Very excited that we may be hosting our dear friend and spiritual mentor, J. Kim Wright, back in Memphis. Many of the legal practitioners in Memphis are interested in developing a more collaborative practice but feel the need for a more nuts and bolts approach to this development. Pragmatists that they are!
We continue to consider the best ways to bring this practice to the public and to continue to promote and enhance mediation practice along the way.
The ADR section of the Memphis Bar has been actively pushing the local General Sessions Court to adopt a "Mediator of the Day" style project that is voluntary. One of the Judges created a special 9 am docket for pro se litigants every Wednesday. On that day one of the volunteer mediators offers pro bono mediation services to the litigants. First we explain why and what we are doing, then for those who are willing, we go to a conference room around the corner.
It was so wonderful to have Kim in Memphis last night! A local attorney who has been practicing collaboratively in a few cases, Pam Blair, and her husband, Sam, opened their beautiful home to attorneys and others in Memphis for an evening with Kim and the Lawyers as Peacemakers, Lawyers as Problemsolvers (LAP/LAP) group. There were about 30 people who gathered to discuss the changing face of the practice of law and reimagining the legal system to work for disputants and to pick up an autographed copy of Kim's book. Maureen Holland a founder of Renaissance Lawyers and a holistic attorney in Memphis was there sharing her dreams of a legal delivery system transformed for individuals- she loves the concept of a Legal Grounds style coffee house atmosphere for Memphis folks! Cindy Pensoneau, a beautiful yogi, desperately wants to marry her yoga practice to her legal practice and to help her clients self actualize even as they reform their families.
The entire legal profession — lawyers, judges, law teachers
— has become so mesmerized with the stimulation
of the courtroom contest that we tend to forget
that we ought to be healers — healers of conflicts.”
—Chief Justice Warren E. Burger 
I never really knew much about CJ Burger but the things I have seen that he has to say about litigation really ring true for me. I work with a number of young lawyers and there seems to be a real split- there are those who are itching to get into court and don't think you can be a real lawyer if you don't litigate. Then there are the others who don't care about litigating. It's the ones who think litigation is the end all and be all of solving a client's problem that interest me. Sure, litigation has it's place but it's just one tool.
Why don't we value our role as counselors? What is it that makes so many lawyers think they aren't real with litigation? Is it TV? Law school? Or a combination of things.
In my last blog I mentioned that a group of college psychology majors viewed lawyers as unethical. Kid Rock in a recent song off his hit album from last year pairs lawyers as scumbags in the same sentence as 'habitual offenders'. The cultural assault on our profession is unabated in many quarters. So now, a different story on lawyers...
Today over 25 attorneys volunteered at the monthly Saturday Legal Clinic sponsored by the Memphis Bar Association Access to Justice Committee and the Memphis Area Legal Services Pro Bono Projects. Attorneys from Burch, Porter and Johnson, the clinic sponsor, and numerous other firms, legal departments and solo practitioners joined with 15 volunteer paralegals and other legal professionals to provide free legal help to the community.
In a recent psychology class, my daughter's classmates indicated that they felt lawyers, as a group, were unethical. My daughter did not speak up to defend me, her mother, her stepfather or the many other attorneys she knows. She didn't feel like creating a problem especially since she felt totally outnumbered.
So, why are lawyers, as a group, considered unethical by college students? Why are we characterized as sharks, bloodsuckers and leeches? A recent discussion at my office brought this comment by one of your lawyers during a discussion of the value called justice:
We aren't here to do justice. We are advocates. Our
job is to get the best deal we can for our clients.
I just ordered a book called the End of Lawyers. I don't think the premise is really that lawyers will stop existing as a profession but I do think lawyers will need to take a hard look at the practice model we have developed. Change is inevitable and every profession needs to reconsider the way things are done. Given the technological advances experienced by nearly every segment of civil society and the changes in business practices, how are we as lawyers prepared to move forward and what types of services will the public, our clients, both demand and need?
The book's premise appears to me to focus on changes in the way we practice law, changes in the services delivered and changes in the way clients view the services they want from us.
I look forward to reading the book!