BarBri Offers Mindfulness Training

BARBRI, one of the nation's most popular bar review courses, has broken important new ground by introducing a four-week mindfulness training as part of its bar prep training. In this cutting-edge offering, Christy Cassisa, BARBRI's Director of Professional Effectiveness, shares a series of four trainings to help those studying for the bar during this challenging and intense period in their professional development.

A link to these trainings--which BARBRI has generously made available to everyone studying for the bar--can be found by clicking here (scroll down to the bottom of the page). Each week beginning June 25th, a new training is made available, integrating a discussion of the mindfulness with experiential practices. Christy Cassisa (a friend whom I admire very much for her integrity and ability to effectively communicate mindfulness) developed the training in collaboration with the highly regarded University of California San Diego's Center for Mindfulness.

BARBRI is to be credited with making this important innovation in its bar review training, following smartly on the heels of the role mindfulness is beginning to have within legal education.

What is perhaps most important is that by introducing lawyers to mindfulness at this critical period in their careers, BARBRI may be playing a fundamentally important role not only in the life of the young lawyer, but across the legal profession and society.

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Mindfulness in Law Workshop for Miami Lawyers, Judges, and Law Professors

The Mindfulness in Law Joint Task Force of the Dade-County Bar Association and Federal Bar Association (South Florida Chapter) will be holding a Mindfulness in Law Workshop on May 17th at the University of Miami School of Law. Click here to learn more.

A Law School Dean on Mindfulness and the Law

In her recent article in the San Francisco Daily Journal, Golden Gate University Law School Dean, Rachel Van Cleave, wrote on the future of the legal profession, concluding with these words on the role of mindfulness.

'Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we all need to find a way to quiet the noise around us in order for us to cultivate a less anxious and reactive posture. Responding to "the crisis" with a reflective, purposeful and mindful approach can help us internalize and live up to the aspirations of our profession. Over the last 10-15 years, more lawyers, judges, legal educators and law students have incorporated mindfulness practices into their lives and careers. A number of law schools offer courses on "mindfulness for lawyers." Reflection and mindfulness helps law students and lawyers of all sectors become better listeners, better problem solvers, better counselors at law, and better colleagues. A focus on conscious lawyering has great potential for helping lawyers develop attributes that are essential to happiness and satisfaction: empathy, resilience and wisdom. I believe that such an approach can allow law students and lawyers to respond with flexibility and calm in rapidly changing times."

Golden Gate is fortunate to have Judi Cohen, as a members of its faculty. Judi is founder of Warrior One and has been sharing mindfulness with law students, attorneys,and judges for many years.

You can read Dean Van Cleve's article by clicking here.

Law as a Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness is often looked to as a salve for a challenging and stressful work life. Its connection to the law and to the lives of law students, lawyers, faculty, and judges is growing. Less considered is law practice as a mindfulness practice. Yet it can be worthwhile to consider the wisdom inherent in the unorthodox answer to this question:

Question: "I am interested in becoming a more mindful person. What should I do?"
Answer "Become a lawyer."

The great paradox is that while legal professionals feeling overworked, overstressed, underwhelmed, and unhappy are turning to mindfulness to ease their distress and help them relate more effectively to the challenges they face (and, to be sure, mindfulness is helpful in this regard), and they often wish they could have a little less law in their lives--learn to say "no," avoid hostile opposing counsel, get out of the office at a reasonable time--it is the practice of law itself that serves among perhaps the greatest mindfulness practice opportunities. We could term this "reciprocal practice."

But to more fully appreciate this is to understand how things can change (including one's ability to say "no," more often, avoid hostile counsel or no long perceive them as so hostile, and more easily (with less guilt or fear) leave for home at the end of the day) by seeing the moment more clearly for what it is--including the thoughts, feelings, and sensations arising inside us during those moments.

As it is sometimes said that a powerful place to practice mindful sitting is on the streets of New York, so too a powerful place to practice mindfulness during the day is right where you find yourself-practicing law. While there is much more to the decision to practice law than its potential as a mindfulness practice, for those of us in the legal profession, this insight can be helpful when looking for meaningful ways to practice and cultivate mindfulness. As is so often the case, the answer if found right in our own backyard.

Mindfulness in Legal Education Conference at Berkeley Law

This June (6-9), the Berkeley Initiative for Mindfulness in Law will be hosting the nation's first conference focusing primarily on integrating meditation into law schools. Educators from around the country will be coming together to explore and advance this important conversation. Click here to learn more.
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Mindfulness and the Law: The Law and Mindfulness

There is a natural tendency among many of us to think that the legal profession will benefit from a strong dose of mindfulness and that, perhaps in time its growing presence in the law will transform the law. I suspect this is true.
It is not often that the opposite is considered as well; namely, that mindfulness will benefit from the law. The law is a system that evolved out of chaos. Mindfulness is a practice that recognizes the presence of chaos amid a larger body of wisdom and compassion. The law, at its best, offers members of society compassion and wisdom to heal wounds and minimize the suffering that can arise out of chaos.
It can be easy to look to contemplative practices as a vehicle to escape the chaos — as opposed to work with it. A great many practitioners talk about finding peace and relaxation. It is as if the objective is to eliminate the stress and the pain. Many of us, even if we feel this way, also recognize the larger perspective.
The law grapples with chaos constantly. Suffering is evident in the law--across the many contexts in which it is applied. Mindfulness will make its mark early on by helping those in the legal profession see more clearly their own suffering and offer a path to greater clarity and well-being. As it does, lawyers and others in the profession will find a greater spaciousness to bring about more just and present outcomes. This will require keen awareness and courage in the midst of struggle.
I believe that as more lawyers integrate mindfulness into their practice, and begin to interact with with more mindfulness practitioners, it will help transform much of the ways that mindfulness is considered, explored and practiced.
(originally published April 23, 2010).

"Creating a Mindful Society" workshop with Professor Rhonda Magee

Join Law Professor Rhonda Magee, Congressman Tim Ryan, Saki Santorelli, and Susan Gillis Chapman for what is sure to be a powerful mindfulness practice experience. The retreat. "Creating a Mindful Society" takes place September 27-29, 2013 at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. Click here to learn more.

Mindful Awareness and Burden Shifting

In the law, we are keen on legal doctrines that involve burden shifting.  Here is a simple and familiar example:  A plaintiff has the burden of making a prima facie case and then the burden shifts to the defendant to rebut the prima facie showing.

So often in relationships, personal and professional, things do not go as planned and we find ourselves feeling offended.  Instinctively, we erect our own version of the burden shifting rule.  We make the prima facie showing of why we are right and they are wrong and the burden shifts to them to explain or, better yet, concede defeat and then pay us damages–-be it an apology, a promise never to do it again, conceding a point, or whatever remedy we think is appropriate.

The practical challenge to this approach is that it is often not made explicit. That is, the rule is one we implicitly embrace but rarely communicate to the other yet expect them to comply with.  Another challenge is that often the “other” interprets the same event as if they are the plaintiff.  They erect their own rules and expect us to comply.Mindfulness offers a simple insight that obviates the need for the burden shifting rule, and leads to relief.  The burden does not shift.  It rests and remains on us.

A defensive response to this insight is to reject it and comment that it hints of the “abused persons” syndrome where the abused feels the harm inflicted on them is their fault.   The simple reason why this application doesn’t work is that
it has nothing to do with fault.

It has everything to do with realizing the true nature of experience and coming to deeply understand the nature of the mind.  Every affront you feel is an experience of your own making.  Yes, an event took place and it may well be one where someone else acted inappropriately and corrective action is to be pursued.  But the unpleasant feeling, that often translates into “outrage,” “resentment,” “anger,” “frustration,” or some other agitated state, is an internal experience.  It has no reality beyond the moment it arises as neurons in your brain fire and crackle, and then sputter, and then die down.  Yet, we can grab hold of that experience and wield a grand story around it.  This is where the burden shifting kicks in, the rules arise, and everyone sees things differently.

Mindfulness offers this simple instruction.  The next time the neurons fire and crackle and you feel agitated by the actions of another, pause and take a few moments to observe what is arising in your mind and body.  Breathe for a few moments as you pay attention to the thoughts arising, the emotions surging, and the sensations flowing through your body.Just notice.  You don’t need to figure anything out.  You don’t need to make you case, or defend your case, or expect someone else to.  By paying attention, you insert a buffer between the momentary experience and your conditioned reactivity.  That conditioned reactivity in this case is the "case law" you are relying on to make your case, win your argument, and receive a favorable judgment.  Because the momentary experience is just that—momentary—it passes.  If you succeed in allowing it to pass, you are left with the important visceral reminder that there may be something to address, but you are no longer caught up in the whirlwind of affect.

You can see more clearly, your brain returns to a more integrated state from which better decision-making can take place, and you are more likely to obtain a just outcome.But the burden is always on you . . . . to bring mindful awareness to the moment.
(originally Published July 3, 2010)

Mindfulness in Law Conference Taking Place at Seattle University School of Law

The Seattle University School of Law and Washington Contemplative Lawyers will be convening a "Mindfulness and Law Conference" featuring Keynote Speaker Rhonda Magee. The event takes place on September 12, 2012 at Seattle University School of Law from 7:30-4:30.

Jack Kornfield to Speak at Berkeley Law

As part of the Berkeley Initiative for Mindfulness in Law speaker series, internationally regarded mindfulness teacher Jack KornfieldFeb. will be speaking at Berkeley Law on February 29th , discussing "how the wisdom of meditation can enrich the lives of lawyers and foster a more just and compassionate profession." You can learn more by visiting the Berkeley Initiative for Mindfulness in Law by clicking here.
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