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Law Practice Today

October 2023

My Niche: An Integrative Law Practice Where Values Matter

J Kim Wright


  • Is it possible to build a law practice around your core values?  Kim Wright believes you can.
  • She describes the path that led her around the world, and to establishing a practice that allows her to make a living, and make a difference to issues.
  • Her practice includes helping align clients’ legal documents with their values.
My Niche:  An Integrative Law Practice Where Values Matter

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Those who have followed my work know that I have always marched to a different drumbeat.  What you may not realize is that my drumbeat is based on my values, and I design my life to align with what matters most to me.

 I began practicing family law almost 30 years ago, building a multidisciplinary practice that included a social worker, counselor, mediator, and coach. I wrote my documents in plain language and talked to my clients about holistic topics like their dreams and values. I was one of the first collaborative practitioners outside of Minnesota and I had a website before most lawyers knew that there was a worldwide web. Later, I learned about restorative justice, therapeutic jurisprudence, and other models that were more about peacemaking and healing than fighting and winning.  I loved being on the cutting edge and taking on challenges.

I was hungry for connection with like-minded practitioners, because I wanted to share my ideas and learn from others, so I began to seek out interesting conferences and events. In the first decade of the 2000s, I attended events on many topics:  holistic law; peacemaking; humanizing legal education; collaborative law; restorative justice; mediation; diversity and inclusion; therapeutic jurisprudence; creative problem-solving; sacred activism; coaching; appreciative inquiry; and more. I saw commonalities in the content of all the conferences, also noticing that others were unaware that they were talking about the same topics with different frames. They were focused on their own niches, not the broader picture.  It felt to me like something was happening on a systemic level, something not yet visible to everyone.

My work soon evolved beyond a local law practice to calling attention to the broader systems change that I was seeing. I adopted a model articulated by the Berkana Institute as the Two Loops approach.  Berkana’s model recognizes that systems change, that they rise and fall as values shift.  Their model posits that as a dominant system reaches its peak and begins to decline, some members of the system begin to innovate, leave the old system, and create new ways. At first, these pioneers are alone, often struggling with ideas that run counter to the mainstream.  Left to their own devices, they may give up.  However, if they are connected, supported, and their work is illuminated, there is a chance that they will be the seeds of a new system that is more closely aligned with the prevailing values.

In 2007 I went to so many conferences that my travel was interfering with my ability to earn enough money. A reasonable person might have stopped traveling. Instead, I got rid of the mortgage and became a digital nomad.  (At the beginning, there was no such term.)

Starting my peripatetic time, I thought I was making a documentary about a transformation in law.  My videographer and I interviewed dozens of lawyers who were thinking about law differently – and creating their own niche practices from their new ideas.  These were creative models that often grew from the personalities of the innovator. A new platform had just launched – YouTube – and the dial-up was giving way to faster internet so it was possible to share our videos.  I created the Cutting-Edge Law YouTube channel as a place to share the interviews of these pioneers and changemakers.

In 2009, the American Bar Association publications department found the channel and called me:  “We knew law was going in this direction; we just didn’t know it had gotten so far,” the editor said to me. “Will you write a book about this movement?”   That year I was named as a Legal Rebel, an ABA designation for visionaries, and my first book, Lawyers as Peacemakers, Practicing Holistic Problem-Solving Law, was released in April 2010.  It was an immediate ABA bestseller.   

I often say that the publication of the book was the day I went from just being weird to mainstream. 

At first, I believed it was just a U.S. movement, though a broad one.  In 2011, a group of 30 leaders of different models gathered in Colorado and named the movement, Integrative Law.  Later that year, I got my first international invitation, to Australia.  South Africa came in 2012.  And Europe the next year. India and South America came later. The internet-based community grew.  Lawyers as Changemakers, The Global Integrative Law Movement was published by the ABA in 2016.

After leaving my house and practice in 2008, for the next 15 years, I traveled around the world, seeking out the pioneers, connecting them to each other, providing support and encouragement.  I wrote to be seen, to be found, and to show others what was possible.

To earn a living, I was a keynote speaker, trainer, adjunct professor, consultant, and coach.   I was the advocate for following your bliss and many lawyers chose to do so. I became the expert at designing life and law practices that aligned with the mission, vision, and values of the lawyer.

Conscious Contracts® Process

J Kim Wright

Conscious Contracts® Process

In 2020, the pandemic sent my work online.  My most popular in-person training had been the Conscious Contracts® training and I adapted it to an online program.  Over the next two years, practitioners from five continents, doing business in 20 languages, were trained, a certification program was built, and the model was honed and tested. 

Online education opened the opportunity to teach a remote class at Quinnipiac Law School. Starting as a one-semester clinic, it evolved into two semesters, a foundational course on integrative law and a hands-on clinic, applying the Conscious Contracts model with clients around the world.  (See this law review article for more details.)

During the pandemic, I compiled a reader and educational designers from IIE Varsity College in South Africa created a curriculum on integrative law for seven law schools.  In 2023, I went to South Africa in person where I met and worked with the teachers and students.  I spoke at the Southern African Law Teachers Association conference and several other law schools became interested in adopting ideas from the model. Two textbooks on integrative law are in progress.

Returning to the U.S. at the end of 2022, I decided that I was through traveling and I was ready to settle down.  I’d visited six continents, spoken to hundreds of lawyers, had two ABA books (and another then underway).  What could I do for an encore?

I decided to go back to North Carolina, where I am licensed, and return to law practice. I wanted to test my ideas in the laboratory of real life, again.

"Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world's deep need." 
- Frederick Buechner

I’d been working with lawyers to redesign their practices in my coaching program. The Conscious Coach process also includes the creation of a personal touchstone which serves as a compass for decision-making.  I decided to update mine and attune and align with it.

Touchstone example.

J Kim Wright

Touchstone example.

This is the Touchstone I created.  In our Conscious Contracts work, we often use design and graphics to deliver the message, so this became a poster that hangs on my wall. 

I also reflected on the skills I have, both the ones I like to use and those I can do well but don’t enjoy.  I contemplated the future of the planet and felt inspired to find ways to make a difference.   It was a given that I would be practicing integrative law and I felt into which models were most resonant for me.

I decided to focus my practice in two areas:  writing legal documents that align with the client’s values; and consulting on topics that matter to me.  The documents include:

Conscious Contracts:  I work with social entrepreneurs and conscious businesses in building a mission and values-based culture of transparency and relationships. 

Conscious Wills & Trusts:  Inspired by Australian Peter Lustig and South African Rhiannon Thomas, I’m offering documents that go beyond the legal minimums and include the clients’ values, a designed process for resolving conflict, and the opportunity to have a family meeting where emotions can be expressed, and misunderstandings cleared up.  My background in restorative justice and comfort and skill with emotions will allow deeper conversations. I see the possibility of healing old wounds that really open up the possibility of “resting in peace.”

Premarital and Separation Agreements: With decades of family law experience, this document practice allows me to bring my expertise to families at critical junctures. 

Earlier this year, I moved to North Carolina, bought a house, registered Integrative Law Center as the name of my firm, and opened shop. After just a few months of getting settled, things are beginning to click. I’m building a very eclectic community and getting embedded in the community.

I’ve been asked to write several documents – Knowledge-sharing agreements, liability assignments, wills, trusts, contracts, etc. 

My consulting and coaching have taken on various forms.  Conscious Contracts work lends itself to other types of business advice and I have existing clients who will continue to work with me.  I’d done work with the Earth Law Center and was particularly fulfilled by the opportunity to make a difference in an organization working on rights of nature and climate change.   

I connected with TS Designs, a local textile company with B-Corps designation in a state that doesn’t even recognize the benefit corporation entity. I have been consulting and giving legal advice to them on many issues.  I’ve been incorporated into their community and have an office inside the building. I am also the lawyer for the Triad Electric Vehicle Association, being at the right place and time when their previous lawyer retired.

I’m discovering that my own settling into a home has motivated me to make that possible for others.  Work with a collaborative contract client opened the door to volunteering to start a local eviction mediation program, which led to another housing project, a REIT project that focuses on housing for the marginalized and housing insecure. 

As co-editor of the recently published Trauma-Informed Law: A Primer for Practicing Lawyers and a Pathway for Resilience and Healing, I’m doing some resilience, well-being, and trauma-informed law work. I’ve partnered with a systems change expert who focuses on building networks for transformation.

As I build my new niche law practice that is uniquely designed to fit my values, strengths, skills, and preferences, I am still continuing to do some of my previous work.  My Quinnipiac semester just began and I teach an online training in the Conscious Contracts model. I’m still speaking at a few conferences.  I have a handful of coaching clients. 

My plate is full and I love everything I do.  I’m making a living and making a difference.