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Dignity, Creativity, Happiness and the 9 Shared Values of Integrative Lawyers


WATCH: Beyond what we do, it’s the reason we do it that matters – and these are the surprising & delightful shared values of Integrative Lawyers

15 October 2021

What do you think motivates most lawyers? How about compassion, love and making the world a better place? If that doesn’t sound like the lawyers you know, there’s a whole new paradigm in the law for you to explore – it’s called Integrative Law. And these are the often-surprising yet most commonly shared values of Integrative Lawyers everywhere.

(And, if you’re wondering why that’s special, just take a look at what happens when traditional lawyers resist change a little too fiercely.)


Creating a new way to engage with the Law


If you haven’t explored Integrative Law yet, it’s the collective name for a worldwide movement of legal professionals (Integrative Lawyers) who are rethinking and exploring new ways to use the law to make life better for people – see our post: What is Integrative Law?

And central to this movement are the real people behind it – lawyers all around the world, who often don’t even know each other or have never met. Complete strangers. That, somehow, all decided separately to start working personally on ways to create new engagements with the law for their clients. Discover: Who are Integrative Lawyers


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Looking for better answers herself, one of these new “types” of lawyers, J Kim Wright, in 2008 sought to connect with like-minded others. And she did so by traveling the world to interview them. Shortly after, in 2011, a group of these legal changemakers got together and the Integrative Law movement was born.

Through research and numerous interviews, J Kim Wright explored what it was that made apparent strangers around the world all seemingly simultaneously start rethinking something as old and established as our legal systems. And she found two important catalysts:

  • Something is “wrong” with our legal systems (or what it has become) – it just isn’t working anymore (Join us as we ask: is there a lack of empathy in law?)
  • Integrative lawyers all share certain intrinsic motivations, attitudes and values


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9 Shared Values of Integrative Lawyers


(Note: Though not all Integrative Lawyers necessarily share all 9 values, these are the 9 values that most Integrative Lawyers generally associate with.)


1 Showing Compassion & Giving Dignity


In an interview, Dutch Integrative Lawyers Klaartje Freeke & Wikke Monster relay the story of how, in traditional criminal law, lawyers intentionally silence and put up smoke and mirrors to confuse legal proceedings. So the client can win, of course. 

But, what they found is, whether the client wins or not, this doesn’t bring closure and acceptance to anyone involved because their story hasn’t been heard (due to all the smoke and mirrors). People often struggle to accept the final decisions and resolutions when their voice hasn’t been heard. And it’s because we’re human – we want to be heard and be seen – we all have ‘our story’. It robs us of our human dignity to not be acknowledged, even if you have committed an offense.

In one story, Klaartjie explains how a judge took the time to really introduce, explain and give respect to a repeat offender. And this person was able to much better engage and accept in the legal proceedings as a result.

And it’s this sense of being acknowledged. Of being seen and heard. Shown compassion and given the basic human dignity of just sharing of yourself is what Integrative Lawyers seek to bring back into the legal system.


2 Happiness & Wellbeing


Now, most Integrative Lawyers go on this journey because they’re searching for a more holistic way of practicing – something more in tune with themselves. But Professor Larry Krieger actually researches and writes a lot about how lawyers who focus on their own and others’ wellbeing and finding true happiness in what they do are actually more effective attorneys.

“If you’re not having fun in what you’re doing… then you need to really stop and take a look… and you can get the life back into your practice, into your life…” he says.


3 Seeking to reunite Love & Law


In her recent interview, Australian Integrative Lawyer and founder of law firm Lawyers for Love, Virginia Warren, refers to the famous legal case where judge Lord Atkin established the UK’s modern law of negligence by speaking to the idea of “Love Thy Neighbour”, influencing common law globally.

She points out that, in essence, the law currently is a fear-based, punitive system. It essentially says love your neighbour or we’ll punish you. Which isn’t love. “Love would say: Love thy neighbour, or we’ll teach you,” Warren says.

And she notes that the legal system seems to be some sort of extension of ego-based “systems” we put in place to guard/hide our authenticity to protect ourselves in larger society.

But Warren also expresses a great need to bring the idea of love back into our legal systems. Which means it has to be more individual-focused and make place for authenticity.


4 Striving to rekindle Creativity in Law


For Kelley Business School Law & Ethics professor Joshua Perry, creativity is one of the most important tools for a lawyer to have. Yet, he notes, it often gets devalued in law school. Since the law seems to be such a stoic, old and “knowable” practice.

The reality is that the content that gets taught in law school is actually all information that can get refreshed again at any time. What he tries to do is teach his students to be more in touch with themselves, more authentic and creative. Because the law becomes so much more fulfilling if lawyers are allowed to be their creative selves when practicing.


5 Being Inclusive & Humanising all the Stakeholders in the System


It’s no secret that the legal system today really prizes/requires efficiency. But that means that a lot of the people inside it are not really seen or heard. The lawyer ‘represents’ – often you don’t even see or hear the client. In the courtroom, you have these roles – judge, bailiff, defendant, the prosecutor – but you never know who the person really is. A mother? father? sibling? 

And as Melissa Lyon of Hive Legal points out, the legal system can innovate by recognising the people in it. All stakeholders in fact. From clients to practitioners, recognising we’re all humans can make a huge difference in how we experience the law and how it serves us.


6 Embracing Challenges in innovative ways


In the above interview, Rhiannon Thomas of South African Integrative Law consultancy, Milkwood, explains that a big part of her journey started with having to do the will of a close friend. It made her realise how poorly the traditional wills and testaments “industry” really serves people. This drove her to search for something deeper.

And this is when Rhiannon sought to collaborate with professionals in other disciplines outside law. Others who could help her offer a more holistic service. But South African law forbids a legal practice from practising with any professionals outside of the law. So it actually pushed Rhiannon to restructure her approach. Which sparked the all-new Milkwood, the more holistic consultancy we know today.

And that’s what enables her to create more meaningful legal experiences. Even for people during some of the biggest and most vital points in life.


7 Being Relational and people-focused


In her recent interview, South African magistrate Gabriela McKellar says the nature of the law is “all about governing of relationships”. This means the law’s main business is human relationships. So it stands to reason that lawyers (and any in the profession, really) should be relational experts.

She goes on to say that we expect people in many current legal professions to be adversarial – read more on what’s wrong with the adversarial nature of the law. With reward-vs-punishment mindsets, it feels like we’ve “hijacked” the legal system, forced to be something else. When it should be mainly relational.


8 Making the World a Better Place


Though Integrative Law implies people looking to better the world, Integrative Lawyers do this in different ways. Some focus on environmental issues, others or restorative justice or family law.

Dr Pearlette J Ramos, for example, herself a childhood trauma survivor, focuses on helping individuals rediscover and reconnect with themselves. She does this through travel and experiences, podcasts and many books and initiatives.


9 Law as a Spiritual Path


Though not shared by all Integrative Lawyers, there’s a definite and undeniable aspect of the law that has the power to change how we relate to ourselves and others. As noted and distinguished Professor Peter Gabel explains, the last part of the 20th century, the social consciousness movements that sought to free society from the things that forced people to have to “be a certain way” and allow them to discover who they really are, were often very adversarial – activism, protest etc.

But now we’ve learned and seen that “fighting” and “winning” doesn’t necessarily secure inner peace and more connectedness. So, he looked for a better alternative. And found that the Law can be a means of connecting, healing and bringing truth. Which, to many, is akin to spiritual pursuit.


More stories like these 


The videos above are from the YouTube channels of CuttingEdgeLaw and Australian Integrative Law partner Geraldine Johns-Putra’s New Earth Lawyer podcast. If you’re looking for more conversations with real Integrative Lawyers, head over to their channels, subscribe and share.


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Connect with an Integrative Lawyer near you


Integrative Lawyers are very diverse and you’ll find them all around the world – see the global website.

And, if you’re based in South Africa or the United Kingdom, you’ll find a proud Integrative Legal consultancy in Milkwood

From Conscious Contracts® to Antenuptial and Cohabitation Agreements, to Conscious Parting, Wills and Legacies. Milkwood even offers Training and Workshops on how to build your own Integrative Law practice. See our Integrative Legal Services.

At Milkwood, we are peacemakers and problem-solvers who want to help make the law a positive experience for our clients. We’re all about compassion, caring, continuous learning, humour, integrity, listening, trust and wellbeing.

And we’d love to share in your journey.

Connect with us right here.