Lawyers in the U.S. are working on creative models for bringing transactional lawyers into the Integrative Law movement. They ask: what if contract negotiations began with a discussion of the parties’ shared vision, mission, and values? And what if those principles were tied in the contract itself to specific ways of addressing conflicts that expressed those principles?
Linda Alvarez, a California lawyer, sees the contract as a private, self-determined justice system within the public justice system. She invites lawyers to see our job as helping our clients create values-driven deals that include a framework for normalizing and addressing constructively the disagreements and disputes that may arise downstream.
This is Integrative Law for transactional lawyers and in-house counsel, and it provides an important “preventive law” dimension to our work as humanistic conflict resolution professionals.
From Linda’s website:
“Design your own systems
Every contractual relationship is, in essence, a self-contained legal system. The terms of the contract are the laws that the parties write for themselves and the dispute resolution provisions in their contract – whether written or unwritten – determine the justice system and process that will be used when the parties need to manage change or resolve disputes between themselves.
Their contract is a private system within a public system. Our larger, so-called legal-justice system encompasses and impacts the workability of the private contractual system; but this larger context does not mean that the parties to a contract are powerless – unless they choose to be so. It is, in fact, quite possible for the parties to retain a good deal of their power of self-determination and self-governance by conscious, enlightened design.
Using knowledge of the broader system, the parties can create their own structural foundations and frameworks. Instead of cobbling together a structure from bits and pieces borrowed from or imposed by cumbersome convention and habit, they can design and implement their ideal private governance system. Rather than using their contract as a weapons cache stockpiled in case of dispute, the parties can write a document that serves as a guide and support to their own, intentional system and structure within and with the support of the greater, conventional frame and framework.”