Things Are Not What They Seem: Perception, Memory, Narrative, and Naïve Realism in Collaborative Practice

 Naïve realism is the belief we all tend to carry that although others make mistakes, mis-perceive reality, and mis-remember facts, we ourselves know what we saw, know what we heard, and know what’s true and what isn’t.  Lawyers seem particularly wedded to these naïve realism beliefs about perception and memory.  But solid research (some of it highly amusing) has shown that we in fact live in a world of neural realism, in which our sensory perceptions and memories are highly unreliable and easily manipulated. The implications for legal dispute resolution are significant.  We watch amazing video clips, do challenging exercises, and consider what we need to change about how we approach negotiations, based on this new understanding of how our brains actually work


The Art and Craft of Deep Peace: Collaborative Practice Beyond the Four Corners of the Law

This workshop shines a light on collaborative team practice through the lens of human conflict resolution, encouraging more powerful ways of distinguishing collaborative practice from other ways of conducting negotiations. Expect to clarify your own thinking about the unique value to clients of choosing collaboration and to strengthen how you communicate that value proposition. We will put meat on the bones of the paradigm shift in ways that support stronger alignment of purpose with colleagues and encourage clearer core messaging in collaborative practice groups. Particular attention will be paid to what changes for lawyers when our job description expands beyond legal dispute resolution. Workshop content will range from broad historical/philosophical perspectives, through human needs theory, evolutionary psychology, and restorative practice, to practical exercises and role plays – all aimed at exploring how potentialities for clients and their children expand when we place collaborative practice in the broader domain of human conflict resolution.

What Every Lawyer Needs to Know About Collaborative Law and Interdisciplinary Team Collaborative Practice

There is still time to register (with 10% discount) for this one-hour ABA Webinar introduction to collaborative practice. Learn how collaborative law is  being practiced in the U.S. and Canada. The program will present the basic elements of collaborative law and interdisciplinary team collaborative practice, along with discussion of key best practices and ethical concerns associated with helping clients make informed divorce process choices.  The Uniform Collaborative Law Act/Rules will be discussed as will the third edition of my ABA book,Collaborative Law: Achieving Effective Resolution In Divorce Without Litigation, and applicable international standards and ethics. Use this code to get my 10% faculty discount on webinar fee:  CE15CPDWEBVIP

Pauline Tesler Explains Why Integrative Law Matters

Children, families, and communities suffer when lawyers use 19th century methods to help people resolve interpersonal legal disputes.  The Integrative Law Institute teaches lawyers 21st Century, science-based ways to help people resolve conflicts and make peace.

Watch this short video to learn more:

“Legal Rebel” Joins Integrative Law Institute’s Advisory Board

Fred Rooney, originator of "legal incubator" model for practical post-law school preparation of lawyers for solo practice

Newest member of Integrative Law Institute Advisory Board

Fred Rooney, a 1986 graduate of the CUNY School of Law in New York and originator of the “legal incubator” concept, is the newest addition to  the Advisory Board of the Integrative Law Institute. Fred has spent his entire professional life working to advance social justice in the United States and around the globe.

Meeting the Need for Practical Education in How to Run a Law Practice.     In 2007, Fred spearheaded a powerful innovation in post-graduate legal education known as the “legal incubator” movement by launching the first-ever incubator program, a unique public/private partnership providing a network of support and resources for recent CUNY law graduates committed to increasing access to justice through their solo and small firm practices. That first incubator has served as a model for bar associations and law school faculty and administrators around the United States interested in designing their own post-graduate incubator programs. Through Fred’s efforts, there are now more than 60 independent legal incubators providing practical post-graduate training and education to recent law graduates across the United States.

Many Awards for Legal Incubator Concept.   Fred’s pioneering work has earned him many awards, including:  the 2010 Father Robert Drinan Award, conferred by the American Association of Law Schools, and the 2010 Louise M. Brown Award for Legal Access, conferred by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the  Delivery of Legal Services.  The Brown Award recognizes innovative programs that meet the legal needs of those who do not qualify for legal aid, but cannot afford to pay for a private lawyer.  In 2013, the American Bar Journal named Fred a “2013 Legal Rebel,” and recognized him as the “Father of Incubators.”

Legal Incubator in Islamabad

Fred Rooney with the first legal incubator class in Islamabad

Bringing Legal Incubators to Other Nations.   In 2013, Fred launched the first law school incubator outside the U.S., in the Dominican Republic, where he completed a 10-month Fulbright Fellowship.  Now a member of the State Department’s roster of Fulbright Specialists, Fred recently launched the first legal incubator in Pakistan, and has plans to extend the model to Kenya and the Central African Republic in the near future, as well as continuing his work throughout the United States.

ILI welcomes Fred to our Advisory Board.  We value greatly the knowledge he brings about serving communities with little or no access to justice, and we anticipate working with Fred on ideas for incorporating an integrative law perspective into the legal incubator movement.



Healing What Ails the Legal Profession

[This post is adapted from a longer article by Pauline H. Tesler in the Winter 2014 issue of the Collaborative Review, the journal of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.. You can read it here.]

We lawyers suffer dangerously  high rates of emotional distress and substance abuse. Overwhelming empirical evidence shows that lawyers arrive in law school with
personality characteristics markedly different from the general population – notably, a discomfort with emotion and a temperament favoring thought over feeling. Law school intensifies those qualities, diminishing our capacity to bring our full humanity
into our work.depressed male lawyer

The legal profession produces impaired lawyers.  While pre-law students show only slightly higher levels of significant depression than the general population (10% as compared to 3-9% in the general population), by late spring of their first year in law school 32% report much higher depression levels, rising to a “stunning” level of 40% by late spring of the third year. These levels never fall to pre-law school levels. No matter how long they have been in practice, a steady 17-18% of lawyers suffer from clinically significant depression. Study after study shows that most lawyers would not choose law if they had it to do again, nor would they want their children to become awyers. The rate at which we experience depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and other psychological problems is about twice the rate found in the general population, and one in five lawyers suffers from psychological problems severe enough to call for clinical intervention.

What happens to us in law school and on the job that wreaks such harm to our mental health? How is it that becoming a lawyer divorces so many of us from our own deepest moral and spiritual selves to the point that we don’t see our clients’ yearning for love, compassion and forgiveness, much less practice in ways that might incorporate attention to those needs?depressed lawyer

Adversarial law practice requires lawyers to focus clients resolutely on past injuries and pain, without attending to recovery and possibilities for a better future.  Add to that a distressed lawyer and we have a recipe for keeping clients mired in pain and suffering. The growing body of psycho-biological research into the neuroscience of entrainment, limbic resonance, and emotional contagion teaches us that working with depressed, angry, cynical, irritable, detached and numb lawyers is likely to impair clients’ emotional resilience and capacity for thoughtful decision-making. Positive psychology research confirms that emotional states are transmitted to others remarkably easily and that the direction of contagion in a relationship is from the more powerful to the less.Legal profession: too many depressed, angry lawyers and judges

In other words, depressed, suicidal, angry lawyers – which too many of us seem to be – present a danger to health and well-being, not only for ourselves but for our clients, the others on the case, the family, and even the community.

What could change this picture?  Teaching lawyers client-centered service delivery models (such as mediation and collaborative practice)  is helpful but woefully insufficient as a remedy.   We lawyers need encouragement to integrate a private inner spiritual life with an outer life of values-driven professional service if we are to reclaim a sense of purpose and professional identity that can  meet  the human needs of clients and of the communities we all inhabit. This change, more than any other I can envision, would transform how law is practiced by infusing lawyers and eventually judges, too, with the human compassion that invites clients’ stories to be heard and their pain to be seen. Without such deep personal change in those who must embrace it, broad scale innovation too often fails to thrive or is relegated to the level of lip service.

Law school curriculum change is in the air, but the pace is glacial. We can’t afford the human and social costs of graduating even one more class of lawyers who have been taught to devalue their own spiritual and emotional intelligence – and yet hundreds of thousands more lawyers will be socialized in that way before widespread humanistic legal education becomes a reality. That’s why the Integrative Law Institute’s programs target  practicing lawyers who would never choose to attend a symposium about love, or even a collaborative law training. We begin by addressing the personal, professional, and social costs of practicing law in a way that ignores the human needs of our clients and that is divorced from our own deepest humanity.Legal profession harms its own members

The gateway that can lead  lawyers toward integration and transformation turns out to be hard evidence from psychological, sociological, and neuroscience studies that illuminates the human damage caused by  practicing law in ways that run contrary to our biological nature and that disregard our evolutionary endowment as human primates: compassion, trust, forgiveness, generosity, cooperation.  When the intellect of adversarial lawyers is engaged by compelling information about the astonishing irrationality of human behavior in conflict resolution, an opening can occur for experiential exercises to trigger epiphanies, large and small, about the high toll our training as lawyers has taken on us and on our clients too, even those we achieved great trial victories for.

As this transformative journey deepens, we may remember with pain how we treated others in a normal day’s work. We may recall, for instance, humiliating the opposing party to tears during that deposition in the child custody case, or relishing demolition of a percipient witness during a probate trial that pits siblings against one another,  because our ability to see the human being sitting opposite us had been deadened by a belief that our own human feelings had no place in our work and that take-no-prisoners assault tactics are the professional responsibility of a competent lawyer.

I believe work that divorces us, in the name of professionalism, from our own ability to feel empathy or compassion for the other humans we meet is work that is immoral. When we lawyers start to see this, shame may be what we feel. It is often the case that the first person needing forgiveness is ourself. And that’s an act of love.

Finding Center Among Chaos–an Integrative Law BFOQ

My colleague Jennifer Tull, a collaborative lawyer from Austin, Texas, is blogging about how to keep your center and sense of purpose while working with clients going through major life transitions.  She writes beautifully and epitomizes the journey toward wholeness that is the hallmark of integrative law.    Here is her first post (we’ll be offering others from time to time):

Roller Coaster of Joy
Finding center among chaos

When I was a kid we would sometimes go to AstroWorld, a now-defunct theme park in Houston. Some of my friends were partial to the Alpine Sleigh Ride (which I did enjoy on some of those southeast Texas days where the temperature and the humidity are both somewhere around 10,000). Others went straight for the Bamboo Shoot, especially if there was someone in the crowd who didn’t know that the person who sits in front always gets soaked.

I was willing to go along with these wimps for a while, but before long I was impatient to climb aboard the Texas Rattler, and later, Greased Lightnin’ – once called the greatest roller coaster in the world. I loved everything about roller coasters – the dread that came with the click, click, click of the chain hill as you go up the first rise; that moment of liminal space when you’re not going up anymore but you haven’t yet started going down; the thrill of going 70 miles an hour down a 60 degree slope into a banking turn that becomes a full loop before you can catch your breath … and then it’s over, as you stumble in exhilaration to the back of the line to do it all over again.rollercoaster

I haven’t had the opportunity to ride a roller coaster in a decade or so, but it seems like lately I’m surrounded by people who are on emotional roller coasters: Clients who think they’re on the path to reconciliation only to learn of an ongoing affair; dear friends whose children are having life-threatening physical and mental health issues; colleagues being betrayed by trusted co-workers. It’s difficult to watch as their emotions careen from dark despair, through some double loops, to elation, then plummet to depths that seem to have no stopping point – all based on snippets of information that trickle into their world about things over which they have absolutely no control.

I was unprepared for life’s roller coaster with my own child, and because I never, ever want to be there again, I mined that event for everything I thought The Universe might be trying to teach me.

I learned that experiencing both highs and lows are equally important, and neither is reality. Reality is the platform from which you embark on your journey and to which you return when all the drama has ended – your place of spiritual poise or stasis. It’s where you live when things are not in crisis, and it informs how you perceive, interact with, and move through the world – in short, it defines your experience. I guess this place of repose is what some people would call your personality or prevailing world view. I like to think of it as my operating system – the thing that keeps everything running and from which all other programs are sourced.

I learned that if I start my roller coaster ride from a platform of chaos and fear, the ride will only make it worse. If I start the ride from a place of arrogance and perceived control, I just have that much farther to fall, and the process of falling might destroy me. But if I start my journey from a place of acceptance – the knowledge that the lows are temporary and so are the highs – I can have a completely different experience. Lows become rich times to absorb and appreciate all of the love and support I have from those around me; highs are opportunities for gratitude and giving back to others who are not as fortunate as I in that moment.

integrative brain wiring

Choosing your operating system

I learned that you can select the operating system you use. There are lots of fine operating systems to choose from, but if you don’t consciously choose, you will be stuck with the operating system that was installed at the factory, and that one is based on the limited amount of information available to you while you were becoming the person you are today. Much of that data is probably outdated, at best, and will leave you ill-equipped to take the next roller coaster ride that’s waiting for you right around the corner.

My roller coaster rides have caused me to upgrade my operating system, and I have settled on Joy. Joy combines all of the best features of Gratitude and Playfulness and is still agile enough to afford me a full range of emotions. Joy recognizes that there is no jumping for joyupper limit to how great things can be, while keeping me grounded and present. Joy allows me to be the one who yells, “BRING IT ON!” when faced with a challenge, and “WAHOO!” when an opportunity presents itself. Joy promises, when I get good enough at it, to allow me to be a solid, sturdy, centered me no matter what is going on in my world – and that’s so much better than AstroWorld it makes me laugh.

(Copyright © 2014 The Law Offices of Jennifer Tull, All rights reserved. Published here by permission.)


Copyright © |2014 *The Law Offices of Jennifer Tull, All rights reserved.

Bad Relationships Can Kill You…

A study released recently found that stressful relationships directly correlate with high blood pressure in

“What we observed was as the amount of negativity in relationships increased, risk of hypertension [in women] also increased,” reports  Rodlescia Sneed, co-author of the study.  She and  Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology at Carnegie-Mellon University,  looked at data from  1,502 healthy adults over 50 contained in a longitudinal study of more than 26,000 Americans known as the  Health and Retirement Study. That study tracks participants’ health information every two years, including  blood pressure and other physical markers as well as psycho-social health.

Sneed and Cohen found that negative social interactions,  including excessive demands, criticism, disappointment, and disagreeable exchanges, correlated with a 38 percent increase in developing high blood pressure in women. Younger women, aged 51 to 64, were  more affected by negative interactions than were older women.

man angry at woman in suitA particularly interesting wrinkle in their findings is the gender difference the data reveals.   Only women showed a link between bad relationships and high blood pressure.  “There is a lot of evidence that women pay more attention than men do and care more about their relationships than men do and it can be particularly devastating,” says Sneed.

Previous research has shown women in a bad marriage are at more risk of heart disease,stroke and diabetes. What’s new about this study is that it looked at all  negative social interactions, not only those between spouses.  These findings are significant for women’s long-term health:  tolerating bad relationships appears to  impact not only mental health but also longevity.  woman shouting with megaphone


The Integrative Law Institute basic workshop: NeuroLiteracy 101 for Lawyers, Mediators, and Judicial Officers

Your brain, your client's brain: a brave new world

Your brain, your client’s brain: a brave new world

The Negotiation Committee of the Dispute Resolution Section of the New York State Bar Association Presents:

NeuroLiteracy 101 for Lawyers, Mediators, and Judicial Officers

February 18, 2014
 | 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Dorsey & Whitney LLP
51 West 52nd Street | 9th Floor
New York, NY 10019

Research discoveries over the past decade have dramatically changed understandings about how our human brains actually work. These discoveries potentially impact almost everything that lawyers do when we work with clients. 

  • What if nearly everything you learned about working with clients is based on demonstrably false 18th Century ideas about how the human brain experiences conflict and makes decisions and choices?
  • What if emotion, not reason, drives the train?
  • What if the upholstery on your conference room chairs matters as much as the force of your arguments in settling cases?
  • What if providing cold drinks vs. hot drinks changes trust levels for you, your client, and everyone else in the room?
  • What if providing more information makes it less likely that your client will make reasoned choices and decisions?
  • What if beginning with shared values yields not only stronger contracts, but stronger working relationships that reduce the risk of litigation down the road? 

REGISTER NOW for a workshop by Pauline Tesler, Esq., on this rapidly evolving area of neuroscience.  

Pauline, known for having written the definitive book about Collaborative Law and for her ability to clearly present and explain the subject, is now referred to as the “Godmother of Collaborative Law” after having also been a principal organizer of the well-established and highly respected International Academy of Collaborative Professionals. Most recently,  Pauline has launched the Integrative Law Institute,  dedicated to answering some of the questions posed above. Now teaching lawyers and others practical take-always based on these game-changing discoveries in the fields of brain science, neuroeconomics, positive psychology, body/ mind awareness science, and more, she is poised to play an equally important role in our understanding and utilization of this new learning.Do

Program details | For more info contact Beth Gould at

This program qualifies for 7 MCLE Credits (5.5 in Skills and 1.5 in Ethics) This program is transitional and qualifies for newly admitted attorneys.

The Integrative Law Institute at Commonweal

The Integrative Law Institute at Commonweal


Men and Women: Our Brains Really Are Wired Differently

Men from Mars, Women from Venus?

Men from Mars, Women from Venus?

Does it make you uncomfortable to think that there really are biological differences in the brains of men and women?  Not me; I’ve seen those differences play out over a lifetime in precisely the ways suggested by a new study  published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.        Researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered many more neural connections running from the front of the brain to the back within each hemisphere in males, while in females there are far more connections running left and right across the two hemispheres.

According to lead investigator Ragini Verma, Ph.D.,   the wiring in men supports greater connectivity between sense perceptions and coordinated actions.  In contrast, female wiring patterns facilitate greater connectivity  between analytical and intuitive capabilities. “These maps show us a stark difference–and complementarity–in the architecture of the human brain that helps provide a potential neural basis as to why men excel at certain tasks, and women at others,” the researchers concluded.

For instance, they report that  on average, men tend to be better at learning and performing a single task at hand, like cycling or navigating directions, whereas women tend to display superior memory and social cognition skills, making them on average better equipped for multitasking and creating solutions that work for a group.Male and Female Brain Wiring

Why do studies like this matter?  Sure, sex discrimination in the workplace remains real and limits income and upward mobility for too many talented women. But don’t we now see enough women of power and accomplishment in business, industry, education, the professions, and government that we may be ready to celebrate and make good use of our differences rather than insisting on biological sameness as necessary  foundation for sexual equality?

Might these differences also have implications for the work of conflict resolution professionals?  I’m not suggesting sexual stereotyping, but  we’ve now got hard science to support our intuitions about  how  clients process information.  Since these  gender-based brain differences are real, I’m suggesting that awareness of the differences might be a tool that could help us quickly figure out what’s going on during negotiations and how we might help.

Consider that the  “homework assignments” we give clients to prepare for negotiating sessions can serve more than one purpose.  There is specific information we need them to gather that is an essential foundation for bargaining toward settlement.  At the same time, we may be able to help emotionally overloaded clients to calm down and feel more competent if we make sure that the  homework we give them includes tasks that play to their strong suit, whether it’s drilling down on a specific problem and solution, or whether it’s intuitively imagining what the human needs and challenges might be in connection with various options for resolution.

What do you think?  Are these biological differences in the architecture of male and female human brains a useful perspective for illuminating how our emotionally-distressed clients–or even our professional colleagues– may be approaching problem solving?