Today I am talking with Scott Rogers, a Florida-based lawyer who trains other lawyers, as well as law students, in meditation and mindfulness. Scott, thanks very much for agreeing to participate in my series of interviews of thinkers and practitioners who have ideas that are valuable for the legal profession. The question I typically lead with is one asking people how they were drawn to their areas of expertise. I like to hear their stories.
So, Scott, let me start by asking how you got interested in mindfulness and meditation?
My readings introduced me to mindfulness practice and I began to hone in on this kind of practice. It supported me through a terrific ride in law school, a series of judicial clerkships and finally a commercial litigation practice with White & Case. With the marriage moving along and babies being born, mindfulness meditation became an important part of my life. I think it allowed me to perform well at work and be present when I was home, and maintain perspective on the interplay of work, family, and meaning in life.
Both while clerking for Judge Rosemary Barkett and then practicing with White & Case, I was happy to share and discuss mindfulness with my colleagues. I was always struck by their genuine interest in the subject. And I am a big believer of “everyone in their own time." Here were people interested in this work, but finding themselves and their life just not conducive to incorporating a mindfulness practice. I wished it were different—that at least there was a way for them to taste it and to know what I was talking about.
At this stage in my practice, the formal and informal were coming together. As I was interacting with a lot of parents and we were all sharing stories of the challenges of parenthood, I began to develop an approach to teaching mindfulness to parents, using the child as a primary object of awareness or as a cue to turn inward. That led to the book Mindful Parenting: Verses, Visualization and Meditations for a More Joyful Life.
The success of this approach with parents naturally extended to the law. Why not use that same methodology to develop a program for lawyers? But instead of imagery of a child, I would use imagery of the law and legal terms. Thus was born Jurisight®.
Interesting! Tell me more about using legal terminology to teach lawyers about mindfulness.
What was most exciting to me was that the law lent itself so naturally to this method of teaching. I did not use wordplay just to be clever. It was as if legal terminology and the
entire legal context were made for this exploration.
For example, in the Jurisight® programs, “Mindfulness, Balance & The Lawyer’s Brain” and “Worrier to Warrior,” the legal terms “Torture,” “Pain & Suffering,” and “Hearsay” are wonderful vehicles to teach fundamental mindfulness principles. When people learn the quantity of their mental chatter and how so much of it is judgmental, they appreciate the ways in which their minds can torture themselves. That no one judgment is a big deal but thousands a day, each its own drop of water on the forehead, add up. "Pain and Suffering" offers a natural jumping off point for the same concepts in mindfulness. As we cultivate the ability to embrace pain — to be there for it and not resist so much — we suffer less. "Hearsay" is a reminder that we might want to, from time to time, object to our own mental assertions, that they might just be out-of-the-mind statements offered for the truth of the matter – and believed!
With background principles shared using this lingo, lawyers get it and they remember it. Then, “Due Diligence” and “Stare Decises” offer attorneys insight into a willingness to examine their mind – in search of hearsay – and be aware of and open to the nature of change and impermanence. With Due Diligence we inquire whether a thoughts connected to afflicted feelings is the truth – the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Stare Decises reminds us that we chose a profession that moves with all deliberate speed and yet we live in a world that isn’t as beholden to precedent.
Terms like “Res Ipsa Loquitur” instruct us on the true value of silence, allowing us to intentionally disrupt internal and external dialogue to see more clearly what is actually happening, and “Quid Pro Quo” moves us into the subtle ways that actual reactionary behavior as well as our reactions to what we perceive to be inappropriate conduct can lead to our own ethical and professional impulses and lapses.
Jurisight is also an experiential process and many exercises involve the hands. They are called the “Learned Hand” exercises. What better way to remind us of the clarity of mind created by mindfulness than with a reference to one of the great legal minds. But even more, it’s a reminder that our body is learned and we benefit greatly as we begin to listen more closely.
Many of the exercises involve allowing the world to be just as it is. Jurisight® transforms the concept of Justice into “Just Is.” And so, for example, we have the “Just Is Story” exercise where we mindfully explore the stories we tell ourselves and all too readily believe.
I know that you also use neuroscience when you train lawyers. How does that fit in?
Lawyers are an intellectual and very-much-in-their-minds group. For many, mindfulness has a soft quality, a new age essence, and its connection with mediation can create a hurdle in connecting with attorneys. In the last decade, there has been fascinating research on the effect of contemplative practices like mindfulness on the brain, clarity of mind, performance and well-being.
Phrases from neuroscience are used by the general population with increasing frequency. What could be better than to use brain research to help introduce attorneys to the benefits of mindfulness? And to show them brain's role in breaking old habits and creating new ways of thinking and behaving?
You have certainly designed a very creative program. What's next, Scott?
Lots of exciting stuff on the horizon. Last semester I began working with the University of Miami Law School teaching a six week “Jurisight® for Law Students" program. I am finishing up a booklet that introduces law students to mindfulness in a way that is both fun and focused on helping them take care of their minds and bodies.
I’m very excited about a three-hour program in June at the Florida Bar Convention in Orlando. Lawyers will receive CLE to learn about mindfulness and, perhaps most thrilling, watch four masters of mindfulness, Professor Len Riskin, Judge Alan Gold, and attorneys Paul Lipton and George Knox. The four will interact together as the mind of a lawyer responding to audience members' questions in a spontaneous demonstration of the reactive and then the mindful brain.
And I am so looking forward to October when I will be co-teaching a Jurisight course at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York as part of the Global Negotiation Insight Institute. I’ll be working with Erica Ariel Fox and Carole Kammen who are just extraordinary.
Thanks very much, Scott. I have enjoyed learning about your work. I know you are providing many lawyers and law students with tools that can help them to be more effective professionals, and assist them in their personal lives too. And in such a unique way!