Joe DiNardo ’71 shares mindfulness tools in two-session webinar.
There’s an old Twilight Zone episode about a woman who discovers an amulet with a special power – it can put the noisy world on hold. All she has to do is scream “Stop it!” and the frenetic activity around her ceases, silent and peaceful and restful.
Because it’s The Twilight Zone, things end badly. But a lot of people would love to have that ability, to summon up peace of mind and to find clarity in an increasingly loud and complicated world.
That’s the promise of mindfulness, a daily meditation practice that research has shown benefits brain, body and emotional regulation. It’s a discipline that is increasingly popular among lawyers, who say that mindfulness helps them focus, think more clearly, understand their clients better and make wiser decisions.
“Mindfulness and the Law,” a two-session webinar organized by UB’s Office of Alumni Relations, teaches this technique and explores its benefits. Session 1 of the webinar was live on Zoom on Monday, June 22.
Session 2 follows on Wednesday, June 24 and is open to the entire University community including practicing attorneys, law students and others interested in this tool. You may attend Session 2 regardless of whether you attended Session 1. Registration is available here.
Law school faculty members Professor Stephanie Phillips and Professor Luis Chiesa join Joseph DiNardo ’71, who has practiced mindfulness meditation throughout his long legal career.
Part 2 – Wednesday, June 24
12:00 - 1:00 p.m. (EDT)
Register to Attend.
DiNardo now is with Counsel Financial in Williamsville, N.Y., which provides funding options for plaintiff’s attorneys. Before founding that firm in 2000, he practiced mass tort and personal injury law, including trial work.
“I’ve been a mindfulness meditator for more than 50 years,” says DiNardo, who’s also active with Western New York’s interdisciplinary Mindfulness Alliance. “I started just as I was beginning my law career, so I can’t imagine my career without it.
“This is an important tool that law students and trial lawyers should have to help balance what their lives are, and are going to become, because of the legal system they’re working in. I’m a trial lawyer myself, and so I’m very familiar with the stresses associated with that kind of life.”
In Session 1 of the webinar, DiNardo led attendees through a mindfulness exercise to give a sense of what the practice is like. “A lot of people think if they read a book about mindfulness or listen to an inspirational talk about it, they get it,” he says. “But mindfulness is something you have to do. At some point during the day on a consistent basis, you have to sit and actually practice. It’s like playing baseball – you wouldn’t go into a championship game never having had a glove on your hand. You have to practice and make it become part of your life.”
Lawyers, he says, face particular stresses that mindfulness practice can address, including the need to advocate for a client’s position in court even if they don’t agree with it. Meditation has been shown to confer physiological benefits such as reduced blood pressure.
But just as important for lawyers, DiNardo says, is that mindfulness meditation opens up a space for thoughtful and ethical decision-making.
“Mindfulness has an ethical aspect to it,” he says. “As you develop the wisdom to see more clearly how things arise and pass away, you’re also cultivating a sense of compassion and a sense of connectedness to everybody else and everything else. That’s a byproduct of the practice.
“It has to do with getting in touch with who you are, what you are, and watching all the standards locked up in our minds about who we are and how we’re supposed to act. If we can learn to soften all that, it can give us that relief that we’re looking for.
“And the ethical part of it,” he says, “can have a great impact on how you approach your professional practice, how you listen to your clients without preconceptions and judgment, how you listen to your opponent, and try to understand what the opponent is saying and what their position is without being prejudiced and biased. That compassion will infuse the process by which you practice law.”
Mindfulness practice is not new to UB School of Law. Professor Phillips, for example, has long convened a meditation group for students, and has taught seminar courses on such topics as Mindfulness and Professional Identity: Becoming a Lawyer While Keeping Your Values Intact, and Religion, Spirituality and Cognitive Science: Contemporary Establishment Clause Issues. Her colleague Professor Chiesa, who leads an online meditation group, will teach the Mindfulness and Professional Identity class this fall.