Stahura (page 4).
Meet some of the trailblazers who use a holistic approach: law students, lawyers, attorneys, judges, academics and so on here.