Working Notes: Engaging in intellectual activism

I’m delighted to share a draft of a forthcoming law review article on intellectual activism and news of a wonderful new board affiliation with a favorite group.

“Intellectual Activism and the Practice of Public Interest Law”

I’ve posted to my Social Science Research Network page a draft of a law review article, “Intellectual Activism and the Practice of Public Interest Law,” which will appear in the Southern California Review of Law and Social Justice, published at the University of Southern California law school. You may access a freely downloadable pdf version here.

Here is the article abstract:

How can law professors, lawyers, and law students use legal scholarship to inform and inspire law reform initiatives that advance the public interest? How can we bridge the gaps between academic analyses that sharpen our understanding of important legal and policy issues and practical proposals that bring these insights into the light of day and test their application? How can we bring an integrated blend of scholarship, social action, and evaluation into our professional practices?

I would like to explore these and related questions by invoking a simple framework that I call intellectual activism, which serves as both a philosophy and a practice for engaging in scholarship relevant to real-world problems and challenges, putting its prescriptions into action, and learning from the process and results of implementation. In the legal context, intellectual activism involves conducting and publishing original research and analysis and then applying that work to the tasks of reforming and improving the law, legal systems, and the legal profession.

This article explores the concept and practice of intellectual activism for the hopeful benefit of interested law professors, lawyers, and law students. It is a very personal piece, grounded in extensive scholarly, public education, and advocacy work that I have done in two areas: (1) researching and authoring proposed workplace anti-bullying legislation and building public awareness of the phenomenon of bullying at work; and (2) playing a visible role in an emerging legal and social movement to challenge the widespread, exploitative practice of unpaid internships. It also discusses my involvement in three unique, multidisciplinary networks and institutions that have nurtured my work in an intellectual activist mode, examines the relevant use of social media, and provides examples of how law students can function as intellectual activists.

The article also includes an annotated bibliography of books broadly related to intellectual activism. Those seeking guidance and inspiration on how to blend scholarship and social action will find some valuable stuff in this book list.

Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies

I have gratefully accepted an invitation to join the board of directors of Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies (HumanDHS), a global, transdisciplinary network of scholars, practitioners, activists, and students who are committed to advancing human dignity and reducing the experience of humiliation.

I have written frequently about HumanDHS and my participation its annual workshops, including a piece last week highlighting writings by some of its core members that dig deep into the meaning of dignity and humiliation in our society. 

Frankly, some requests to join non-profit boards feel like a burden. Others, however, naturally mesh with one’s ongoing work and activities. My joining the HumanDHS board fits squarely in the latter category.

A view from Vienna: New wine and new bottles for the practice and substance of law

It seems that every time you turn a corner in Old Vienna, you see sights like this one. (photo: DY, 2015)

Location indeed: It seems that every time you turn a corner in Old Vienna, you see sights like this one. (photo: DY, 2015)

Yup, as the real estate folks might say, sometimes it’s all about location, location, location.

As I wrote over the weekend, I’m in Vienna, Austria, for the International Congress of Law and Mental Health. Among other things, this biennial gathering allows me to reconnect with people and ideas associated with therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ), the pioneering school of legal thought that examines the therapeutic and anti-therapeutic properties of law, legal processes, and legal practice.

It struck me how absolutely cool it is to be at this particular conference in a city where matters of the mind have such deep historical roots. It is both inspiring and instructive to exchange ideas with scholars, practitioners, judges, and students who embrace no less than a transformative commitment to creating laws and legal systems that advance psychological well-being.

Professor David Wexler, a co-founder of therapeutic jurisprudence, is fond of invoking a “new wine” and “new bottles” analogy for describing TJ’s role. In a 2014 law review article about the criminal justice system, David suggests that we “think of TJ professional practices and techniques as ‘liquid’ or ‘wine,’ and . . . think of the governing legal rules and legal procedures—the pertinent legal land- scape—as ‘bottles.'”

In other words, the “wine” of the law is how lawyers and other legal stakeholders go about doing their work. This may include essential lawyering tasks such as interviewing clients, negotiating settlements, and conducting litigation. The “bottles” of the law are the substantive rules that define legal rights, responsibilities, and relationships and the procedural structures and mechanisms by which we attempt to resolve legal matters.

I like the wine and bottles analogy, and it certainly applies to my realm of employment and labor law and policy. A TJ-inspired “wine” for employment law practice involves acting preventively concerning employment disputes, trying to mend work relationships rather than to further fracture them, and engaging in smart, sensitive client counseling.

A TJ-inspired “bottle” for employment law includes drafting and advocating for the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill, the very topic that attracted me to therapeutic jurisprudence in the first place. Properly constructed workplace bullying legislation creates incentives for employers to act preventively and responsively towards bullying behaviors and provides targets with a legal claim for damages.

I realize that some readers may pass over articles in which I toss around this unwieldy sounding term. “Therapeutic jurisprudence” is a mouthful, yes? But let’s think about it: How much better would our laws and legal systems be if they were designed mainly to encourage psychologically healthy outcomes? If you understand the significance of this question, then you now comprehend the essence of therapeutic jurisprudence and why it’s so important.

Learning about law and mental health in Vienna

St. Stephen's Cathedral, Vienna, a top attraction (photo: DY, 2015)

St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna, a top attraction for visitors (photo: DY, 2015)

I’m in Vienna, Austria, for the International Congress of Law and Mental Health. This is a biennial, large-scale event, with roughly 1,000 registrants and multiple panels running concurrently throughout the five-day period. The Vienna gathering is appropriately being held at Sigmund Freud University.

For me, the Congress is an opportunity to learn about important intersections between law, public policy, psychology, and mental health on a global scale. It’s also a chance to connect with friends and colleagues within the therapeutic jurisprudence community. Therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ), as I’ve written here before, is a school of legal thought that examines the therapeutic and anti-therapeutic properties of law, legal processes, and legal practice. I originally became associated with the TJ community through my work on workplace bullying and the law. Now the TJ lens substantially frames my perspectives on the law.

With so many participants descending upon a big city (the last three Congresses were held in Amsterdam, Berlin, and New York), this can easily become the type of event where one feels lost in the crowd. However, the International Network on Therapeutic Jurisprudence has organized a “conference within a conference,” a series of panels on various aspects of therapeutic jurisprudence, held over the entire course of the event. While even those who are strongly connected to the TJ community often present at and attend other panels, the dedicated array of TJ-related panels serves as a sort of home base. People become more familiar with names and faces and thus are more likely to forge connections that would be more difficult to make without this ongoing series of panels.

The importance of this global perspective cannot be overemphasized. Compared to many other nations, the U.S. is often somewhat resistant toward integrating psychological perspectives into its laws and legal procedures. American law students discover this right at the beginning of their studies, when they learn how legal doctrines such as criminal law and tort (personal injury) law struggle to find a place for psychology and mental health in assessing key questions such as intent and emotional distress.

It’s also a treat to be able to spend some time exploring Vienna. I have not been here since 1981, when I followed a semester abroad in England with a quick tour through parts of western Europe. There is so much culture and history in this city, starting with the tumultuous 20th century and going way, way back. Of course, Freud and Carl Jung also made their imprints here, so I’m bound to pick up some lessons in psychology as well beyond what I learn at the conference.

 

Cultivating heart quality in professional practices

Carolyn Thomas, a heart attack survivor and women’s health advocate, writes about the importance of kindness in health care practice in her popular Heart Sisters blog, starting with a story about her visit to the emergency room and subsequent placement in the cardiac care unit:

What I do vividly remember, however, is a small but profound act of kindness later that day when I was brought to my bed in the CCU (the cardiac intensive care unit). The nurse who came to greet me as my gurney was pushed off the elevator placed one gentle hand on my shoulder (and more importantly kept it right there as she walked alongside down the long corridor). As we moved, she bent lower over my head to speak slowly and softly into one ear, introducing herself and assuring me that I was “in the right place” – and that her whole team would do their best to take very good care of me while I was with them.

She goes on to reference, among other things, studies showing that medical students’ levels of empathy begin to decline during the course of their training:

Much of this interaction, however, depends largely on health care professionals’ ability to empathize – to imagine what it’s like to walk in the hospital booties of their patients.

So it’s shocking for many people to learn that, even among naturally kind and empathetic medical students, studies suggest that empathy for others begins to wane by the third year of med school as students progress. This is particularly true, apparently, for future doctors entering technology-oriented specialties – like cardiology.

Thomas’s article raises important questions about the training and education of those entering the helping and human service professions, especially fields such as health care, law, and social services.

For example, a healthy dose of training in client counseling should be an important part of a law school program, including the cultivation of greater sensitivity to a client’s emotional state during often stressful legal proceedings. Therapeutic jurisprudence, the school of legal thought that examines the therapeutic and anti-therapeutic properties of the law, legal practice, and legal education, takes these matters seriously.

To illustrate, in a 2010 law review article, “Employment Law as if People Mattered: Bringing Therapeutic Jurisprudence into the Workplace,” I devote a lot of attention to client counseling in the context of employment disputes, including the recognition that clients may be experiencing considerable anxiety and stress in view of the stakes involved.

These considerations should be examined against the broader canvass of emotional and social intelligence. As I wrote four years ago in a post on leadership:

For those who have the personal qualities to be effective leaders but lack the background and experience, leadership and management training programs emphasizing the so-called “soft skills” would help sensitize them to the human aspects of their jobs.

In fact, it’s arguable that basic management training should be part of all professional degree programs, such as medicine, education, law, and business. This initial exposure can be augmented by continuing education offerings for those elevated to leadership positions.

Maybe this seems like a lot in order to get back to the point of Carolyn Thomas’s blog post: How a nurse’s simple words of comfort and reassurance helped her to deal with a life-threatening health crisis. Nevertheless, in professions that, by their nature, must place great emphasis on analysis and problem solving, the human element needs reinforcing as well.

***

Hat tip to Peggy Berry for the Thomas article.

A Note from Your Host: Summer is in sight

Boston Common (photo: DY, June 2015)

An early June evening in the Boston Common (photo: DY, June 2015)

Well folks, with exams and papers now graded and recorded, my 2014-15 academic year has come to a close. In addition, and most gratefully, I have survived Boston’s winter and early spring, a brutal stretch that played havoc with everyone’s lives and patience.

Along with many others who teach at universities, I am now in summer mode. For me, that means a lot of writing and project work, along with a few program speaking and participation opportunities.

Bullying Research Network, Annual Think Tank, Boston, MA, June 2015

I had the pleasure of spending the past two days participating in the Bullying Research Network‘s (BRNET) annual Think Tank, held this year at Boston University. BRNET is a global network of researchers, most of whom are studying some aspects of school bullying. BRNET’s home is at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and its co-founders are Drs. Susan Swearer (Nebraska-Lincoln) and Shelley Hymel (University of British Columbia).

They created the Think Tank as an annual opportunity for researchers to gather together to share information and insights. I’ll be writing a separate blog post about this program later this week, but for now let me say that I got so much out of being a part of it, and in the process I met a lot of terrific, impressive people.

International Congress of Law and Mental Health, Vienna, Austria, July 2015

In July, I’ll be taking a long plane flight to Vienna, Austria, for the 2015 International Congress of Law and Mental Health, a biennial, global gathering of academicians, practitioners, judges, and students hosted by the International Academy of Law and Mental Health. I’ll be on a panel that examines how therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) perspectives can be integrated into law teaching and legal education. My paper will examine how TJ can be included in continuing legal education programs for practicing attorneys.

This week-long conference, featuring dozens of panels each day, also provides an opportunity for extended conversations with law professors, lawyers, and others who are committed to reforming our laws and legal systems to be more responsive to mental health and well-being. Through this event, the international therapeutic jurisprudence community creates a sort of “conference within a conference,” with an ongoing series of panels dedicated specifically to TJ themes.

I’ve also added a few extra days in Austria, which will serve as a brief summer vacation. I have not visited the city since 1981, as part of a quick jaunt through western Europe following a semester abroad in England. I’m very curious to see how I will react to the city this time around, through more mature and appreciative eyes.

Projects

I’m currently putting the finishing touches on a law review article manuscript on intellectual activism, drawing in large part upon my own involvement over the past decade or so on issues related to workers’ rights and worker dignity, especially workplace bullying and unpaid internships.

In the piece, I’m setting out a practice model for law professors, lawyers, and law students that starts with a foundational writing, usually a scholarly law review article, that serves as the intellectual basis of investigating a compelling issue of law and policy and concludes with potential proposals for change and reform. The next steps move into a more activist, public mode, engaging in activities such as drafting legislation, supporting impact litigation, and doing public education work.

By early fall, I hope to secure an offer of publication from a law review and post the draft to my Social Science Research Network publications page. (For a preliminary exploration of the ideas I’m developing more fully now, see my 2013 essay, “If It Matters, Write About It: Using Legal Scholarship to Effect Social Change.)

I’ve got a few other writing projects in the works that I’m not ready to preview yet, but I’ll be working on them during the summer months. In addition, I’ll be working on two local fall program plans, (1) a therapeutic jurisprudence workshop for law professors and lawyers; and (2) an event or two in conjunction with Freedom From Workplace Bullies Week in October.

Finally, I’m tying up a loose thread, finishing a coaching training program that I substantially completed last year. I have some written assignments to finish and an oral certification exam. This training has already proven useful to me in understanding workplace dynamics, and in a more applied sense I’ve used some coaching techniques in working with my students.

All of this looks eminently doable from the view of early June! But as we all know, the Endless Summer that the Beach Boys sang about becomes especially fictitious as we get older, so I’d best be as disciplined as I can about this stuff. Here’s to a good and productive summer to all.

Working Notes: Upcoming speaking appearances and a nice kudo

Hello dear readers, I wanted to quickly share a few items about upcoming speaking appearances, as well as a surprise kudo.

The Mara Dolan Show, Monday at 10:30 a.m.

Today (Monday) at around 10:30 a.m. eastern I’ll be making my second appearance this year on the Mara Dolan Show, 980 WCAP radio in Massachusetts. I’ll be giving an update on the status of the Healthy Workplace Bill in the Bay State and talking about therapeutic jurisprudence, the school of legal thought that examines the psychological impacts of law, public policy, and legal systems.

I was a guest on Mara’s show in January, talking about workplace bullying, and I enjoyed our conversation very much. She’s a highly respected, very knowledgeable political commentator with a background in law and social work.

[4/15/15 Editor’s Note: You may listen to the segment, about 12 minutes, here.]

Work, Stress, and Health Conference, Atlanta, May 2015

This is a repeat of an earlier note that I’ll be presenting at one of my favorite events, the biennial “Work, Stress and Health” conference, co-sponsored by the American Psychological Association, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and Society for Occupational Health Psychology. This year’s conference will be held on May 6-9 in Atlanta.

I’ll chairing and presenting on two symposium panels, one on the impact of emerging workplace bullying legislation on employee relations stakeholders (with Gary Namie, Ellen Pinkos Cobb, and Maureen Duffy), and another on coaching as an intervention strategy for workplace bullying (with John-Robert Curtin, Ivonne Moreno-Velazquez, and Jessi Eden Brown).

In addition, I just accepted an invitation to moderate a panel on organizational justice featuring Karolus O. Kraan, Bram P. I. Fleuren, and Dr. Peter L. Schnall.

International Congress of Law and Mental Health, Vienna, Austria, July 2015

I’ll be taking a long plane flight to Vienna, Austria, for the 2015 International Congress of Law and Mental Health, a biennial, global gathering of academicians, practitioners, judges, and students hosted by the International Academy of Law and Mental Health on July 12-17. I’ll be on a panel that examines how therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ) perspectives can be integrated into law teaching and legal education. My paper will examine how TJ can be included in continuing legal education programs for practicing attorneys.

Top 30 list

Last week, I was doing some online research on workplace bullying when I found this feature by Dr. Tanja Babic, “The 30 Most Influential Industrial and Organizational Psychologists Alive Today,” on Human Resources MBA, a website and blog for individuals interested in training and degree programs in HR work. I was delighted to see Gary Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute listed at No. 5. Gary’s contributions to our understanding of workplace bullying have been singular and definitive.

I scrolled down the rest of the list and was stunned to find myself at No. 30. Especially given that my formal training is in law and public policy, I am honored to be included on a list of influential people in I/O psychology.

Here’s the January 2015 news release announcing the article and listing.

Mainstreaming psychological well-being in the law: TJ’s challenge

Screenshot from https://mainstreamtj.wordpress.com (Photo: DY)

Screenshot from https://mainstreamtj.wordpress.com (Photo: DY)

What if our laws and legal systems focused on creating psychologically healthy outcomes for parties involved in legal matters and for society as a whole? What if considerations of economics (leaning right) and rights (leaning left) in creating law and policy were screened through the lens of psychological well-being of people affected by those laws and policies?

Long-time readers may recognize that I have aligned myself with therapeutic jurisprudence (“TJ”),  a school of legal thought that examines the therapeutic and anti-therapeutic properties of the law, legal practice, and legal education. In essence, TJ asks if our laws and legal systems lead to psychologically healthy results, and it implicitly favors initiatives designed to make them so.

I discovered the TJ community as a result of my work on workplace bullying and employment law & policy, and I have found it to be a welcoming and natural home for my legal scholarship and public education work.

Now I have taken this affiliation a step further by joining the Advisory Group of the International Therapeutic Jurisprudence in the Mainstream Project, which “seeks to promote the use of Therapeutic Jurisprudence…approaches in mainstream legal settings through a variety of activities,” including a blog (photo above) and:

  • Linking the latest research and resources with the people who are doing this work “on the ground” in courts and tribunals – judges, lawyers, prosecutors, managers, staff and court support workers.
  • Encouraging and sharing TJ scholarship among academic and students in law and other disciplines.
  • Linking people with expertise in this area with others who want to explore how TJ can make their courts and tribunals more effective.

The Project is the brainchild of TJ co-founder and law professor David Wexler (Puerto Rico), Australian magistrate judge Pauline Spencer (Victoria), and law professor and retired judge Michael Jones (Arizona).

The Project’s Advisory Group (list and bios here) is drawn from 18 countries and “includes judges, lawyers and prosecutors, academics and students in the field of law and other fields such as psychology.”

TJ’s challenge

How do we make the promotion of psychologically healthy outcomes a prime objective for our laws and legal systems?

In a field so dominated by considerations of logic, reasoning, economics, rights, and procedure, psychology and human emotion are often regarded with some discomfort for their lack of precision and, well, messiness.

And yet, it makes perfect sense to me that the psychological well-being of individuals and society as a whole should be a primary lens through which we view and develop the law and its institutions. This is far from being the dominant viewpoint among lawyers, judges, and policy makers, but that reality only makes it more important for us to gather together (often virtually) to promote the mainstreaming of TJ.

This is among the many reasons why I am delighted to be more closely affiliated with this global assemblage of lawyers, professors, judges, and students. They inspire me with their dedication to the hard work of making the world a better place.

*** 

Of possible interest

I’ve written two law review articles expressly built around ideas of therapeutic jurisprudence. They can be freely accessed here:

Therapeutic Jurisprudence and the Practice of Legal Scholarship (University of Memphis Law Review, 2010).

Employment Law as if People Mattered: Bringing Therapeutic Jurisprudence into the Workplace (Florida Coastal Law Review, 2010).

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