The University of Miami Law School teaches law students the practice of mindfulness for lawyers by offering their students what it calls “a comprehensive offering of contemplative practices” and, a few days ago, The Florida Bar News published a Mindfulness Curriculum to help lawyers “live in the moment” on the premise that contemplative practices for lawyers are important for successful study and practice.
Stephanie West Allen, JD, the originator of this tweet, a US lawyer and supporter of the practice of mindfulness for attorneys, believes that neuroscience will play an increasing role in the law, as in “any area in which it is necessary to recognize, predict or influence human behavior.”
That’s not meant to be a shock. The burden of legal practice is immense and teaching lawyers to wake up and smell coffee in terms of cultivating the mental, emotional and psychological tools required to thrive (in reality, to survive) seems to be becoming a booming new industry in the US with programs such as The Mindful Lawyer and recent publications such as The Six-minute Solution: A Mindfulness Primer for Lawyers (apparently s). In books such as The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Liberation and Practising the Power of Now, this creation echoes the more populist philosophy of Eckhart Tolle in the field of legal practice. I believe that we will see more of this kind of thing in the UK soon. Surely we need it.
The single, most productive life-skill of any practicing lawyer is mindfulness or an ability to focus.
The scope and consistency of focus requested by modern-day legal practice, however, goes far beyond the ordinary. It does require, I believe, a different kind of mental preparation.
Lawyers are expected to identify and redefine challenging objectives, both for themselves and for their clients; they must avoid distraction, steadfastly and continually, despite a constant multitude of interruptions; they must set and redefine work targets, frequently on an hourly basis; they must recognize significance and avoid irrelevance instantly and constantly; they must be willing, frequently and not in the short term; Legal practice indeed requires a very high degree of mental acuity in the 21st century.
Such skills, partly referred to as ‘Jurisight’ in the Mindfulness for Lawyers program and surrounding the Siddhis of mystic Vedanta, are not the natural fruit of conventional legal study. Indeed, the growth of these abilities includes extraordinary mental endurance, a high degree of emotional intelligence, keen intuition that borders on the visionary and a depth of knowledge that is more typical of the Zen warrior, the religious ascetic or the contemplative devotee, than of the work-a-day, job-based lawyer.
As the industry of lawyer coaching gains momentum, it inevitably falls to individual practitioners to prepare themselves for the demands of professional life. A good start is to get acquainted with simple time management strategies as described in Mark Forster ‘s books such as Get All Done and Still Have chance to exercise and Do It Tomorrow and Other Time Management Secrets and, if up for the elephantine fight it entails, to struggle with some more esoteric works to improve the power of focus such as Focus and Concentrate Meditation in A New York Minute to de-stress New York style: Super Calm for the Super Busy. And see The Mindful Leader’s Mindfulness Meditations for Management: Ten Concepts to Bring Out the Best of Ourselves and Others.
It is not surprising that the profession should turn to the annals of neuroscience and religious asceticism for urgent assistance, because there is definitely a need for urgent and inspired support.
Knowledge and an ability to focus a corner stone of personal and spiritual growth in all the great religions is not for nothing. ‘Therefore, if your eye is single, your whole body is full of light,’ advocates the Apostle Matthew (Matt 6:11) and, in the Hindu epic, the Mahabharata, the warrior archer Arjuna is taught by his mentor Dronacharya that he must see, not really the sky, not the tree, not the branch, not the bird, but only the minute scintilla of sunlight reflected in the black c
This is the degree of focus intensity that modern legal practice requires and those who lack it literally flounder.
Finally, it’s hard to focus on one thing at a time for those who do-recall the Ancient Chinese Proverb:
‘If you pursue two rabbits, both of them could run,’ ….. or go hungry.