Law as a Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness is often looked to as a salve for a challenging and stressful work life. Its connection to the law and to the lives of law students, lawyers, faculty, and judges is growing. Less considered is law practice as a mindfulness practice. Yet it can be worthwhile to consider the wisdom inherent in the unorthodox answer to this question:

Question: "I am interested in becoming a more mindful person. What should I do?"
Answer "Become a lawyer."

The great paradox is that while legal professionals feeling overworked, overstressed, underwhelmed, and unhappy are turning to mindfulness to ease their distress and help them relate more effectively to the challenges they face (and, to be sure, mindfulness is helpful in this regard), and they often wish they could have a little less law in their lives--learn to say "no," avoid hostile opposing counsel, get out of the office at a reasonable time--it is the practice of law itself that serves among perhaps the greatest mindfulness practice opportunities. We could term this "reciprocal practice."

But to more fully appreciate this is to understand how things can change (including one's ability to say "no," more often, avoid hostile counsel or no long perceive them as so hostile, and more easily (with less guilt or fear) leave for home at the end of the day) by seeing the moment more clearly for what it is--including the thoughts, feelings, and sensations arising inside us during those moments.

As it is sometimes said that a powerful place to practice mindful sitting is on the streets of New York, so too a powerful place to practice mindfulness during the day is right where you find yourself-practicing law. While there is much more to the decision to practice law than its potential as a mindfulness practice, for those of us in the legal profession, this insight can be helpful when looking for meaningful ways to practice and cultivate mindfulness. As is so often the case, the answer if found right in our own backyard.