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Therapeutic Jurisprudence -- an Oxymoron or an Aspiration?

Being involved in a legal proceeding might drive many to seek therapy. But can legal proceedings also be therapeutic? That's a theory being explored by professor David B. Wexler, as described in this article (Science Daily, 9/25/07).

Wexler's research has focused on ways that law, as a "dynamic force with consequences and behavioral impacts," can be used in a therapeutic way. The article gives an example of how therapeutic jurisprudence works in practice:

Take for example the convict about to be placed on probation. Wexler says that instead of the old "you won't do this, you will do this. Goodbye, and I don't want to see you again," it may be more appropriate to engage the individual who is in the hot seat.

"It's about having a dialogue with a client. It's a more creative and flexible way of looking at existing law," he says. "I have seen examples of people who were more willing to accept judgment of the court if the court interacted with them in a certain way."

But it is not about negotiating law.

"Everything that is proposed here is possible under existing law," says Wexler, also a therapeutic jurisprudence consultant for the National Judicial Institute of Canada. "I see it as using the law in a somewhat different or creative way."

As described in this piece, it seems that therapeutic jurisprudence doesn't just help clients by making the legal process less stressful and outcomes more beneficial but it can help lawyers as  well. Therapeutic jurisprudence encourages lawyers to think creatively and makes them realize that the work they do has real potential for change. And perhaps that is enough to keep some unhappy lawyers out of therapy.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on September 27, 2007 at 03:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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