Pauline Tesler

Tesler & Sandmann

Contact Details

Tesler & Sandmann


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:


Twitter: @integrative_law



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