The founding director of the Integrative Law Institute at Commonweal is Pauline Tesler, a
graduate of Harvard University, the Victoria University of Manchester
(England), and the University of Wisconsin Law School. Her first work after
graduating from law school at the top of her class was as a lawyer for the National Center for Youth Law,
working with an outstanding team of public interest lawyers in San Francisco conducting class actions,
major impact litigation and test case appeals on behalf of impoverished women and children. Her cases
challenged coercive use of drug therapies in public schools for children with ADHD, foster-care policies that
disregarded children’s bonds with parent figures, and incarceration of juvenile offenders without either due
process or treatment. Pauline and her
colleagues devised and argued the successful legal theory that persuaded the California Supreme Court to strike
down funding restrictions on poor women’s access to abortions on the grounds that those restrictions violated
privacy rights under the California Constitution. This legal victory resulted in California extending to this day an
uninterrupted range of reproductive choices for women regardless of age or economic status. After federally
funded law reform centers like the National Center for Youth Law were defunded during the Reagan
administration, ILI’s director transitioned into private law practice, becoming a partner in the first all-women family
law firm in Northern California and subsequently starting her own law practice. She has worked as a solo change
agent for the past twenty years, self-funding her vision for revitalizing the legal profession through her specialist family law practice and her international lawyer training programs.
A longtime California “Superlawyer” who is included in “Best Lawyers in America,” and a fellow of the select
American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers as well as the ABA's American Bar Foundation, Pauline's credibility
as a successful trial and appellate advocate opens the door for even aggressive litigators to listen to what she
has to say. Testimonials from her workshops over nearly twenty years confirm her gift for reaching even the
toughest adversarial lawyers through their heads and sending the message from there into their hearts.
Pauline’s workshops, books, journal articles and speaking have been a key catalyst for an international
movement called “Collaborative Law” that is changing the face of family law in 28 nations. In recognition for
that work, she received the first “Lawyer as Problem Solver” award from the American Bar Association in 2002.
As Pauline accepted invitations to teach lawyer colleagues around the world how to work in collaborative
professional teams with mental health and financial professionals, she became convinced that law as it relates
to all disputes between human (non-corporate) persons is and ought to be a healing profession. She saw that
the American legal profession is on the verge of a sea change much like the one that has transformed healthcare
over the past thirty years in directions that are humanistic, multi-disciplinary, collaborative, and team-based. In
2008, Pauline began teaching collaborative and other lawyers a groundbreaking workshop course she developed
with psychiatrist Thomas B. Lewis, M.D. (author of A General Theory of Love) entitled “Law and the Human
Brain: NeuroLiteracy for Lawyers, Mediators, and Judicial Officers,” at conferences and by invitation from law
schools, bar associations and other lawyer organizations. This was the start of Pauline’s current visionary work
building the broad change movement called Integrative Law.
In order to devote full-time efforts to her work as a change agent and teacher.
in 2012, Pauline launched the Integrative Law Institute at Commonweal, shifting her focus to the nonprofit sector and developing a
bold strategic plan for catalyzing a movement led by change-agent peacemaker
lawyers across North America and in key locations worldwide in a relatively short time. ILI programs are
targeted to reach lawyers working across the full spectrum of interpersonal conflict resolution, as well as
teaching values-based transactional work based on constructive planning for respectful conflict resolution.
For more information:
Commonweal website: http://www.commonweal.org/program/integrative-law-institute/