Legal Systems Change: Grow, Connect, Inspire, and Learn
I am an advocate for systems change in the law, particularly focusing on a set of values and models called Integrative Law. I’ve arranged my life to follow my passion and values and to connect with lawyers who are changing how law is practiced by following theirs.
I am the founder and CEO of Cutting Edge Law Enterprises, Inc. It is a Florida-based social benefit corporation. (Yes, I live in New Mexico but there were good reasons to base the company in Florida during my 12 years as a global nomad. Plus, New Mexico didn’t have a benefit corporation option at the time I created the company. Luckily they do now!)
Through my work at Cutting Edge Law, I wear a lot of hats. In Findhorn Scotland in 2014, I created a vision statement which has been my guide in creating projects and organizing my life and schedule. CEL has a new website that tells a lot more about what I’ve been up to. Check it out.
I’m also one of the co-creators of the Conscious Contracts® model of agreements. The Conscious Contracts® model is practiced around the world and has its own website, here.
Lawyer & Mediator
I’ve been licensed as a lawyer since 1989; since 1994 in North Carolina, the only state where I still have an active license. Early in my legal career, I learned about mediation (then a new concept in our community), collaborative law (a new concept just about everywhere at that time), restorative justice, therapeutic jurisprudence, plain language drafting, and holistic law. My law practice became my laboratory for learning and applying new ideas and models. I pushed the envelope in finding a way to ethically work in multidisciplinary teams and to have an office with counselors, social workers and legal staff. I used skills from one model of law practice in the others and (in addition to a top notch staff) I supervised interns in law and social work.
I write because I can and I like to. Also, it is a way to attract attention to the Integrative Law movement and to showcase the innovators and pioneers in the movement.
I’m currently working on two books, with collaborators. Lawyers as Designers and Trauma-Informed Law: A Primer for Lawyers in Practice. Look for those in 2022. A book on holistic policing is also on the drawing board and I’m outlining a book for general audiences about intentionally living outside your comfort zone.
My books are being adapted and translated into various languages. The Italian version is the one most likely to be on the market first.
In addition to consulting on stories, I write articles and chapters. I contributed to The Best Lawyer You Can Be: A Guide to Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellness by Stewart Levine and 50 Lessons for Women Lawyers – From Women Lawyers: Career and Life Lessons From 50 Successful Women Lawyers by Nora Riva Bergman. I’ve written forwards and chapters for other books that have been translated into other languages. Years ago, I contributed to What Can You Do With A Law Degree by Deborah Arron.
Currently I am teaching at Quinnipiac University School of Law. I’ve been a guest lecturer at more law schools than I can count, on six continents. Periodically, I will teach a whole course as an adjunct or visiting faculty member. I’ve taught Mediation and ADR, Restorative Justice, and Business Law at the college/university level. I have taught Integrative Law at Charlotte Law School, Values-Based Contracts, Negotiating and Drafting at Barry University’s Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law and a past Transactional Clinic Clinic (using Conscious Contracts®) at Quinnipiac Law School. That Clinic at Quinnipiac was the beginning of a longer relationship and the course is now a part of the regular curriculum.
In 2020, I rcreated a reader on Integrative Law for a South African colleague. The reader became a course which is now taught at seven South African law schools. I also conducted a short training for the lecturers in the course.
I try to stay in touch with legal education in other ways. For several years, I was on the planning committee of the Lawyers as Peacemakers annual conferences at Phoenix School of Law (also known as Arizona Summit Law). I served on the executive committee of the ABA Legal Education and Practical Problem-Solving Task Force. I developed their website and have been on panels to speak of the task force’s work to legal educators. I attended and was a keynote speaker at the 2018 Open University conference on the Futures of Legal Education and Practice in the UK.
In 2016, I spoke at the Ashoka U Exchange, addressing change-making law professors, most of whom are teaching in the social enterprise movement. That led to my participation in a Working Group for Reimagining Legal Education where I have signed up for the Impacting Law Practice and Impact Investment sub-groups. I was a speaker and planner for the Ashoka U legal education pre-day program on Law and Social Innovation. We have an on-going project to develop a curriculum for law and social entrepreneurship. We’ve used Design-Thinking tools for research among impact and social entrepreneurship communities.
If we seek peace and community in the world, strangely enough, lawyers will lead us there, specifically through the restorative framework and movement. –Peter Block
Sometimes I say that I collect lawyers. I am sincerely curious about what people are doing, who they are, how they got here, what they envision, their hopes, dreams and future adventures. I push, nudge, cajole, and encourage them to try out some of their ideas and we’re often surprised at how well they resonate with clients and the community.
I spend most of my time as a connector. In my travels, I find those who are the harbingers of the new, emerging future of law. I reach out to the interesting people whose stories cross my path. My writing attracts attention and I get emails from lawyers who previously thought they are alone. I stay in touch with Earth Lawyers, Sharing Lawyers, healing lawyers, peacemakers, and dozens of other kinds of innovators who are passionately solving the problems of the day and joyously working to move us all forward. I support, connect, and showcase the work of the paradigm-shifters. I help to give language to and highlight what is going on in the new system, and I liaison with our kindred spirits in other disciplines: conscious business. abundant communities, organizational development, consciousness, etc. I have a finger in a dozen international projects and impact ventures as a behind-the-scenes adviser and champion.
I started my work in peacemaking and law early in my career – in the mid-1990s. In 1999, I attended my first conference of the International Alliance of Holistic Lawyers and I was a member, board member, website developer, and more there over the years. I was a founding board member of the Renaissance Lawyer Society and author of its original website over twenty years ago. I have been an erstwhile member of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, National Association for Community and Restorative Justice, the Project for Integrating Spirituality, Law, and Politics and other organizations, task forces, and committees. When I am a member, I am usually an active one. I was one of the founders of the IACP Diversity Task Force and one of the hosts of the Diversity Summit in Niagara Falls, Ontario. I’ve helped plan dozens (maybe hundreds?) of conferences. I’ve trained collaborative practitioners around the world. I have spoken at several IACP conferences and have written for the newsletter. I’ve also spoken at several conferences of the National Conference for Community and Restorative Justice and I am a supporter of the Florida Restorative Justice Association. I have been an advisory board of the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence.
In 2018, I became one of the co-chairs of the Relational Practices Task Force of the ABA Dispute Resolution Section and I was Chair of the Relational Practices Summit in September. I hosted the Relational Practices monthly call series in 2018 and 2019.
Convener, Evolutionary, & Possibilitarian
I convene groups, lead retreats, and organize summits. Sometimes I convene those with special interests: lawyers who study the Enneagram, who study Jungian psychology, or even those who love music. In 2018, I was one of the conveners of a conference for “integrally-informed” lawyers.
My travels often take me back to the same places. I consult with local groups, look to see what is the next step, and help to design programs to move them forward. I’ve hosted two US summits of integrative lawyers from a broad spectrum of practice areas and often gather integrative lawyers in regional and national meetings. In July, 2021 I co-hosted an all-day Gathering which covered all the time zones around the world. A third summit, this time online, will be held in October, recognizing the 10th anniversary of the first one.
I am intrigued by societal transformation and my work often serves as a laboratory for applying the newest ideas. I am a student of many societal and organizational models for grounding transformation in groups. I am a fan of the Berkana Institute Two Loops model. I have studied Appreciative Inquiry for more than 20 years. I’m certified in Spiral Dynamics I and II and was a speaker at the 2018 SDi Futures Summit which led to an article in Integral Leadership Review. I am also a graduate of the TheoryU U-Lab course, Transforming Business, Society, and Self. I was recognized with Honors in Becoming a Changemaker: Introduction to Social Innovation by University of Cape Town.
I am a senior graduate of Landmark Education programs, with more than 1,000 hours of transformational education, including the Wisdom Curriculum through Power and Contribution. I am a past-participant and speaker at the Conference for Global Transformation.
I’ve circumnavigated the globe several times. I love the adventure of discovering a new place but my travel is not haphazard or tourism. I travel with a purpose. I was one of the early digital nomads, before it was cool.
These days, I’m staying in one place but still traveling around the world without carrying luggage.
Mom, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother
I have had an unusual family life. I sometimes refer to it as mine, his, ours, and theirs. My first son was born in my sophomore year of college. My second husband had a big family when we married and we added a daughter to the mix. When I went to law school, I had seven children at home. That marriage ended in my second year of law school and I got an intimate taste of an adversarial divorce. Luckily the children and I have stayed connected. My [step] daughter was living with me when her first child was born – while I was taking my first bar exam. As the years went by, other children (often teenagers) moved in and became part of the family. There were 16 children who lived with us over the years.
Now it is a motley crew. My firstborn son has a five-year old. My youngest daughter still follows in the tradition of rescuing lost boys. The grandson born during my bar exam has five children. His sister has a toddler son. In between there is an extended family worthy of its own book.