Root to Rise: Mindful Lawyering for Social Justice
30 Pages Posted: 8 Apr 2017 Last revised: 17 Apr 2017
Date Written: April 7, 2017
This article presents a new lens through which lawyers and law students can engage with the ever-growing field of mindfulness and contemplative law practice. Since the early 2000s, mindfulness has moved from the margins to the center, gaining momentum across multiple areas of legal practice including conflict resolution, mediation, trial advocacy, and therapeutic jurisprudence, among others. But the dominant approach to contemplative practice and pedagogy has yet to meaningfully explore the connection between mindfulness and transformative social change. This article seeks to fill that void. Rather than continue to associate — and often isolate — mindfulness as individualized, this article decenters the identity of “mindfulness and law” from the individual and expands it into the collective. Specifically, this article re-envisions social justice lawyering through the lens of yogic practices. It seeks to reveal how the Eight Limbs of Yoga can expand the domains in which social justice lawyers act and how mindfulness can nurture the growth of both the individual and the collective. Rather than expound a “universal” theory, this article proposes one possibility for understanding mindful social justice lawyering aimed at redefining the contours and meaning of contemplative legal practice, with the goal of expanding the ontology of the contemplative law movement. Instead of simply looking at one layer, experience, or relationship, mindful lawyers and law students should develop a practice that is grounded in approaching others with dignity and respect — one which promotes equality and inclusion, resists subordination, and fosters self-expression and self-determination.
Keywords: public interest practice, social justice, contemplative practices, mindfulness and law, yoga, community lawyering
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