Lawyers As Changemakers

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What do lawyers and social entrepreneurs have in common? We need both of them in order to make positive change in the world. Social entrepreneurs are visionaries who start enterprises to solve social, cultural, and environmental problems. Lawyers are needed to help activate and sustain those businesses because, as J. Kim Wright says, law is the DNA of society

And yet, there are many barriers that impede lawyers’ and social entrepreneurs’ ability to work together. What better way to break through some of those roadblocks than to bring those two groups together for an honest, open discussion of these challenges and exploration of possible solutions?

We had the opportunity to do exactly that last week. J. Kim Wright came to Portland for a Lawyers As Changemakers workshop, named after her best-selling book. I had the opportunity to help organize the workshop and run a mini design sprint. In her keynote, Kim illustrated the history and trajectory of the integrative law movement. Integrative lawyers embody four key qualities: They are reflective. They are guided by their purpose and values. They are design thinkers with a systemic view of the world. And they are the harbingers of a new cultural consciousness, which makes them leaders in social evolution.

The pillars of integrative law overlap with my design-driven approach to innovating legal services. Self-awareness (including an awareness of one’s purpose and values) is the foundation from which lawyers can leverage their unique strengths to build more scalable—and sustainable—law businesses. This, in turn, will lead to better outcomes for those lawyers’ clients, their communities, and themselves

I had a blast participating in this workshop. We heard from a range of local changemakers—from Dona Cullen, a collaborative lawyer trained in HeartMath, to Don Merrill, whose startup CNBSeen replaces bulbs on passenger vehicles at low or no cost to drivers while also educating them on how to interact with police in a way that reduces the possibility of violence.

My colleague John Grant updated the audience on the Oregon State Bar’s Futures Task Force, which recently issued its report recommending several progressive changes to the regulation of legal services. And then I ran a design-thinking sprint, which gave participants the opportunity to delve further into the challenges that social entrepreneurs face when trying to work with lawyers. I also discussed the connections between design thinking (as both a process and a mindset) and integrative law. 

Even though the event focused on local changemakers, there were also some notable out-of-town guests, including Innov8Social founder Neetal Parekh and Tom Thomison, the co-founder of HolaracyOne and Encode.org

The event sponsors included Immix Law GroupHatch InnovationTipping the Scales and Wholehearted Business Development. Catering for lunch and happy hour was provided by local B Corps: Elephants DelicatessenHopworks Urban Brewery, and Winderlea Vineyard and Winery