Clients Want Integrative Lawyering

Michael Lerner, an early MacArthur fellowship winner, founder of Commonweal, and founder of The New School at Commonweal, spoke in March with Pauline Tesler, director of the Integrative Law Institute.  Michael is an extraordinarily gifted interviewer whose questions and comments showed deep understanding of the challenges facing lawyers who work with individuals and families in personal disputes.

The audience in attendance listened with curiosity and afterward expressed amazement at hearing an experienced lawyer tell the truth about what’s wrong with delivery of legal services to people experiencing predictable human conflicts in their families and communities.

It was easy to hear the undercurrent of distrust and dislike for the legal profession imbedded in their questions and comments. Just as apparent was the desire to know more and to learn how to find an integrative lawyer for themselves or their families when seemingly irreconcilable conflicts arise.

That hunger for constructive, resolution-oriented, humanistic legal conflict resolution services is a driving force for ILI’s programming.   ILI offers certification in Integrative Legal Conflict  Resolution for lawyers who attend its continuing education programs.  The certification program will help lawyers build effective social media strategies so that they can be found by  potential clients when a lawyer’s counsel is needed.

A podcast of the conversation is available at the New School’s website..

The Price of Keeping Big Secrets

Even the words we use to describe secrecy suggest physical burdens:  we “keep” or “hold onto” or are “weighted down” by hiding important information from others.

A new series of studies reported in the March issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology  investigated the physical impact of harboring important secrets, such as secrets concerning infidelity and sexual orientation.

“People who recalled, were preoccupied with, or suppressed an important secret estimated hills to be steeper, perceived distances to be farther, indicated that physical tasks would require more effort, and were less likely to help others with physical tasks. The more burdensome the secret and the more thought devoted to it, the more perception and action were influenced in a manner similar to carrying physical weight.”

As lawyers counsel clients about the costs of pursuing conflict resolution options that do or do not encourage transparency and personal responsibility, we would do well to include educating our clients about the hidden but predictable costs to physical and emotional health of choosing options that encourage or require  keeping burdensome secrets under wraps.

Forming Optimistic “Memories of the Future”

A new study reported in Scientific American suggests that active imagining of happy future scenarios creates more lasting memories than imagining gloomy futures.

In the Harvard research study, participants were guided to imagine a wide array of possible future scenarios tailored to their own circumstances, and then tested over intervals to determine how long memories of those imagined futures persisted.

Researchers discovered that short-term retention of happy and unhappy scenarios was identical. One day later, however, the details of negative simulations were much more difficult to recall than the details of positive or neutral simulations.

“These findings are consistent with what is known about negative memories for actual past events, which also tend to fade more rapidly than positive ones. Szpu­nar and his colleagues hypothesize that the emotion associated with a future simulation is the glue that binds together the details of the scenario in memory. As the negative emotion dissipates, so, too, does the integrity of the remembered future. So the negative versions of the future fade away with time, and the positive versions endure—leaving, on balance, an overly rosy vision of what’s to come. But that may not be a bad thing. People who suffer from depression and other mood disorders tend to not only ruminate on negative events from the past but also spin out gloomy scenarios for the future.”

Lawyers work with people in conflict who often live with situational depression. We are very familiar with the tendency of such clients to ruminate about gloomy future prospects. This study provides another strand of evidence for the importance of divorce coaching by mental health professionals trained in narrative conflict resolution modalities. Coaches help clients imagine positive futures during periods of unwanted, sometimes chaotic conflict-related change. The conclusions of this study suggest that working with coaches on restorying may help clients to create lasting positive “memories” that have more staying power than the anxious and fear-ridden scenarios produced during depressed rumination.

Another reason why lawyers working with clients to resolve personal conflicts can benefit from team service delivery that includes skilled ally-coaches.