Purpose and Values
Purpose and Values guide integrative lawyers. By aligning with their own principles, integrative lawyers remain intrinsically motivated, and act with the integrity required of our profession, and for the well-being of society. The act of working on our values helps to show what really matters and how to find purpose in life – personal and professional.
In my early law practice, I was working with a coach when I identified myself as a Peacemaker…and then I wondered how in the world could I design a law practice based on that? The question led me to explore not only my own purpose and values, but those of my clients. I added questions to my intake forms, such as: What are your most cherished values? Knowing this, I was much better able to represent what was important to my client, not just what he could get in a case, but what would reflect what he actually wanted. – J Kim Wright
Kim is not alone. It is very likely that all those lawyers who are part of the Integrative Law movement have questioned the values of the current, traditional legal system in comparison to their own personal or professional set of values. The big challenge is to try and find alignment.
Some have worked with a coach to find a way to align their own personal values with the work they do to find their true purpose. Others have reached a crisis or turning point in their lives because the lack of alignment between their personal values with their work has caused a breakdown – physical, psychological or both. Rather than leave law many of these lawyers have found ways to design their legal practice so that it aligns with their values and purpose. These are Integrative Lawyers.
Integrative lawyers are inclined to believe that integrity is vital to the wellbeing of themselves and society. They encourage integrity in their clients’ matters. As a group they tend to have these common values: listening, compassion, dignity, inclusivity, being relational, happiness, well-being, and love. They are focused on building a better future for themselves, their clients and the planet.
Our values tend to be intrinsic, not extrinsic. Research has shown that the law school ethos tends to sway students toward valuing the prestige of a big law partnership with its corner office. Integrative lawyers seek to align with important intrinsic principles that guide their lives and how they practice law.
Many lawyers have consciously chosen a value as the core operating principle of their law practices.
Estate-planning lawyer Sean Mason of California was doing some personal transformation work when he created his life purpose as Love. He began to tell people that the purpose of his law firm was to help his clients show their love for those who are most important to them. He even put his purpose on his website.
Concerned about the potential impact of talking openly about love, he kept close financial records. He earned 70% more money the first year and greatly improved his quality of life and the lives of his clients.
Marque Lawyers in Sydney, Australia was founded by lawyers who had reached the peak of successful careers, only to find that they were not happy. They left their traditional firms and created a new law firm with the purpose of happiness. One of the first things that was on their to-do list: doing away with the billable hour. They’ve been leaders in fixed fee services in Australia. The Happiness purpose has extended to even the design of their offices. There is no corner office. Rather, office spaces are assigned by lottery. They work in an open plan. The centerpiece of their office is a coffee bar and there are informal places to sit scattered around the office. They invite artists to be in residence, because they find it useful and entertaining to hang out with creative people. They are the only law firm to conduct an entire hiring campaign by Twitter.
Milkwood, found by Integrative Lawyer, Rhiannon Thomas, is a consultancy in South Africa that uses values as the starting point for any discussions with their clients. By getting their clients to focus on their core values they assist their clients to create legal documents, such as Wills and Cohabitation Agreements that truly reflect who they are.