Contemplative Law

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Attention is paramount in the law - attention to details; to legal, ethical and moral principles; and to the hearts and minds of clients, colleagues, judges and juries. Many lawyers have found that contemplative practice (like mindfulness meditation, for example) helps lawyers cultivate a greater ability to “pay attention.” Meditation can also help lawyers deal better with stress, develop self-awareness and understanding of others, improve concentration and creativity, and perform better as attorneys and mediators. There is a growing trend toward such contemplative practices in law, sometimes referred to as contemplative law.


Meditation training

Contemplative law is gaining attention by mainstream academia not only as means for personal development stress reduction, but also to cultivate perspective and skill to be a more effective lawyer and mediator. Academic programs explore ways of helping lawyers, judges, law professors and students reconnect with their deepest values and intentions, through meditation, yoga, and other contemplative and spiritual practices.

Many law firms are initiating meditation training and students at many law schools have taken mindfulness meditation instruction on campus, sometimes as part of law school courses. Groups of lawyers across the country are gathering together to practice meditation and to reflect on their law and/or mediation practices.

Contemplative law and criminal justice

Meditation is proving to be of benefit in the criminal justice arena. For instance, training in Transcendental Meditation (TM) is sometimes a condition of parole - as with the Enlightened Sentencing Project in St. Louis, MO. TM has been taught to tens of thousands of inmates worldwide and has shown to have significant effect on recidivism rates.[1] Vipassana meditation training has also been introduced to numerous prisons in the United States and abroad. Research is showing that such meditation instruction substantially reduces the rates of recidivism.[2]


  • Interview with Douglas Chermak, The Law Program
  • Tree of Contemplative Practices
  • Riskin, Leonard L. "Mindfulness: Foundational Training for Dispute Resolution," 54 Journal of Legal Education 79-91 (2004)
  • Riskin, Leonard L. "The Contemplative Lawyer: On the Potential Contributions of Mindfulness Meditation to Law Students and Lawyers and their Clients". 7 Harvard Negotiation Law Review 1-66 (June 2002).

Additional resources

See also


Author: J Kim Wright