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[Radically Human] Lawyers...Finding Meaning

I was inspired by the First Radically Human Legal Hour...

A radically human revolution in law may sound like an uphill battle, but I am learning that it can be as difficult, or as easy, as I construct it to be.

When I first joined the Thought Architects team last year, I knew that I was joining a group of thought leaders from different sectors, but I did not expect that we would adopt a ‘manifesto’ of leading a #RadicallyHumanRevolution.

Initially, the words radical and revolution didn’t sit well with me, and I was cautiously curious: Would this be too much for lawyers to digest? Would they be scared off and not want to associate with me? Was this level of intensity really needed to make change?

Despite my discomfort and assumptions, I knew in my heart of hearts that I needed to find a way to accept and embrace this movement; for me, it was a now or never equation. I went back to the declaration and discovered what I had been missing:

We are leading a #RadicallyHumanRevolution that is characterized by people caring for and contributing to the growth of all those around them.

It turns out that I had been so caught up in those initial words, worrying that I might be viewed as extreme, that I hadn’t fully processed the rest of the statement: “caring for and contributing to the growth of all those around us”, and I knew that I could embrace that whole-heartedly.

The next thing on my mind was whether others would be willing to do the same. I had no doubt that there were many caring and compassionate lawyers, but would they want to be part of a movement, or would they shy away? The best way that Margie Sills-Maerov and I could think of to answer this question was to start having conversations about it, and so we launched Thought Architects’ Radically Human Legal Hour (“RHLH”) on March 11, 2022.

With over 100 lawyers registered for the first RHLH and many encouraging messages of support, we suspected we were heading in the right direction.

Our first guest was Dr. Chika Onwuekwe, Q.C., an inspirational lawyer, mentor, teacher, leader, who brings years of experience in private and corporate legal practice as well as post-secondary education. He is someone I believe is a [radically human] lawyer.

Within a short time in the session, it became evident that Chika is the kind of person who makes you feel like you are part of a conversation even when you are just listening; you want to hear more of his stories and keep on learning. His candid discussion of some of the undiscussables of the practice of law and the need for change made me wonder if he was seeing through rose-colored glasses. When I raised the issue of how difficult change can be, particularly in a deeply entrenched system, he responded that change could be “easy” by honing the way we listen, inquire, and respond. Knowing that these are the skills used in coaching, I couldn’t agree more. One attendee summed up the impact of Chika’s comments well: “Chika inspires with his optimism and fearlessness.”

When asked for their thoughts on what makes a radically human lawyer, attendees provided these descriptors: imperfect, empathy, humility, patience, compassion, kindness, understanding, care, openness, helping people, curiosity, transparency, social, and vulnerable. These words are strong foundations for bringing humanity into the practice of law, the result of which was described by one attendee:

Part of what brings joy and success is lifting those around you. This is what makes great leadership. We are in a service profession and serving others (including our colleagues at work and in the Bar, generally) is part of that service.

I now know that we are indeed on a right track. I look forward to continuing this conversation with many more [radically human] lawyers and leaders at all levels who want to bring humanity to the practice of law.

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