Law and the Heart: a New Paradigm

Making the right decisions after receiving legal advice can be difficult if the client does not feel that the lawyer clearly understands the issue or if the lawyer’s advice does not feel ‘right.’

When we become dissatisfied with our lot in legal life, we begin to feel like we’re swimming against a tide which only gains strength.

Law Students
Now is the time to balance your legal training with heart exercise so you cultivate, not subvert, your compassion for others; so you embrace, not reject, your intuition; so you appreciate, not suppress, what you feel.

A favorable comment on Merit’s book was made by Steven Keeva (author of Transforming Practices: Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life) in the American Bar Association Journal.


Book Reviews

Justice O’Connor concluded, ‘I see it differently.’ Both the legal profession and those they serve need to ‘see it differently.’ [Law and the Heart] makes a valuable contribution toward that goal. Merit helps us look beyond our superficial instincts and as he says, ‘allow feelings such as love, compassion or even a gut-level sense of what is just or right to enter our legal decision-making process.'” — Honorable Bruce D. Black, United States District Judge

Law and the Heart is must reading for anyone interested in a more humane approach to the legal process.” — Honorable R. Stephen Herrera, District Court Judge

Legal Professionalism: Fifty Words That Strike the Heart

From the Author’s Comment:
       “I often find when I am listening to my clients that a word or phrase will surface that will signal an opportunity to move to the deeper, more productive level of feelings and, through this doorway, to intuition…. I began to consider what those words might be, and after seven years and thousands of interactions with innumerable clients, fifty words have surfaced which seem to be integral to the dynamics of the legal decision-making process.” ~ Merit Bennett

For Sale on Amazon (search: “Law and the Heart Merit Bennett”):

A provocative book about the need for the legal profession to connect with the heart. Must reading for lawyers, law students, paralegals, their clients and anyone interested in a more humane approach to the legal process. Reading this book will result in healthier legal relationships.


“Disaffected lawyers seeking a growth experience should make a date with Law and the Heart. What else can I say? This book has a terrific personality.” 1997. — Eric Drogin, The Federal Lawyer, 1997

“How often do lawyers and clients ignore ‘gut’ feelings because the other person appears to be more assertive or stronger, or because each wants to be liked by the other? And, says Bennett, if instincts are ignored, the lawyer-client relationship eventually breaks down. Why else are the legal system and lawyers the butt of so many jokes that equate lawyers with sharks and barracudas and other predators that are popularized as either vicious or repulsive or both? Read the book. It is the lawyer’s pocket companion to ‘Emotional Intelligence’ and it addresses in a different way what the B.C. courts are attempting to address now by training judges in mediation techniques. Very ‘with it’, very ‘in’. — Charlotte R. Gottschau, The Advocate, 11/97

From the Author
I write to suggest that the reintroduction of feelings and intuition into legal relationships can positively transform the legal system itself.

From the Inside Flap
What Others Are Saying …

“A refreshing professional, humane interface between the practitioners of the law and those entering their first contact with the legal system. A very readable must.” – David R. Metcalf M.D., Psychoanalyst

“Highly successful New Mexico trial lawyer Merit Bennett has written a fine book about the need for the legal profession to connect with the heart. Merit’s book seeks to understand why we lawyers are held in such low esteem by our clients, and offers a basis to repair our badly damaged relationships.

To help us understand legal relationships better, Merit draws on a variety of psychological and spiritual traditions and analyzes how the mind relates and perceives relationships with others. It is essential that we understand how all of these processes work in order to begin to heal the legal relationship.

The foundation of this healing is the compassionate heart. It’s time for the heart to be brought into the legal profession.” – Grove Burnett, Director, Western Environmental Law Center

“Law and the Heart was both interesting and full of excellent advice and commentary about lawyer-client relationships. I want to give a copy of the book to my son, who is just beginning his own private practice. I am sure he will benefit from it. I wish that such a book had been available to me when I first started law practice. Thanks for giving the profession this fine book.” – Daniel H. Benson, Professor of Law, School of Law, Texas Tech University

“Merit combines his lawyer’s acumen and his personal insight to remedy an area of ignorance in the legal profession – a domain where relational dynamics have traditionally bypassed the heart and where lawyer and client are driven by unconscious power needs rather than bonds based on mutual trust and a shared search for equity.” – Elaine Simard LaForet, Jungian Analyst

“Law and the Heart is extraordinary. It has given me new enthusiasm and courage to continue to remain a lawyer, and to follow my own counsel rather than the win at all costs approach that is always there and always so tempting. Thank you for writing this book. I have begun my second reading.” – Gary P Patton, Attorney-at-Law

“I have started to read Law and the Heart and find your ideas novel, provocative and attractive.” – Gerald Caplan, Dean, McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific

“I found Law and the Heart very insightful in analyzing the lawyer-client relationship. I was particularly interested in the chapter on competition. I found your comments to be right on point and I hope to use your thoughts in my work.” – Anthony L. Leffert, Attorney, U.S. Department of Justice

About the Author
Merit graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1969. He received a Masters Degree from the University of Colorado in 1972 and a Juris Doctor Degree from the Washington College of Law at The American University in Washington, D.C., in 1975. He practiced law in Colorado from 1975 until he moved to New Mexico in 1986. His professional career has included the practice of criminal law, corporation and partnership law, contract and real estate law, family law, estate planning and commercial and personal injury litigation. He is an experienced trial lawyer and handles cases in State and Federal courts. Merit is now practicing in Santa Fe in the fields of personal injury and professional malpractice, with an emphasis on sexual abuse litigation.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
Law schools offer very little, if any, training in understanding how humans relate, how the mind works, how important feelings and intuition are, yet lawyers graduate from law school into a population “in relationship” and find that most of their legal work is about relationships. Lawyers, who have no relationship training and who are generally drawn to the profession because they are out of touch with their own feelings, are being asked to help their clients deal with challenges based upon underlying feelings that even the clients cannot easily access. An enigma within a riddle. Both clients and lawyers can begin to correlate this cultural context with their professional encounters and legal decisions. The American hero-warrior archetype must now be exposed for what it isn’t. Male can be reunited with female. Mind can be reconnected to intuition and to feelings. When we strive to become more conscious about what unconsciously motivates us and acknowledge the value of our intuition and feelings, we can make our legal decisions, and the impact of our legal decisions upon our lives, more vibrant and more sustaining.