Kim Wright of Cutting Edge Law lived a nomadic life through her entire adulthood, with well over 40 addresses to her name. There were always good, rational reasons for the moves – bigger houses, new jobs, divorces, etc. A happy empty-nester since 2003, Kim has seen a total of 16 kids come through her home (birth kids, step-kids, foster kids, etc). Now an urban nomad, she wrestles with the typical inner conflicts of perpetual travelers: wanting to settle in one place and relax for a while, but also feeling restless for the road.
Kim’s career mission is an interesting one: she is part of a large movement of lawyers who are transforming the legal profession into one that solves problems, heals conflict, and keeps the peace. She organizes conferences, speaks, and has written a book (Lawyers as Peacemakers) to be published by the American Bar Association. Since February 2008, Kim and her business partner Michael have been traveling the roads of North America, and in March 2009 launched Cutting Edge Law, which features hundreds of video profiles of holistic, healing, inspiring, conscious lawyers.
Please enjoy a week-in-the-life of Kim, as she lives on the road and works for positive change.
This post was originally published in 2009. It has since been updated for accuracy of links and content.
I’m in North Carolina, having just led a successful collaborative law training at Vanderbilt Law School in Nashville. I stayed in a friend’s intentional community on the outskirts of Asheville. When I pass through Asheville, which I have about four or five times since leaving, I often stay there. They’re used to people coming and going and being part of the community but not living there full-time and I love my friend, the hostess of the community. She’s off at a summer peace camp for adults and I fed the cat for her this morning before I left.
It feels strange not to have my car. I’ve been traveling by car for a long time but left it in New Mexico for this side trip. I haven’t even been on a plane for two years. Now that is a switch! I used to fly all the time. My flight leaves around 5 this afternoon and I’m having late lunch with a friend who is dropping me at the airport. I’ll spend the night in Albuquerque tonight and take the train to Santa Fe tomorrow where Michael will pick me up.
I’ve never been a rich lawyer. We long ago ran out of money to do this work but somehow have been able to keep going with long-distance legal work and the generosity of some friends.
I’ve been expecting to hear about a grant to fund our work. The foundation meeting was supposedly held a week ago and I expected to have the news long before I returned to New Mexico. Anxiety got the best of me and I left a second message for the project director. She finally sent me an email. I can tell she’s disappointed and I definitely am. The grant was vetoed at the last minute.
We gave notice that we’re leaving our month to month rental at the end of September. We’ve been here since the end of June and had planned to head for Portland, Oregon to work with a web developer who was going to revamp our entire site with those grant funds. And they were going to pay for car repairs (much needed tires and brakes!) and travel expenses. I have a speaking engagement in Memphis in mid-October and a conference with exhibit space in Minneapolis the next week. Now I’m not sure where to spend the first couple of weeks of October.
Without the grant funds, we’re running on empty. Michael got an offer for some construction work up near Taos and went up there for a few days. He’s been planning to spend October through mid-December in New Mexico while I do my speaking gigs and finish writing the book. Now we’re both going to have to scramble for money to keep things going.
Today is a catch up day. Everything that got put on hold while I was gone has to be handled. I need to let several people know I didn’t get the grant. Some of them are people I don’t want to tell. The web developers who worked so hard to create the proposal for the redesign will be very disappointed. My daughter and friends in Portland will be disappointed that I’m not coming. I am disappointed. To escape, I rented several movies from Redbox and watched DVD’s on Michael’s computer. One advantage to his being gone is the extra computer. I can multi-task on my computer and watch movies.
Several times a month, I post News Feeds on CuttingEdgeLaw.com. I collect relevant Google Alerts and post the best ones on the web with a summary or excerpt and link. I haven’t posted in almost a week so it is time to find something interesting to share. It isn’t the best use of my time – I could delegate it to an assistant or volunteer, if I had either – but it is a soul-satisfying task.
As I read the alerts, I find out about some drug court graduations. In drug court, defendants aren’t just thrown in jail, they’re treated like human beings. They’re supported and coaxed into getting clean and sober, finding jobs, becoming responsible citizens who raise their own kids and participate in the community. There are thousands of drug courts and other problem-solving courts in the country and it has become a worldwide movement. I love to read the stories of families reunited, lives saved, and judges and lawyers who love their jobs because they make a difference. They actually have a ceremony to celebrate and most days I can read about several drug court graduations. I am reminded of why I do this work. Creating the news feeds is therapeutic.
I was also inspired to write a good chunk of content for the ABA book and to send some emails to experts around the country, asking for updates on some of the information that I have which may be dated.
I really want to figure out where I’m going next. Usually we don’t know until the last minute but I always imagine it would be better to know well in advance. I remember last January, we were sitting in a hot tub in the mountain house where we’d been house-sitting for a couple of weeks. It was so cold that my wet hair froze in the hot tub. There were icicles hanging down the sides of my face. I was afraid my hair would break off! As we shivered back into the house, we were discussing how the owners would be back in the next week and we didn’t yet have a plan. Being so cold, we talked about going to a warm place. A few days later, a friend offered us a fishing cabin in Key West, owned by her fiance’s father. Those last-minute miracles have happened to us a lot on this journey. So, I should not be so concerned that I don’t have my next plan but I am. Not getting the grant has thrown me off center.
This place in New Mexico is another of our last minute miracles. We were in Chicago, covering a conference, and literally didn’t know where we were going until two or three days before we drove here. Through a series of synchronicities, we found it on Craig’s List. It is a potter’s home, studio and gallery and the rent is reduced in exchange for mowing the lawn and watering. It has been a perfect summer location. An adobe house at over 6,000 feet in elevation, we haven’t been uncomfortably hot at all. Our back yard has beautiful shade and fruit trees. This week, I got to be domestic by making a fruit crisp from our backyard apples, peaches, pears, and plums. Since I grew up on a farm, it was very satisfying. Also, New Mexico may be the most beautiful state in the Union. We’ve taken many camping and driving trips as we’ve explored this Land of Enchantment.
We still don’t know where we’re going next. On the way back from Taos, Michael saw a self-contained RV that inspired him to consider buying it. He thinks it might be nice to have his own home without being so tied to one place. He’s thinking that he would leave it here in New Mexico while we’re on the road elsewhere. The one he saw is old and might not make it cross-country but would be fine for local camping. There are many places he can park it – national forests to friend’s back yards – and he would love to have his own personal space. Personal space is very important to Michael and it has been hard for him to live in such close quarters over these last months on the road. To his credit, we get along wonderfully well and have become the best of friends and partners in our work. He so believes in our project that he has often foregone getting paid to stay involved. (I’d hoped the grant would remedy that, too.)
Michael’s connected with some new friends up in Taos and may put down roots here while still traveling when we have work to do. The folks he met are also travelers so they understand the pull of the road. The companionship of kindred spirits feeds something deep in him. I am envious. I have many friends I love, scattered around the world. We keep in touch by internet and telephone with occasional visits. I do not have a sense of place and sometimes miss that. In all my travels, I expected to find the place that I felt at home. Instead, I’ve found many wonderful places I’d like to spend time but no place that seems like my true home.
Perhaps I am at home in my laptop computer. It is where I am most connected with people. I share stories, photos, and dreams with my on-line friends.
We went back to find the RV and it was gone. I think they’ve gone camping for Labor Day weekend and we should check back next week. The more we think about it, the more we like the idea. When we left at the beginning, we drove my Honda CRV. We picked up Michael’s car when we came back to vote in November and it was much better to have two cars and be able to go our separate ways. We did take only my car on a month-long tour of Texas but we were scheduled tight with interviews so we knew we’d have little downtime. If we had the money to get a really reliable RV, we could take it on the road for those interview tours. We both love tent camping but it isn’t conducive to editing video or uploading content to the internet. And neither of us likes to be cold so tent camping is seasonal.
I spent most of yesterday on the phone and am reinvigorated. A law student wants to start a humanizing law club at her law school and wants my help. She’s looking for internships where she can make a difference in the legal system and I connected her with some folks I know in Phoenix. I got several leads about other grant funds and created a new fundable project with a colleague in Mississippi. I even wrote and submitted a complete grant application to a foundation which funds social entrepreneurs and is run by a lawyer. I wrote an article about Conscious Law for a newsletter back in North Carolina (where I am licensed to practice law), and am hopeful that I might get some legal work from that. And a friend from Illinois called to tell me that she realized that she knows a producer at Oprah and that she will contact her about my work. That could be a great boost! It was a productive day.
Michael is learning to podcast. We used to have a guy who worked with us who knew all about podcasting but shortly after we met, he got a job offer somewhere else and disappeared from our radar. Today, Michael and I spent quite a while creating the logo for the new channel he’s creating. I love that stuff even if I’m not good at it. I’m glad Michael is more the artist.
I also set an appointment to arrange to appear on a radio show with the Zentrepreneur. A law student in San Francisco is writing a paper on meditation and law and is talking to me on the same day.
I spent my daily hour(s) on Facebook, catching up with my 500 friends and checked MySpace again to see if I’d heard from my friend, Kat. She sent me a Save the Date for her wedding and I haven’t heard anything from her since. Her mother isn’t returning my calls. I’m a little worried about planning my next steps around a wedding when I haven’t been invited yet.
I caught up on the phone with the grandmother of one of the young men who came in off the streets to live with us several years ago. I love him and consider him family and therefore she and I have remained connected over these years. She’s over 80 and irreverent and politically active.
Speaking of weddings, my friend Kim (who was part of why I came to New Mexico) is getting married this month. She and her new husband are headed to Australia soon. He’s been hired to do some high-end environmental research. There is a conference on Non-Adversarial Law in Australia in May and I’m examining ways we could get down there for a few weeks to cover the conference and interview Aus lawyers who are practicing in the new paradigm of law. By then Kim will have a place we can land, I think. Maybe a side trip to New Zealand could also be worked out. My ex-husband is Kiwi-American and I’ve never been there.
My sister has invited me to finish writing the book at her house and that looks like a good plan to soothe my feelings of uncertainty. She lives in North Carolina, near Charlotte and has a house big enough to get lost in. Her son is a senior and has a job so he’s not around and she and her husband work all day so I would be able to write in peace. I still have my October gigs to plan around and probably won’t go there until I’ve finished those. That leaves a hole in the schedule from October 1 to 15. I’m excited to see how that gets filled! And, by then, who knows? It isn’t the last minute yet and I may have another opportunity somewhere else that comes up miraculously at the last minute.
Kim is enroute to Key West from Tennessee for the rest of December. She’s a woman on the move: waking up in North Carolina, heading to New Mexico, before turning around for Florida via a few stops along the way! Check out her latest miracle at Cutting Edge Law.