The ABA Dispute Resolution Section has created a relational practices task force. You may ask, “What are relational practices and why is there a task force?” A startling report on Lawyer Well-Being (August 2016) highlighted the crisis in the legal profession regarding depression, alcoholism and general incivility. The ABA was aware of a growing number of practitioners who are dedicated to new and more integrated ways of practice that seem to counter the effects of burnout and incivility and which to foster better outcomes for the lawyer and client.
Perhaps you too have been questioning aspects of traditional legal practice that have led to burnout or a jaded view. Perhaps you have noticed that somewhere in your legal career you began to live a bifurcated life: your professional persona in one arena and your personal persona in another. For many of you, you also chose to do something about that, perhaps a primary motivator for becoming part of the alternative dispute resolution field. The ABA has launched a task force on this shift: The Relational Practices Task Force.
The Relational Practices Task Force exists to create a movement in response to what I call the Adversarial Crisis in the legal system which has caused, and is causing, great suffering in society and throughout the legal profession for judges, lawyers and their clients. The Task Force is devoted to fostering a paradigm shift from a transactional ethic to a relational ethic. The movement will support dispute resolution practitioners, lawyers, advocates, and negotiators in all practice areas in becoming more aware of their adversarial interactions and tendencies and more conscious and confident about choosing thoughts and actions which foster well-being rather than maximizing self-interest, theirs and their clients’, at the expense of others. Choosing to be relational empowers lawyers to move beyond the adversarial ethos by giving them a framework and practical ways to be effective in more expansive ways, more human in decent ways. Relational practices not only improve the quality of interaction, especially difficult interaction, but they create well-being, increase work satisfaction and client satisfaction. Such approaches allow practitioners to care for themselves and to more competently and effectively serve their clients, the legal system and the public interest.
If this piques your interest, please join us at the ADR Spring Conference, April 4-7, 2018 in Washington, DC for a Relational Practices Task Force welcome meeting on Friday afternoon. Please also join the inaugural internet/phone/video Relational Practices Telesummit September 10-14, 2018. We are seeking cutting edge thinkers and practitioners of a Relational approach who are able to articulate clearly in 6 minute, 18 minute and 30 minute increments what being relational means to them and what relational practices look like. It’s going to be lively and educational! In this edition of the newsletter, don’t miss Kim Wright’s article on the Telesummit and the link to the RFP to be a content contributor to the Telesummit.
In this edition of the Just Resolutions Newsletter, we begin to offer seeds of new thinking and practicing. Enjoy Section Director Linda Seely overview of The Relational Practitioner Taskforce,” and Professor Susan Brooks writes about relational practice for legal education. You can anticipate a series of thoughtful articles on Relational Practices in future newsletters, and we invite you to contribute. We also hope to inspire you with the blog, Transforming the Adversarial Ethic: Being Relational, which will launch in the next edition. We welcome you to join the relational practices movement. Together we will look at the unintended consequences of the adversarial ethic, take a stand for a more relational way of being and support each other and the shift in practice both in thought, word and action.
Louise Phipps Senft
Chair of the Relational Practices Task Force