June 17, 2019

Killing Them Softly (Part Eight): What We Might Be Missing

rhodesThe Abstract to Prof. Austin’s Killing Them Softly states that “This Article provides a groundbreaking synthesis on the neuroscience of achieving optimal cognitive fitness for all law students, law professors, and lawyers.” The article is all that, and more: it’s also a call to action.

Killing Them Softly looks at issues such as legal ethics and the cognitive performance and general wellbeing of law students and lawyers through the lens of neuroscience. What we see through that lens invites us to change — assuming we don’t like the idea that we’re inflicting brain damage on ourselves and each other.

Strange, though, isn’t it, but articles like this are rarely incendiary. They get read and cited, they prompt dialogue, and then the wheels of change roll slowly through institutions, grinding against a powerful ethos of “this is the way we’ve always done it.” Eventually change happens, but it’s not exactly a forest fire.

What we might be missing is that the market for legal products and services isn’t constrained by institutional sluggishness, and is already running ahead, embracing change. The market isn’t hidebound, it can move as fast as it wants. And if it wants something other than lawyers thinking through a cognitive fog, it can get it. Now.

Presumably, there will always be a need for lawyers who can “think like a lawyer” that way the ideal was originally intended, but nowadays that’s a shrinking market segment. A sizeable and burgeoning market segment has already broken off that apparently doesn’t want lawyers who think like lawyers — at least, not in those brain-damaged, cognitively impaired ways we’ve been looking at in this series. That segment has already found a way to buy legal commodities delivered by non-lawyers that used to be delivered as services by lawyers. (This blog catalogued some of these developments earlier this year. See Future Shock and the Business of Law, The New Lawyer Entrepreneurs, and Learning to Think Like a Lawyer an Entrepreneur. )

Saying “but they’re not supposed to do that” is a finger in the dike. Worldwide ecommerce wants what it wants when it wants it, and the fastest market responders are all over mindfulness and wellness as a business growth strategy. If they so choose, those are the people who will develop a new market segment of law schools and law practices operating at “optimal cognitive fitness” and fostering “achievement cultures,” as Prof. Austin advocates.

Now that’s incendiary change. If we want in on it, the resources are out there. Again, from Prof. Austin:

One of the most supportive achievement workplace cultures can be found at Google. The master of ceremonies, and developer of Google’s Search Inside Yourself (SIY) emotional intelligence curriculum, is Chade-Meng Tan. The benefits of developing emotional intelligence competence include strong work performance, excellent leadership skills, and the capacity for sustainable happiness.

For more about SIY, check out the Inside Yourself Leadership Institute website. Here’s their mission statement:

We develop effective, innovative leaders using science-backed mindfulness and emotional intelligence training.

The World of Woo-Woo has taken up residence on Wall Street. The legal profession might want to join them. Prof. Austin issues the invitation:

Neural self-hacking is likely to be the newest fitness movement and law students, law professors, and lawyers should be among the early adopters of a regimen of cognitive wellness.

Early adopters? The legal profession?

It could happen.

The concept of “emotional intelligence” originated in Daniel Coleman’s book by that name. More on that another time.

Rhodes has been a lawyer for nearly 30 years, in firms large and small, and in solo practice. Years ago he left his law practice to start a creative venture, and his reflections on that topic appeared in an article in the August 2014 issue of The Colorado Lawyer. His ebook, Life Beyond Reason: A Memoir of Mania, chronicles his misadventures and lessons learned about personal growth and transformation, which are the foundation of much of what he writes about here. If you enjoy reading this blog and would like to contribute a blurb to Kevin’s upcoming collection of these posts, please email Kevin at kevin@rhodeslaw.com.

A collection of Kevin’s blog posts, Enlightenment, Apocalypse, and Other States of Mind, is now available as an ebook. Click the link to sample and download it from the distributor’s webpage. (Soon to be available on iTunes, Barnes & Noble, and Scribd.) Includes Forewords from Debra Austin, author of the Killing Them Softly law journal article, and from Ron Sandgrund, author of an article on lawyers exiting the law in the August 2014 issue of The Colorado Lawyer, in which Kevin was interviewed.

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