Words: Multiple: Marjorie Silver; Digna de Bruin; Eileen Barker; Lyna Chai and Rajesh Deoli
(Editors: Femke Wijdekop and Elaine Quinn)
Image Credits: Thijs Middeldorp; Dalton Touchberry (Unsplash); Jeremy Bishop (Unsplash); Helena Lopez (Pexels); Oliver Cole (Unsplash); Darius Bashar (Unsplash)
Reading Time: Long Interview: 14 minutes

Introduction

Inspired by this quote from Marianne Williamson, we approached some lawyers active within the integrative law movement to ask them about how they have moved, or are moving, through their biggest personal challenges and fears. Many of these challenges are shared so maybe by expressing and sharing them more often, we will have greater courage to face and move through them, and feel less alone on the journey towards a more sustainable integrative law practice.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.” Marianne Williamson (Read an interview here)

Responses are published from US law professor, Dr. Marjorie Silver; Dutch integrative lawyer, Digna de Bruin; US mediator and forgiveness coach, Eileen Barker; US lawyer and member of the PISLAP network, Lyna Chai; and Indian human rights lawyer, Rajesh Deoli.

What kind of integrative law do you practice?

Marjorie Silver: I don’t practice Integrative Law. Rather, I teach, speak, write about it and have edited two books related to Integrative Law.

Digna de Bruin: After a career as ‘traditional’ lawyer and partner of a big law firm, I developed my own method of conscious contracting. I called it “De Rechtmakers ” which translates both as “making laws and making things right (again)”.

I work in the field of healthcare where I facilitate complex processes that enable all parties involved to arrive at agreements that are sustainable – legally, socially and emotionally.

I draw my inspiration from more democratic ways of organization. I found examples of this in “Buurtzorg” and Frederic Laloux’s publication “Reinventing Organizations”.

I was inspired by this article: “Should trees have standing? – towards legal rights for natural objects” by Professor Christopher D. Stone, and I handled a lot of cases in which I gave trees a voice in court. This is why they call me ‘Lawyer on behalf of the Trees’ in the Netherlands.

Eileen Barker: I am a mediator, forgiveness specialist and above all, a peacemaker. I help clients find restorative solutions, integrating emotional healing and forgiveness into the process. My goal is to create an international peace center that will teach these skills and offer professional services for those who need it.

7,000 beech saplings at Dutch Design Week - The Parliament of Things
7,000 beech saplings at Dutch Design Week - The Parliament of Things

Lyna Chai: My involvement with the integrative lawyering movement is primarily through the U.S.-based Project for Integrating Spirituality, Law and Politics (PISLAP), where I am a member of its Organization & Outreach Committee. For those who don’t know, PISLAP is an international network of lawyers and other stakeholders advocating for a spiritually-informed approach to law and social change, one guided by principles such as love, compassion, and self-awareness.

I’m not religious or necessarily even spiritual depending on one’s definition, but I care deeply about reforming our legal systems, and I’m incredibly inspired by the organization’s courageous and dare-I-say radical vision for the world. I am based in Los Angeles and my formal job is in real estate law (specifically health and safety receiverships). While I do my best to be an integrative lawyer in this role, I also understand the economic and practical realities of this work and I find myself looking elsewhere for ways to contribute.

This past May, I attended the World Justice Forum in the Netherlands. It was the sixth such Forum organized by the World Justice Project, an organization that aims to advance the rule of law worldwide. I went to spread the word about PISLAP to lawyers and other rule-of-law advocates around the world, and I hope to have more opportunities to do so in the future.

Rajesh Deoli: I am a human (or as I prefer to say ‘huwoman’ i.e. inclusive of man and woman) rights lawyer who has worked on a varied range of issues relating to Access to Justice in India. I have been fortunate enough to get the opportunity to work on women rights, child rights, minority rights, tribal rights, and have undertaken various projects on Access to Justice and Legal Empowerment. I have also been project manager for the Indian Department of Justice’s Access to Justice Initiatives in the Jammu and Kashmir region, and in North Eastern States. Now, I specifically working on child protection issues and assist the High Court Committee on Juvenile Justice.

In practice, I use nature, art, music and cultural expression to help ensure children, women and indigenous people know what their constitutional, as well as legislative, rights are. My work with children in making them understand their right to education through art and music, was my breakthrough, and the place from where I began using various interesting methods of legal empowerment.

The legal literacy of citizens, especially in difficult terrain or in mountain States, is of huge interest to the State however it is not communicated properly in a ‘people-friendly way’. While I was working within the Department of Justice, our team worked and developed ‘Information, Education and Communication (IEC)’ material in the local tribal dialects of the North Eastern States in story form. It was the first of its kind on legal literacy in these states of India where a mass population of indigenous people live.

What was your deepest fear making the shift towards an integrative lawyering approach in your work?

Digna de Bruin: I had the existential fears that: financially it would end up in a fiasco so that I would not be able to take care of my two children; that all other lawyers would see me a walking failure and would laugh at me; that I would be unable to be part of any group of people; and that I would be financially ruined and would live in a cardboard box under a bridge!

Marjorie Silver: I don’t recall ever having any initial fear, although there have been challenges and disappointments, since my focus has shifted to this direction. While I have achieved what I consider to be a very satisfying reputation among Integrative Law practitioners and scholars, both nationally and internationally, I have never been able to get much traction at my own school, where there is little interest among my colleagues.  For example, my beloved seminar, Transforming Justice and Lawyers, has been cancelled for lack of enrolment more often than it has proceeded.

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Lyna Chai: In my legal career, I didn’t have one seminal moment where I decided to shift towards an integrative approach. Rather, it has been an on-going process of learning how to navigate through the external factors and moral ambiguities from moment to moment (like the time I received feedback for being “too nice”). My desire to be an integrative lawyer is really just a part of my desire to be an integrative person, so any fears I may have as an integrative lawyer would also apply to me as a person. I think the most fundamental fear I have in that respect is one of futility and meaninglessness – will anything I do actually matter in the end? Will my one wild and precious life help to bend the moral arc of the universe a little closer to justice?

John Steinbeck said: “All the goodness and the heroisms will rise up again, then be cut down again and rise up. It isn’t that the evil thing wins — it never will — but that it doesn’t die.” There seems to be a perpetual tug of war in this world between “good” and “bad,” and in any case our Sun will burn out in 5 billion years, presumably returning us all to stardust. This makes me wonder whether anything that anyone does will really matter in the end…

Eileen Barker: My biggest fear was being labelled “touchy feely” (which I often am) and not being taken seriously.  I was also afraid that I wouldn’t have enough clients to sustain my practice.

Rajesh Deoli: When you are born with a different way of thinking, you become accustomed to friction, especially when you are experimenting in society for positive change. For example, my father was not sure what I was doing or where I was going. However he was sure of my intentions, and that is why I felt on track. But yes, I used to fight with myself internally. I used to cry in the night, asking whether I was right or whether I had deviated! Indirectly, I find that your friends and colleagues can make you feel that you are odd and need to be financially stronger, rather than being too much of an idealist and dreamer. They also can worry about what you are risking in taking up issues against the State, and fighting for the poor and marginalized in society.

How did you deal with, and move through that?

Eileen Barker: I didn’t let my fear stop me from doing the work that I knew I was meant to do.  But it did cause me to work on the “down low”, that is, hide my light under a bushel.  Little by little, I’ve gained the courage to stand in the power of what I know to be true, and not let the opinions of others (who are generally truly ignorant of what I do) deter me.  I’ve learned to trust that the “right” clients who need and want what I am offering will find me, and by and large this has been the case.

Currently, my biggest challenge is “trusting” that my vision can be realized even if I don’t know how. In other words, I have no idea how to create an international peace center!  I just know that it is wanted and needed. And I’m clear that this project is way bigger than just me. So, I am looking for my partners who share this vision and will co-create this with me.

Lyna Chai: While these existential fears thankfully don’t plague me on a daily basis, I also don’t think they’ll ever entirely go away, so managing them will be a life-long endeavor. And when they do come up, I look for a balance of surrender and intention. Learning to surrender is an on-going challenge for a controller like me, but it’s often the only sane solution because so much of life is simply out of our control. Some practices that have supported me in surrendering are meditating, reading, writing, and seeking new experiences that challenge me.

At the same time, we are powerful beyond measure as Marianne Williamson said, and making a difference in this world can be a simple matter of setting our intentions. Instead of getting lost in big, abstract questions about the fate of the entire universe, I make the conscious decision time and time again to focus on the things that I can do, like supporting my mother through her cancer treatment, joining organizations like PISLAP, and eating less meat. This year, I became a stepmom to two young girls, aunt to a second child with a third on the way, and I’m currently 6 weeks pregnant. I may not know the fate of the entire human species, but I know I can make a difference in these children’s lives, and maybe that’s enough.

Rajesh Deoli: In this work, you meet so many people who are so colourful and are in worst situation of lives, but they still keep themselves happy. So, the community I work for always motivates me to come out of the fear.  Another talisman which has kept me alive in my work is “the purpose you set is always a key to your motivation, never let you down”. I remind myself from time to time that my purpose is to work for those who don’t have voice, or not whose voice is not reaching the democratic system we have. My mother always stood by me in all stages of fear, and she is still with my spirit in living my life. She always taught me about happiness, love, patience, peace, harmony, acceptance, and the importance of nature in our lives as a way to defeat all kinds of fear. I cannot be just like her, but I strive towards her principles and happiness.

Marjorie Silver: Again, it’s not about fear.  It’s about disappointment and feeling that I have failed in achieving at Touro what others have achieved at their law schools.  However, I take solace in knowing that my work is making a difference in the wider world.

Recently, for example, at the May AALS Clinical Legal Education conference in San Francisco, the Director of Clinical and Experiential Education at Stetson University College of Law told me that my most recent book, Transforming Justice, Lawyers, and the Practice of Law, had completely changed the way she teaches.  Moments like those help sustain my feelings of success.

However, I haven’t given up on making a difference at Touro.  I briefly introduce Integrative Law in my Externship seminar and invite any of my students who might be interested in learning more about it to seek me out.  I insert mention of processes that fit under the Integrative law umbrella into any conversation where it may be relevant.   Restorative Justice practices, Collaborative Law, and Treatment Courts are not infrequently topics in my conversations.  I talk about Conscious Contracting and Cartoon Contracts even with non-lawyers.

And I continue to network, attend conferences and webinars, and write about these relational, healing, and non-adversarial processes for achieving justice, resolving conflicts, and ordering legal affairs.

Digna de Bruin: I discovered it is very much a personal journey. This means you cannot keep yourself out of the process. It helped me to just take practical steps in what I believed to be the right direction, without knowing the final outcome. I trained myself to step out of my comfort zone every day.

I did “die” a few times in my life. There were crises with a lot of existential and spiritual questions on my side. After such episodes I had to reinvent myself every time anew and I had to learn to listen to what life invited me to be.

Because of my high sensitivity I cannot thrive in the traditional legal world, which consumed all my energy without giving back. I had several severe depressions. I had to let go of my images and expectations.

I discovered that the practice of an integrative approach gives me a lot of positive energy and personal satisfaction. These enable me to guide people more creatively effectively through the complex (legal) world.

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If you could share one piece of wisdom for lawyers moving towards an integrative lawyering approach, what would it be?

Marjorie Silver: Dream big but be realistic.  You may not be able to sustain yourself financially—at least at first—in a wholly Integrative Practice, but don’t lose sight of why it’s important.  Find other ways to support or subsidize your transition if you must.  Keep checking your progress towards your ultimate goal(s), and network with colleagues near and far who can help you keep your focus on a career that will enhance the well-being of your clients, co-workers and, most importantly, yourself!

Digna de Bruin: See things as an experiment – “failure” does not exist. Dare to trust your gut feeling instead of the conversation in your head.

Eileen Barker: If you feel called to do something, do it.  Trust it.  Don’t make excuses. That feeling is there for a reason.  Keep moving toward it.  It takes courage to stand in your values and dreams and stand on the leading edge of life, creating something that has never existed before. But that’s what we are doing. It’s  exciting and also a privilege to serve humanity in this way.  Answer the call, and don’t let your fears of inadequacy get in the way.  We all have them, but do it anyway.  If you feel the call within you, then you are the one!  The calling is a sacred gift.  Honor it. You’ll be glad you did.

Rajesh Deoli: I recommend these three cardinal principles:

Understand human nature: We should accept that nothing works in this world alone. We are all interrelated, and interconnected, at the deepest levels. This relationship creates our dependence on each other. Since the major involvement of machines in our lives, it seems to me that we humans feel superior to all, including nature. This has disconnected us from nature, and from our core values. In the name of development, we are exploiting nature. We, as integrative lawyers, should work at realising the truth and importance of our fundamental human nature, and  its beautiful impact on our lives. We can then learn to apply interdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary, approaches to resolving human conflicts towards a more harmonious existence.

Engage in “Chai aur Gup” (Tea and Chatting): In the mountains in India, people engage with each other in their daily lives through two things: ‘tea’ and ‘chatting’. It keeps people happy, connected with their community-based value system, and maintains relationships through dependence on each other, and on nature.

Connect regularly with nature and with the marginalised: On our path to justice we should connect with nature, and with those who are marginalised and outside of the system. Nature keeps us pure in our intentions. Visiting those outside of the system reminds us of, and deepens, our purpose of service.

Lyna Chai: Changing the world can be serious adult business, so my very serious message to new integrative lawyers would be to always make room for a little silly, child-like fun in your day.

We teach what we most need to learn, they say, and this is one that I myself struggle with at times. We’re all warriors on a mission to do good in this world, and the battles we fight can weigh heavy on our hearts. In those moments, I think it helps to remember that joy itself is a virtue, and looking for lightness and humor in even the darkest of times can be the best way to make sure that the evil thing never wins. The world does not need more dead or dying martyrs, it needs healthy, happy, and whole individuals who can heal this world’s pain starting with the one within themselves. On that note, here is a joke for you all – what is the difference between lawyers and accountants? Accountants know that they’re boring. This is nonsense, of course! We conscious lawyers are very self-aware and we know perfectly well how boring we can be, too, haha.

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