What the word Reconciliation meant to me fifteen years ago was a set of
required procedures within the Divorce Court system designed to induce estranged
married couples to patch up their relationships. A reconciliation
"success" within that system even today might mean either that the
friendship and harmony between the parties have been restored, or that the
parties have resigned themselves to bear the unpleasantness of the restored
relationship for practical or even unhealthy emotional reasons. The
precepts of holistic legal counseling have greatly broadened my idea of what
Reconciliation can mean.
Reconciliation is not a normal feature of the adversarial system of law.
The adversarial system usually involves accusations, arguments, "spin"
(meaning intentional distortion of facts and theories to accomplish specific
goals), fault, blame, judgments, penalties and punishments, time and money
consumption and much more. Suffice it to say that the pain suffered by all
participants in an adversarial environment, be they attorneys, clients, judges,
court clerks or secretaries, can be deep and lasting. The thought patterns
of the disputing parties set the stage for the stress felt by all persons
Here would be an example: two neighbors might have a disagreement over the
correct boundary line between their two properties. Attorneys and property
line experts would typically be hired, old property records would be paid for
and retrieved and court filing fees would be paid. The parties would be
subjected to written questions they must answer in writing and oral
cross-examination at deposition sessions. Legal secretaries pound out large
quantities of documents that the attorneys spend long hours dictating.
All of this happens because the two neighbors have not experienced a
reconciliation environment where sitting down and working things out is
considered the highest good. The disputants' negative thoughts permeate the
entire drama. This negativity is directed toward each party and toward
each attorney. The energy of those negative thoughts indirectly affects
all of the other participants. The disputants could have difficulty
walking out of their homes for fear they might run into each other. They
also might have difficulty sleeping as a result of the stresses inherent in this
type of process.
It is the sworn duty of an attorney to zealously represent the interests of
the client. For many practicing lawyers, that means working long, hard
hours on each case, and within the scope of legal ethics as the lawyer defines,
scheming in every way possible to achieve the result that the client claims he
or she wants. In the case of the property line dispute example, after
exhaustive demands for documents and answers to questions posed to the
respective neighbors, each attorney might petition to trial court to eliminate
the other party's right to a full trial.
This is called a Motion for Summary Judgment. It says that the law is
clear one party must win this dispute, and there are no facts possible to
present in a full trial that could produce a different result. Because
these Motions are rarely successful, what the lawyer has done to his and her
client in most cases is raise false hopes at the client's emotional and economic
expense. Then there is the often hideous trauma and confrontation of the
trial itself. After the trial is over, the lawyer for the losing party will
probably raise false hopes of the client again by petitioning the trial court
for a new trial. Since those requests are also not successful most of the
time, the lawyer's next step will be expending the client's money on an appeal,
thus raising new false hopes. In some cases, appeals can be prosecuted to
three levels of higher courts. Most appeals are unsuccessful.
There are even more options available to the "zealous"
attorney. However, wherever the conventional litigation program takes the
case, the final result will technically be one winner and one loser. It goes
without saying that the "loser," having had his and her hopes, goals
and wishes raised and dropped so many times, is devastated. The so called
"winner," on the other hand, could still have fear about running into
the neighbor and might still have difficulty sleeping, because completion of the
law suit does not dismiss the rancor of either party. The holistic legal
practitioner understands that the "winner" in the conventional legal
context is still energetically connected to the "loser." In
other words, that system does not really have winners, not the clients, not the
lawyers, not the legal staff, not the judges, etc.
It is no wonder that attorneys who practice this form of contentious law
battling statistically have high incidences of drug addiction, alcoholism,
suicides, heart attacks and strokes. Their legal secretaries, too, have very high burn-out rates. Further, the average tenure for sitting judges
in this system, from appointment or election up to voluntary retirement, gets
shorter every year.
I've practiced law since 1965. For the first twenty-five years, I took
care of legal problems for clients pretty much the way I have described. It is
the way almost everyone practices law. I saw no problem with that even
after I started my path in spiritual yoga in the early 1970s. My law
practice "awakening" started in 1990. It began with my
doing some psychic research for a novel being written by a client.
Within two short years, the prospect of continuing to deal with legal issues and
the justice system in the conventional way became too painful.
A solution for me, as it has been for the other 800 members of the
International Alliance of Holistic Lawyers, was to alter my perspective.
We view holistic legal counseling as an art form, rather than merely a money
making profession. It is a healing opportunity for the attorney, the legal
staff, the client, the other party and attorney and all of the players related
to the justice system.
The holistic legal counselor listens intently to the issues the client
presents and his and her immediate request for services. This listening
process is about getting an understanding of the client's full spectrum of
needs: emotional, interpersonal, familial and communal, spiritual and physical.
These GLOBAL interests are the ones that holistic legal counselor attempts to
The Commitment of the members of the Alliance to themselves, to their clients
and to the broader community is:
-- romote peaceful advocacy and holistic legal principles.
-- ncourage compassion, reconciliation, forgiveness and healing.
-- dvocate the need for a humane legal process.
-- ontribute to peace building at all levels.
-- njoy the practice of law.
L -- isten
intentionally and deeply in order to gain complete understanding.
A -- cknowledge
the opportunities in conflict.
W -- holly
honor and respect the dignity and integrity of each individual.
A true holistic solution to healing a dispute necessarily attends to all of
the physical, psychological, familial and communal, interpersonal and spiritual
elements of all of the direct and indirect players. Just like a tree has
many parts that make the whole, the roots, the trunk, the branches, the leaves,
a dispute also has its interrelated parts. Attempting to heal the dis-ease
in one portion will not solve the fundamental problem.
The role of the holistic legal counselor is to help identify the
"root," i.e., the core issues of the players. These are most
often hidden. The players DEFINITELY INCLUDE the legal counselor.
He/she facilitates the shifting of the energies. The goal is to achieve
for everyone involved empowerment and conscious awareness of their personal core
issues. That is precisely why I feel that legal disputes provide unique
opportunities for growth and learning experiences. They show up for very
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When I take on a matter for a client, I add two paragraphs to the
conventional legal Retainer Agreement:
"A. As a client, you are responsible for the
issues you have presented and the feelings you have about them. Your commitment
as this matter proceeds is to remain responsible by being attentive to your
feelings and reporting them to the attorney." [I usually suggest that the
client maintain a book to log his and her dreams.]
"B. As a client, you agree to have NO expectations
about the results of this matter." [This is all about introspection --inner
processing to find the core issues, heal them and evolve to the next level of
Different from our more conventional practicing legal colleagues, I and other
holistic legal counselors would make use of the property line example previously
described, or any other dispute or conflict, by asking these type of
1. Can the core values of Higher Law be applied in this
matter outside the functioning of the conventional justice system?
2. If not, can the personal core values of clients and
the supporting players (e.g., attorney, staff person, judge), be reconciled with
the roles they are required to perform within the conventional justice
3. Can the feelings, stated needs and desires of the
parties be reconciled with the end result of the conventional or an alternative
4. Can each party individually find the nugget in his
and her inner being that is loved and nurtured when the OTHER PARTY gets his and
her needs met?
Our goal as holistic legal practitioners is to facilitate positive answers
these questions. Reconciliation in the true and profound sense has taken place
when a resounding "YES!" evolves from question #4. This is the realm
where the real "winners" are found.
I've often been asked, "Why do you prefer practicing law in this
manner?" My answer is that this is not a matter of preference, it is a
matter of passion. Feeling the shift in consciousness of my clients and the
other players is very fulfilling and gratifying for me. The pleasure I get in
seeing people do the inner processing and knowing that it has touched their
souls is what this work is all about for me. This is how I achieve my personal
Reconciliation with the practice of law and with the justice system.