(SCPI = Self-Reflection for Conflict Professionals Intensive)

by Liza Hanks

I participated in the SCPI program for the first time in 2016, a few months after I completed the 40-hour mediation and conflict resolution program with the Center for Understanding in Conflict. I thought, when I signed up, that SCPI would be a good follow up to that training and a way to further practice what I learned there. All of that was certainly true, but I found SCPI to be something different as well—less vocational and more transformative.

Like many lawyers, I graduated from law school, passed the bar, found a job and did my best to do it well.  And then twenty years went by. In the daily pressure of billable hours, building a practice (and raising two kids), there wasn’t time to reflect upon any of it.  In my experience, being a lawyer was often about not making mistakes and hardly ever about being creative, thoughtful, or challenging the status-quo. Being a lawyer was often like wearing clothes that didn’t quite fit—satisfactory, but confining.

Participating in SCPI was an invitation to bring creativity, curiosity and critical thinking to my practice and a welcome one. I’ve found new meaning in what I do and a new vision for how I plan to do it in the future.

Here’s a short list of what I got out of the program:

1. I met colleagues from various disciplines who were interested in using self-reflection to deepen their practices. I felt real affinity for my fellow SCPI participants and it was a pleasure to learn with them.

2. SCPI teaches three foundational practices that I use every day to keep myself focused and continually engaged: journaling, meditation, and taking moments throughout the day to pause, breathe, and check in with my felt sense of a situation.

3. The format of the program lends itself to experiential learning – there’s time and space to practice what you are learning in a supportive environment. It’s not ‘book learning’ — it is learning through direct experience.

4. I wasn’t able to attend the group sessions in person each time, but I came to love doing these through video conferencing. We were able to have deep discussions and group learning even though we were all over the country—without leaving my office I could spend a few hours with smart, committed people and practice new skills in a dynamic way.

5. SCPI (as does the mediation training) frames conflict in a positive way. I’ve come to have tremendous respect for the value of conflict in eliciting honesty and open communication between parties. I’m more patient in my practice and less in a rush to ‘fix’ things—I am better at letting my clients find their own way through thorny issues.

6. SCPI asked me to do something that nothing in my legal education ever did before: value, cultivate, and attend to my own subjective experience while practicing law. This skill has already made me a better listener and a more creative attorney with clients.  That’s the vocational part. At the same time, it has made me more aware of what I do and don’t like about my law practice and has given me concrete ideas about how to make it more satisfying and reflective of my core values. That’s the transformational part.