The Law Program

Welcome to our Program Archive

This page is part of our archive of past program activities.

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society works to support the contemplative dimension of teaching, learning and knowing in higher education. We invite you to learn more about our current initiatives.

Yoga at a Retreat for Lawyers

Overview

The Law Program explored ways of helping lawyers, judges, mediators, law professors and students reconnect with their deepest values and intentions, through meditation, yoga, and other contemplative and spiritual practices. From 1998 through 2011, the Center’s Law Program organized retreats and events which provided a framework for considering ways in which contemplative awareness can enhance and enrich our professional and personal lives and bring them more into balance. Our retreats addressed questions and ideas from both a contemplative and legal perspective: the nature of winning and losing, the role of compassion in adversarial situations, truth and “right speech,” Socratic and contemplative methods of inquiry, action and nonaction, separation and connection, and listening.

Lawyers enter the field of law for a myriad of reasons. Some want to help the disenfranchised; some see law practice as a means to financial security. Others seek to promote democracy and fairness. Still others hope to correct societal injustices. In one way or another, the personal reasons for pursuing a law career reflect one’s individual morals and priorities.

Along the professional path, rigorous training in analytical thought, combative discourse and a narrowing focus on a body of written rules tends to obscure or overshadow those original guiding principles. Law students are trained to “think like a lawyer” rather than to think as individual moral agents. Moreover, the demand of exhausting work schedules during and after law school leaves little time for leisure and fun, let alone for quiet introspection and realignment with one’s inner compass. Professional stress and burnout are commonplace. As a result, many lawyers find that the details of their daily work, the analytic decisions they make and the directions they pursue on behalf of their clients bear little resemblance to the values and aspirations that originally led them into a law career. Furthermore, the very notion of the law as a “helping profession” is laughable to much of contemporary America, and this reflection serves to further demoralize practicing attorneys and to discourage many who would seek to join the profession.

Within this context, in October of 1998 the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society hosted its first Contemplative Law Retreat. This venture began a series of experiments within a new model: bringing together law students, faculty and practitioners in a shared space for a retreat experience that included instruction in and time for both contemplative practices and group discussions about combining these practices with a life in the law. The premise was simple: If lawyers had the time and tools for quiet contemplation, their professional actions could be informed by their own deep and abiding personal values. If lawyers could gain more insight and perspective on the many factors that influence their work, from emotions to physical health to stress, they could recognize and ultimately disengage from distractions and attend to their clients’ needs more completely, and with far greater satisfaction.

The Law Program ceased to operate as a free-standing program of the Center as of January 1, 2012. The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society presently focuses its efforts on broadening the reach of contemplative practices in society through Higher Education via the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education and related programs and events. For more information, please visit the ACMHE webpage at acmhe.org and the Center’s main website at contemplativemind.org.

The Center intends to continue to support the ongoing work of lawyers and legal academics to transform legal education, building on the work of Charles Halpern, Leonard Riskin, and other pioneers in the movement to bring together mindfulness and law with whom we have been affiliated over the years. We look forward to working with both new and experienced law teachers in this transformative and inspiring work.

We are grateful for the work of the many who have contributed to the Program’s success over the years–including the Program’s founder and Center for Contemplative Mind in Society co-founder Charles Halpern, and its most recent Director, Doug Chermak. We invite you to become involved in their new endeavors:

  • Charles Halpern  directs the Initiative for Mindfulness in Law at Berkeley Law.
  • Douglas Chermak wishes to offer gratitude to all of the supporters of the Law Program and the many folks who have attended our programs over the years. He remains committed to furthering the work of the law program. In that regard, he will continue working on initiatives at the forefront of the intersection of mindfulness and the legal profession as an Associate Director of the Institute for Mindfulness Studies, directing its Mindfulness in Law Program. The website is found at www.mindfulnessinlawprogram.com.  He is excited to continue to serve the legal profession in this capacity and looks forward to being in community with you and hopefully seeing many of you again.

 

Audio Recordings

The Mindful Lawyer: Practices & Prospects for Law School, Bench, and Bar

October 29-31, 2010 UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law (see more resources from this conference on The Mindful Lawyer)

  1. Meditation session with Norman Fischer (1:21, 112 MB)
  2. Meditation session with Patton Hyman and Robert Chender: Working With Fear Through Contemplative Disciplines (1:27, 122 MB)
  3. Taking STOCK Exercise (1:15, 104 MB)
  4. Deeper Implications of Mindfulness for Conflict Resolution (1:07, 95 MB)
  5. Mindfulness in Other Professions and Disciplines (1:23, 120 MB)
  6. Mindfulness and Restorative Justice: Focus on an Innovative Approach to Lawyering (1:26, 123 MB)
  7. Opportunities in Law Schools: Courses, Academic Support and other Co-Curricular Activities (1:34, 144 MB)
  8. Putting It All Togther: What Does a Mindful Lawyer’s Practice Look Like? (1:20, 111 MB)
  9. Neuroscience of Mindfulness: A Deeper Exploration (1:32, 143 MB)
  10. Religious, Spiritual, Secular: Situating Mindfulness (1:26, 120 MB)
  11. Can Mindfulness Transform Legal Doctrine and Policy? (1:22, 109 MB)
  12. Mindfulness and the Law School Experience: Student Perspectives (1:26, 107 MB)
  13. Meditation Instruction For Lawyers by Norman Fischer

 

Effective Lawyering: A Meditation Retreat for Law Professionals and Students

Menla Mountain Retreat Center, Phoenicia, NY

  1. Norman Fischer on emotions and law (1:17, 109 MB)
  2. Susan B. Jordan (0:49, 70 MB)
  3. Norman Fischer on trust (1:16, 108 MB)
  4. Charlie Halpern on trust (0:59, 83 MB)
  5. Evening panel discussion (0:22, 31 MB)
  6. Norman Fischer’s closing remarks (1:07, 95 MB)

Law Resources

Recommended Resources

The Affective Assistance of Counsel: Practicing Law as a Healing Profession by Marjorie Silver
Transforming Practices: Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life by Steven Keeva
Worship and Wilderness: Culture, Religion, and Law in Public Lands Management by Lloyd Burton
The Lawyers’ Guide to Balancing Life and Work: Taking the Stress out of Success by George W. Kaufman
The Soul of the Law: Understanding Lawyers and the Law by Benjamin Sells
The Reinvention of Work: A New Vision of Livelihood for Our Time by Matthew Fox
Coming to Our Senses by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Wherever You Go, There you are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn

 

Papers and Articles

Mindful Lawyers Lead the Way to Work and Life Satisfaction
Pat Sullivan, examiner.com, April 20, 2011

Meditation: A New Practice for Lawyers
Diane Curtis, The California Bar Journal, January 2011

The Law of Mindfulness 
Barry Boyce, Mindful.org, July 2010

Quiet Justice
Charles Halpern, Greater Good, June 29, 2010

Reflections on a new course: Effective and Sustainable Lawyering: The Meditative Perspective
Charles Halpern, April 2009

Move from Being a Mindless Lawyer to a Mindful Lawyer
Stephanie West Allen, The Complete Lawyer, Jan. 14, 2009

A Mindful Practice is a Sustainable Practice
Stella Rabaut, The Complete Lawyer, Dec. 12, 2008

The Mindful Lawyer and the Challenges of Diversity: The Benefits of Mindfulness in Differently Diverse Practice Settings
By Rhonda V. Magee
Adapted from “The Mindful Law Professor and the Challenges of Diversity,” 2008.

Meditation for Lawyers (Really)
by Rasa Fournier, Midweek, December 5, 2007

Zen and the Art of Lawyering: Legal eagles find meditation a stress solution
by Heidi Benson, San Francisco Chronicle, July 30, 2007

The Mindful Lawyer
by Robert Zeglovitch GPSolo Magazine, October/November 2006

Meditation goes to work: When conflict and stress hit you at work, try looking East to calm yourself and find better ways to cope
by H.J. Cummins Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune, January 20, 2006

Maintaining Integrity and Cultivating Compassion
by Steven Schwartz Executive Director, Center for Public Representation Originally published in Management Information Exchange, January 2005 issue.

The Contemplative Lawyer: On the Potential Contributions of Mindfulness Meditation to Law Students and Lawyers and their Clients
by Leonard L. Riskin 7 Harvard Negotiation Law Review 1-66 (June 2002)

 

Past Events

  • September 8-11, 2011 Effective Lawyering: The Meditative Perspective A Meditation Retreat for Law Professionals Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Woodacre, CA
  • May 25, 2011 Integrating Trial Advocacy and Mindfulness Theory & Practice a webinar with David Zlotnick, Professor of Law, Roger Williams University School of Law
  • January 16, 2011 Meditation for Lawyers CLE At the Law Offices of Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian Oakland, CA
  • October 29 – 31, 2010 The Mindful Lawyer: Practices & Prospects for Law School, Bench, and Bar University of California at Berkeley School of Law
  • December 9, 2009 Meditation for Lawyers CLE Oakland, CA
  • April 2-5, 2009 Effective Lawyering: The Meditative Perspective A Retreat for Legal Professionals and Students Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Woodacre, CA
  • September 11-14, 2008 Meditation Retreat for Law Professionals and Students Menla Mountain Retreat Center, Phoenicia, NY
  • April 2-6, 2008 Meditation Retreat for Law Professionals The Angela Center, Santa Rosa, CA
  • December 3, 2007 An Evening of Meditation & Instruction for Lawyers At the Law Offices of Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian Oakland, CA
  • November 4-5, 2007 Law as a Healing Profession Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center at Touro College Central Islip, New York
  • April 15, 2007 Meditation Retreat for Law Professionals Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Woodacre, CA
  • December 1, 2006 Introduction to Meditation for Bay Area Legal Aid New College School of Law
  • November 14, 2006 Boalt Hall Meditation Group Meeting for Lawyers Berkeley School of Law
  • May 10-12, 2006 Meditation Workshop at the Joint Judicial and Management Conference Cumberland, MD
  • April 20-23, 2006 A Meditation Retreat for Law Professionals and Students Spirit Rock Meditation Center
  • November 1, 2005 An Introduction to Meditation for Legal Professionals Green Gulch Farm Zen Center
  • April 14-17, 2005 Lawyers’ Retreat Spirit Rock Meditation Center
  • March 8, 2005 Jon Kabat-Zinn visits the Boalt Hall Meditation Group
  • November 18-21, 2004 Lawyers’ Retreat Spirit Rock Meditation Center Read the report from this retreat (.pdf file) 
  • April 3-6, 2003 Lawyers’ Retreat Spirit Rock Meditation Center
  • Fall 2002 – present Boalt Hall Meditation Group Since the fall of 2002, Charlie Halpern, Chair of the Board of Contemplative Mind, has led regular weekly meetings of the Boalt Hall Meditation Group. The group brings together students, faculty, and staff each week at the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California at Berkeley. Members practice sitting meditation and qi gong, a form of movement meditation. Each week also includes a conversation about bringing the practice to the study and practice of law.Now in its fourth year, the group is officially recognized as a student group at the law school. Charlie leads the group alongside Doug Chermak, a Boalt grad and the Law Program Coordinator. The group has also featured various guest leaders, including the well known mindfulness meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn.
  • November 16, 2002 Spirit in Action: The Heart and Soul of the Advocate A program at the National Legal Aid and Defender Association (NLADA) Conference.
  • May 10-12, 2002 Exploratory Law Gathering Fetzer Institute, Kalamazoo, MI Read the report from this retreat.
  • March 22-24, 2002 Lawyer’s Retreat Trinity Conference Center, West Cornwall, CT Read the report from this retreat.
  • October 18-22, 2001 Lawyer’s Retreat Race Brook Lodge Read the report from this retreat.
  • October 20-24, 2000 Lawyer’s Retreat Trinity Conference Center, West Cornwall, CT
  • March 11-15, 2000 Lawyers’ Retreat Whispering Pines Conference Center
  • October 22-26, 1999 Retreat for Yale Law School students and faculty, and attorneys from Hale & Dorr Pocantico Conference Center
  • October 23-27, 1998 Retreat for Yale Law School students and faculty led by Joseph Goldstein Trinity Conference Center, West Cornwall, CT Read the report on this retreat.

Links

Contemplative Lawyers: Some Mindfulness Resources is a collection of links to articles and talks maintained (& frequently updated) by Stephanie West Allen.

Cutting Edge Law is an online resource for anyone interested in the growing community of those who seek alternate approaches to the traditional adversarial legal system.

The Institute for Mindfulness Studies brings the contemplative practice of mindfulness to practitioners of law by offering instruction in techniques specifically designed for attorneys. IMS’s mission is to improve the quality of life and practice for attorneys and law students and to contribute to the re-establishment of society’s recognition of the challenging and admirable role played by attorneys.

The Mediate.com Spirituality Section explores how our own spirituality, different spiritual philosophies and many spiritual practices support and enhance who we are as mediators.

The Mindful Lawyer: Practices & Prospects for Law School, Bench, and Bar–the first national conference exploring the integration of meditation and contemplative practices with legal education and practice–offered a blend of academic presentations, discussion, and contemplative practice. Video and audio recordings from much of the conference are available on the conference website, along with guided meditations, syllabi from related law courses, and relevant books and articles.

Project for Integrating Spirituality, Law, and Politics Seeks to develop and articulate a new vision of law’s relationship to social transformation and bring together leaders and activists in such spiritual/political/humanistic legal movements as Restorative Justice, Understanding-based Mediation, Collaborative Law, and Humanizing Legal Education under a common theoretical and practical vision that can unify their respective efforts.

Women in Law International is an online resource to connect lawyers across the world around such vital issues as Corporate Social Responsibility, Gender, Diversity and Sustainability. WIL also coordinates mentoring services, workshops and other support programs, and mindfulness and creativity retreats.

 

Contemplative Law Groups

These groups are not affiliated with The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society.
If you would like to list a contemplative law group, or have updated information about one of the groups listed here, please feel free to contact us.

Washington Contemplative Lawyers

An organization for Washington State lawyers and judges interested in mindfulness and the law. WCL explores how mindfulness can enhance legal skills, increase professionalism, and improve lawyer and judge wellbeing. The group aims to provide support to lawyers and judges incorporating mindfulness into their professional lives; education on the relevancy and application of mindfulness to the legal profession; and opportunities to practice mindfulness together in retreat and other settings. The group meets every month at the WSBA offices (1325 Fourth Ave; 11th floor) in downtown Seattle from 12-12:50 pm. The meeting includes a short shared mindfulness practice. No prior mindfulness experience is necessary as our discussion and exercises are accessible to both beginners and those with existing practices, formal or otherwise. This is a non-religious group and welcomes persons of all backgrounds and beliefs. For further information contact Sevilla Rhoads at SRhoads[at]gsblaw[dot]com. Read an article on the WCL to be published by the Washington State Bar Association.

New York City Bar Association Contemplative Lawyers Group

The New York City Bar Association Contemplative Lawyers Group meets monthly at the City Bar for meditation practice and presentations by attorneys who are also mindfulness meditation teachers. Meetings start at 7pm, and include a period of guided meditation, a presentation on a topic of interest to attorneys, and a group discussion. Prior meditation experience is not necessary. For more information please contact Robert Chender at nycclg[at]gmail[dot]com

DC Area Contemplative Law Group

The DC Area Contemplative Law Group is a group of lawyers who seek to balance the externally driven practice of law with contemplative practices. We meet almost every month for meditation and discussion in a private room on the third floor of Skewers/Luna Books (1633 P Street NW). The meetings run from 7:00PM to 9:00PM, but people often come early to chat or eat something. Parking is $2.00 with validation. For more information, email Linda Lazarus, LindaLazarus[at]starpower[dot]net.

Colorado Contemplative Lawyers Society

Denver, CO Meets the third Tuesday of each month, beginning at 5:30 PM

Program includes meditation and discussion of a topic previously announced. Often a guest speaker is invited. The location changes, but is always somewhere in metro Denver. Read a history of the group (.pdf). For further information, contact Diana Black at dblackesq[at]gmail[dot]com.

SF/Berkeley Dharma Group for Lawyers

One Sunday per month San Francisco and Berkeley Zen Centers 9:30-11:30 a.m. Led by Mary Mocine see http://vallejozencenter.org/law-dharma

We meditate for a half hour, then discuss an aspect of law practice as it relates to meditation and our deeper values. The meetings alternate between San Francisco and Berkeley Zen Centers. After the discussion, we have a potluck brunch. Coffee and tea are provided. A teaching donation will be requested. Meditation instruction will be offered. For information, please contact Mary Mocine at mmocine[at]sbcglobal[dot]net.