These are phenomenally challenging times. Mindfulness is a tool that can help lawyers support themselves, each other, their clients, and their collaborators in the hard work needed to build community and take action. For these and other reasons, mindfulness has made major inroads into law and legal institutions. Law firms, law schools, and courthouses offer training in mindfulness meditation to support the cognitive clarity and emotional self-regulation necessary for the demanding work of analyzing problems, resolving conflicts, overcoming bias, and doing justice. A growing literature, from empirical social science to legal scholarship, catalogs these and other benefits of mindfulness for lawyers, judges, and law students.
The encounter between law and mindfulness has been framed, to date, as one that benefits legal actors. What has been overlooked is the way that law can benefit mindfulness. This Article argues that the developing relationship between law and mindfulness has the potential to address significant problems facing mindfulness in legal and other institutional settings.
Two major dilemmas threaten to undermine the institutional impact of mindfulness. The first dilemma (termed here the minimizing dilemma) presents this challenge: Is mindfulness so individualistic, passive, and nonjudgmental as to be irrelevant (or worse) to the tremendous injustice and other problems plaguing our society? The second dilemma (termed here the magnifying dilemma or the mandatory mindfulness problem) cuts the other way: Is the introduction of mindfulness into mainstream U.S. institutions, such as law schools and law firms, so powerful and intrusive as to be forcing people to meditate? This Article uses insights from law practice, legal pedagogy, and contract default-rule theory and research to respond to these dilemmas. Such contributions—from law to mindfulness—demonstrate that the synergies between these two seemingly disparate fields redound to the benefit of both. Recognizing the mutual benefits of this relationship helps us anticipate how law and mindfulness can both expect to grow stronger through the increasing incorporation of mindfulness programs into legal institutions.
Elizabeth F. Emens, Law’s Contributions to the Mindfulness Revolution, 2022 ULR 573 (2022) doi:10.26054/0d-3yqy-t73r