Holistic law practice fundamentally differs from traditional law practice in that is works both to resolve a client’s immediate legal problems as well as to cultivate a foundation for future happiness in a way that greatly reduces the likelihood of similar future legal problems. As I have written elsewhere, legal problems and personal suffering often share the same root in one’s identification with a constructed sense of “self” perceived as separate from other life forms. Instead of a life connected to a non-dualistic sense of “being,” the fictional sense of “self” or “ego” is inherently insecure based on the simple fact that it is not real. As a result, we constantly strive to satiate cravings or aversions of the ego which surface largely as a result of an individual’s historical societal conditioning. These strivings are often manifested in time as legal problems.
Unless one can learn to dis-identify from the conditioned thoughts that comprise his or her ego, he or she will continue to act in ways so as to feed and preserve this fictional sense of self. This endless pursuit to satisfy wants and avoid unpleasantries is very likely to lead to more unhappiness and, quite possibly, repeated legal problems in the future.
The inherent lack underlying this fictional sense of self or ego is well articulated in a recent talk by David Loy at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. You can click here to listen to this talk online. Besides exploring various ways in which we have historically sought to compensate for this sense of lack through religion, money, and fame, Mr. Loy also acknowledges the important societal utility of the constructed sense of separate self as largely facilitating communication. Without the constructed sense of separate self, much of our communication – e.g., pronouns, etc. – would be non-sensical. Again, however, problems arise when we mistake this construct as real and personally identify with this construct as defining who we really are.
Traditional law practice ignores these underlying dynamics. An attorney aiming to help clients and society by addressing legal problems at their root must look beyond overt actions by a client that may have precipitated his or her current legal situation. To ignore the underlying roots of these behaviors is to fail to solve the client’s underlying problem. In failing to provide real solutions, traditional law practice arguably becomes part of the problem.