J. Kim Wright
Lawyer, Author, Advocate, Changemaker
When Kim went to law school, she was a taxi driver with seven children at home. Becoming a parent was transformative for her, creating a sense of responsibility for the future and the world in which her kids would grow up. From 1977 to 2003, she parented 16 children – birth children, stepchildren, friends who had trouble at home, and children from the streets. She says they were her greatest teachers, especially in learning to live together and resolve conflict.
Kim had gone to law school to make a positive difference in the world. However, law school showed her that the legal system was part of the problem! She got a glimpse of a profession that was designed to create division, polarize people, and make situations worse than before the lawyers got involved. Initially, she saw no way she could become a lawyer and keep her integrity and values intact.
Kim started working in the nonprofit sector. Years passed before she saw a way that law might be a force for good in the world. She was at a personal development seminar when a lawyer stood up to introduce himself and his work. His name was Forrest Bayard, and he had a mission: to help his clients be friends and amicably co-parent after divorce. He talked about granting dignity and practicing with integrity.
Kim describes their meeting as the time the world went from black and white to color. Before, she was resigned and hopeless about the legal profession. Forrest inspired her that a new paradigm was possible. She decided to follow in his footsteps and set up a law practice in her small town. There were challenges – the system was as broken as ever. But now, she knew something else was possible and set out to make a difference. Her law practice focused on a holistic, healing, and peacemaking approach. She was an early adopter of mediation and collaborative law and was one of the first lawyers in the U.S. to have social workers on her staff.
Before she met Forrest, Kim thought she was alone. Meeting him, she knew others were using the law to make a real change in people’s lives, communities, and the environment. She wanted to find those who were seen as weird by their peers but who actually pioneered a new paradigm of legal practice.
In 2007, Kim attended conferences in holistic law, collaborative law, restorative justice, therapeutic jurisprudence, creative problem-solving, humanizing legal education, lawyers as peacemakers, and sacred activism. Each conference explored similar topics, each in its own silo. She recognized that something was emerging in the legal profession and imagined that the right person could weave together the common threads into a stronger movement. In 2008, she left her home and practice to begin a life on the road, visiting the places in the world where innovators were making the law more humane.
She chronicled her work on the (then) new YouTube platform, interviewing lawyers and posting their stories on the web. Her work caught the eye of the American Bar Association, and they asked her to write a book about the movement she was discovering. Lawyers as Peacemakers: Practicing Holistic, Problem-Solving Law was published in 2010. Kim likes to say the publication of the book – and its immediate best-seller status – helped provide some legitimacy for the budding movement. She went from being a weird homeless lawyer to being a cool digital nomad. That led to international invitations. A follow-up book, Lawyers as Changemakers: The Global Integrative Law Movement was published in 2016, tracking the next stage of the movement.
Kim is also co-editor of the upcoming Trauma-Informed Law (ABA, 2022) and a contributor to many other books and periodicals. She has several projects in the works: a book on having the courage to follow your values; a collaboration on lawyers as designers, a collection of essays on grief for lawyers, and translations of her ABA books into Italian, French, Portuguese, and Spanish.
In 2002, Kim met CEO Deborah Herman who was on a book tour for the first edition of Spiritual Writing from Inspiration to Publication. Deborah, also a lawyer, joined what was then called “the Renaissance Lawyers” as a charter member sharing Kim’s vision for a better way. In 2022, the two reunited with Kim, the leader of a global community of integrative lawyers. At the same time, Deborah is reintroducing the updated Spiritual Writing Book; the two are co-founders of the Integrative Law Press. MPM is proud to name J. Kim Wright as Acquisitions Editor of this new prestigious division. https://www.integrativelaw.com