History of CuttingEdgeLaw.com
I almost didn’t become a lawyer. More than twenty years ago, my law school experience didn’t sell me on the possibility of practicing law. One of my classmates was so offended by my role in founding the ACLU chapter at my law school that he told me that he had turned me over to the IRS. “You’ve obviously got too much time on your hands,” he told me. As the mother of seven, going through my own nasty divorce, I was just doing what was before me to do. I wasn’t sure of the offense. I barely knew him or the other people I sat near as we quaked in our chairs, afraid we’d be called on and publicly humiliated.
Somehow, instead of pulling together against the common “enemy”, we became isolated from each other. I did love the volunteer work I did in the community as a Guardian ad Litem. My family law clinic experience touched on something important for me. Helping families seemed like what I had been born to do. Clinic included an opportunity to reflect and actually talk to other lawyers about what we were doing. I learned my Myers-Briggs Type and actually met a fellow student, my clinic partner, who had lived across the hall from me all along. But, then I didn’t like my brethren, my classmates and the lawyers I met in court.
I decided that I would find a way to use my law degree that wasn’t tied to the adversarial system. I didn’t want to be one of “THEM.” Several years later, I met Forrest Bayard, a Chicago lawyer who introduced me to the concepts of Collaborative Law. THAT, I could do!
Fast forward, I opened a law practice focused on helping families. I learned about collaborative law, forms of mediation, restorative justice, interdisciplinary practice and practicing holistic law as a peacemaker. I transformed my practice and, as Steve Keeva said, found ‘joy and satisfaction in the practice of law.’
After several years in the living laboratory of practicing holistic law in a small southern town, I was finally beginning to feel some confidence about my work (and ability to consistently meet payroll) when my husband was offered a job three thousand miles away. A number of factors fell together and I found myself in Portland, Oregon, spending the summer trying to communicate what I’d learned into a web site. RenaissanceLawyer.com was created that summer when I was trying to figure out whether to take the Oregon Bar Exam. It captured what I knew then about a budding movement in the law that was more humanistic, future-focused on peacemaking and healing. I wrote about the pioneers whose ideas were beginning to enter the mainstream culture.
In those first years, over 100,000 people a year visited the Renaissance Lawyer web site. An organization was created and a board came forward to try to encourage and keep pace with the ideas and approaches that were emerging and beginning to gain footing. One of the approaches went from a handful of committed participants to a national organization with thousands of members. Other ideas morphed and merged into new forms. Bar associations, law schools, and individual lawyers explored the ideas. Books, law review articles, magazines, even Paul Harvey explored the innovations and renovations of law. The more I dealt with lawyers, the more I liked them, the more I realized that most lawyers are good and noble people who just want to make a difference. When they are shown how they can do so, they do it. My friend, Mike Moiso, said that RenaissanceLawyer.com was like building a football stadium and not even selling water.
As a board, RLS felt incredible pressure to keep up with a movement that had as many expressions as participants. A few years ago, I left the RLS board to pursue developing CuttingEdgeLaw.com. I never imagined that it would take four years of planning, foundation-creating, inquiry, and research. A whole year on the road, 25 states, and dozens of interviews later, with the help of videographer, former business partner and traveling companion, Michael Matthews, the site was launched in March, 2009.
Many media sources found us in the first year. From Lawyers Weekly of North Carolina to Ode Magazine to dozens of blogs, we got our time in the spotlight. Our work was recognized by the American Bar Association naming me one of the 50 "Legal Rebels" who are “finding new ways to practice law, represent their clients, adjudicate cases and train the next generation of lawyers,” http://www.legalrebels.com/profiles/j._kim_wright_collaborator The American Bar Association further recognized our work by asking me to write a book. Published in April, 2010, Lawyers as Peacemakers: Practicing Holistic, Problem-solving Law became an ABA best seller.