As a board member of the International Alliance of Holistic Lawyers, I've been asked to write a blog entry once a month. Here is my first entry:
After IAHL’s North Carolina conference three years ago, I ordered new business cards that said “holistic attorney, counselor at law & mediator”. I came out of the closet as a holistic attorney.
Soon after I began using the term “holistic attorney” I received a phone call from an opposing counsel on a difficult family law case. This attorney is a successful attorney with the reputation for being an overly aggressive and for pulverizing his opposing counsel. He was known for never settling a case and for refusing to attend mediation. He is also known as being a total control freak and has a reputation for filing contempt actions for minute matters that are normally settled between the attorneys. If this attorney is opposing counsel on a case, it is assumed that the divorce will run thousands of dollars.
After I said “hello” the first words out his mouth was something like “how dare you tell your client…” and he went on for several minutes accusing me of doing all sorts of irrational and unethical things. I almost laughed because I had done none of the things I was being accused of doing. However, I knew that laughing would only escalate his aggression toward me. My initial reaction was to fire back at him with a barrage of accusations about his client. At the beginning of the conversation, he tried to “bait” me into a verbal battle. No matter what I said, he would fire back with even stronger accusations and he hinted that he would “wipe the courthouse floor with me”.
I decided this was an opportunity to act as peacemaker and to put my holistic practices into play. I took a few deep breaths and asked him some questions from my heart. I then actively listened to his answers. I calmly kept asking him for additional information. No matter what he said I remained calm and respectful. I refused to fight with him. Gradually he began to calm down. His tone softened. He started talking slower. By opening my heart and responding in a non-aggressive manner, I gradually took control of the conversation. At the end of the telephone conversation, he actually apologized to me for jumping to conclusions. He also said that he knew we would be able to settle this case without going to trial. I was shocked due to his reputation for never backing down and for never admitting he was wrong.
When I hung up the phone, I felt peaceful and at ease. I recognized that I had all the power in the telephone call because I remained calm and did not attack him. Instead of being upset, I was felt good and energized. I had now had proof that being a peacemaker (aka holistic attorney) could work.