Cultivating the Next Generation of Transformative Lawyers

Image Source: Courtesy of John August Swanson - http://www.johnaugustswanson.com/

Image Source: Courtesy of John August Swanson - http://www.johnaugustswanson.com/

“Why haven’t we learned about this before?  This should be a required course!”
— New Paradigms in Law and Lawyering student, spring 2005

Imagine.  PISLAPers Kim Wright, Susan Brooks and Femke Widjekop were all guests in my seminar this past semester, New Paradigms in Law and Lawyering.  So was Therapeutic Jurisprudence former jurist, Peggy Hora.

Through the wonders of technology, and specifically the Adobe Connect platform, these four leaders in transforming legal practice, legal education, and criminal justice spent an hour or so sharing their wisdom with the five students who comprised the inaugural offering of this seminar.  And the students were able to engage in informed interaction with each of them.
New Paradigms, like PISLAP, was focused on introducing non-adversarial , more healing, more relational, more value-driven approaches to practicing law, resolving controversy, administering justice and planning legal relationships.   Kim discussed the Integrative Law Movement.  Susan engaged the class in exercises demonstrating relational communication.  Femke shared the amazing developments of the International Earth Justice movement.  Peggy Hora discussed the history and efficacy of drug courts, both domestically and in New Zealand.

Long Island Collaborative lawyer, Chuck McEvily and his colleague, Roxane Polak, a Family Specialist explained their interdisciplinary approach to enabling healthy, nonadversarial rearrangement of families when parties are seeking divorce.  Shoshanna Silverberg, then in her last semester of law school, conducted a dynamic class on Sharing Law and Conscious Contracting.

Our three live in-the-flesh guests included Carol Fisler, director of Mental Health Court and Alternative to Detention Programs at the Center for Court Innovation.  Carol discussed empirical findings on what makes treatment courts successful.  Mediator Peter Miller introduced Transformative Mediation, conducting a brief mock mediation with two students playing supervisor and employee.  It was one of the best spontaneous simulations I have ever witnessed.  And, at our last class, a celebratory bagels & smoked salmon brunch, Central Islip Judge Robert Ford shared his experience as a relative newcomer to the Central Islip special Drug and Mental Health treatment courts.

That, plus my class on Emotional Competence, was the basic curriculum.
In my opinion, this maiden voyage was a resounding success when measured by the enthusiasm of the students and the quality of the guests.  Even the two students who hadn’t a clue what the course was about when they registered (it just fit nicely in their schedule), were completely engaged, and surprised about all the possibilities for ways of practicing law of which they were previously unaware.  

And this was just the classroom component.  In addition, each student spent at least 56 hours over the course of the 14 week semester in one or more Integrative Law settings.  Although arranging these placements proved to be one of the bigger challenges for me and for the students (schedules, available transportation, limited local opportunities were all contributing factors), all five students were happy with their experiences.  One student apprenticed with Joy Rosenthal, a New York City family law mediator and collaborative lawyer.  Another worked with Touro alumnus, Rob Goldman,  who runs T.A.S.T.E., a court-supported restorative justice program, largely for youths.  The remaining three experienced a variety of treatment courts, including Mental Health, Drug and Veterans courts.

I am pleased to report that I will be teaching New Paradigms again this fall.  If any Integrative or PISLAP-oriented practitioners within the New York metropolitan area might consider mentoring a student in the class, please do get in touch.

 Marjorie is Professor of Law at the Touro Law Center and the editor of the PISLAP-inspired book, Transforming Justice, Lawyers and the Practice of Law (Carolina Academic Press , forthcoming 2015-16).  She can be reached at msilver@tourolaw.edu.