idealawg's third Legal Highlight is Ward M. Powers, creator of the independent film ONE The Movie, and of ONE The Project. Powers recently was the keynote speaker at the 2006 Annual Convention of the Arkansas Trial Lawyer's Association; his presentation was Oneness and the Law.
Please click back to the first of the Legal Highlights to learn about the Legal Highlights process and the reason behind this feature which focuses on what is right and working well in the legal profession.
Here are the responses of today's Legal Highlight Ward Powers to the seven questions:
1) Think about your recent experience in the legal profession and of a specific incident or event that made you feel extremely satisfied or proud. Give a brief description of the incident or event. The reasons I felt satisfied or proud were . . .
As a practicing civil trial attorney I have spent nearly 25 years in the adversarial process. Almost by definition, that process is an environment in which we “hammer out” our differences as opposing forces “dig their heels in” and attempt to wear each other down to the point where one side can emerge “victorious”.
Fortunately, over the past several years of my life I have had the opportunity to become experientially familiar with any emerging energy in the world known as “oneness”. This is nothing more complicated than the simple awareness that we are all connected - - as not just to one another as people – but to the earth, the universe and that all matter and spirit is one.
Does this sound a bit existential? If you had asked me that question five years ago, I would certainly have said “yes”. Now it is as familiar as breathing.
Interestingly, my personal journey along this path is chronicled in an independent film, known as ONE, The Movie. (Go to www.onetheproject.com for more information.) To make a long story short, I had an opportunity to meet and interview many of the world’s great spiritual leaders and ask them life’s ultimate questions over the past few years. This experience has completely changed the paradigm through which I view the world – and so too, my practice of law.
The examples are many, but recently the workings of this new paradigm involved a personal injury matter in which I was representing a woman injured in an automobile accident. Rather than simply obtaining the police report and medical records and aggressively attempting to overstate the ‘devastating’ impact of the injuries on my client’s life in an effort to coerce the adjuster into a sizeable settlement (as I might have done ten years ago), I employed what has proved to be a much more effective strategy.
By having the client journal about her emotions and life’s struggles and real daily life stories, putting together family photographs, a list of hobbies, and other related personal information and scheduling an in-office personal appointment with the adjuster, we spent an hour together over sandwiches and bottles of water getting to know each other and helping the adjuster come to understand as an authentic experience how this tragedy has affected a “real person’s” ability to enjoy the gift of our existence. Even the tone of our dialogue soon became united in our purpose to honestly look at the case, the injuries, and the need for appropriate compensation – not as a hostile battle over dollars – but, as a joint effort to make sure to be fair, realistic, and prepare the work together towards honesty “doing the right thing”.
The result was an adjuster who literally went back to the company with a personal desire to make sure that she obtained sufficient authority to honestly resolve the situation. We were able to reach a prompt settlement for much more money than a long, drawn out adversarial process would have resulted in.
Beyond this, the client was not put through a traumatic litigation process (on top of the trauma of an accident), and the adjuster also came to appreciate an entirely different way of living out her gifts and purpose in the world. We were not divided, but we were united in a common interest to do the right thing, come to fully understand and appreciate each other’s situations and this kind of energy completely changes the way things get done in the world.
Now, that is a satisfying day at the office!
2) I attended law school because . . .
I originally started law school because it is what my father did; and, I thought I could make a nice living at it. (As you can tell from the preceding answer – things have changed a bit.) [Read an interview of Powers and his father, about a quarter of the way down the page to which this links.]
3) I would recommend the practice of law because . . .
I would recommend the practice of law because it represents a very unique and powerful opportunity to actually make a difference in our collective experience – i.e., playing a role in a system of justice that can become much more than a battlement – but, rather a true system of reconciling and making peace with the reality of tensions that exist in a complex life.
4) My colleagues who practice law appreciate doing so because . . .
I am seeing more and more of my colleagues starting (sometimes in very small ways) to recognize this potential in their private practices.
5) The benefits lawyers contribute to society are . . .
Our ability to contribute to society is absolutely unimaginable if we actually can rise to this challenge and work towards transforming (often one individual at a time) the practice of law and, ultimately, the system of justice in such a way as to introduce this new integrated way of seeing the world into that process.
6) The factors that make up the heart and the soul of law are . . .
I authentically believe that these are the factors that make up the heart and soul of the law – it is more than simply a “pursuit of justice” (although, that is part of it) – it is a pursuit from mutual understanding, respect, dignity, and ultimately justice emerges from the energy of recognizing that you and your opponent are not enemies, adversaries, or even “opposing counsel” . . . you are one.
This changes everything!
7) Think of a lawyer you consider a role model. The traits or values I respect or admire about him or her are . . .
I respect and admire an attorney who knows their life's priorities and manages the practice accordingly. They are the leaders who not only serve their clients, but, their families, communities and world.
They are the ones in the courtroom, the Bar association meeting, the soup kitchen AND the soccer field.
We know them by name...but more importantly, by the inspiration they create and life they bring.