University of California Berkeley Initiative for Mindfulness in Law

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
Phone: (510) 642-1741

Description of Organization

Upon his retirement, Charlie Halpern, the co-founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, moved to Berkeley, completed work on a book, and began an informal meditation group at Berkeley Law, one of the first in the nation. In 2009, he first offered a meditation course in the law school, “Effective and Sustainable Law Practice: The Meditative Perspective.” The overwhelmingly positive reaction of the students indicated that this could have a large impact on their lives as students and lawyers, and more importantly, on the legal field and society in general. The Berkeley Initiative for Mindfulness in Law was formally launched in October 2011.

The objective of the Berkeley Initiative for Mindfulness in Law is to coordinate and expand the existing programs at Berkeley Law on mindfulness and law. It will work to build a nationwide network of lawyers, judges, law professors, and law students committed to bringing mindfulness into their work in order to create a more just, reflective, and compassionate legal order. Since Berkeley is a highly respected leader in legal education, the Initiative will use the Berkeley platform to bring mindfulness programs to other law schools through conferences, their website and other means.

Grant(s) Awarded

In 2021, a COVID-19 Operational Grant of $10,000 was awarded to UC Berkeley School of Law to support the cost of two staff members to participate in Mindfulness Training Programs.  The COVID-19 Impact:  As with other education institutions, Berkeley Law School had to revert to remote learning and teaching, during which time the nation had experienced trauma related to COVID-19, racial injustice, and a highly polarized election.  The students, staff, and faculty of Berkeley Law were under increased stress. Berkeley Law required skilled leadership in mindfulness in order to meet these challenges. The staff members that were providing mindfulness programming and incorporating mindfulness and mentoring teaching law students had not participated in Mindfulness Teacher Certification Programs. With the skills and expertise provided by mindfulness teacher training, UC Berkeley was able to strengthen and expand the mindfulness program. With in-person gatherings, they will be able to include the offering of a daylong retreat without having to hire an outside teacher, as well as to better integrate mindfulness concepts and instruction into existing courses

In 2013, a grant in the amount of $15,000 was awarded to support a 4-day retreat and workshop in June 2013 for faculty members who were teaching or considering teaching a course involving mindfulness in American law schools and law schools in other countries. The goals of this program were to educate and support faculty in bringing mindfulness teaching into their courses – either as a part of other subject matter courses or as a stand-alone law and mindfulness course. The leaders of the workshop were teachers who had done pioneering work over the last decade in bringing mindfulness into the law school curriculum.  The conference was open to 40 participants. After the conference, a communication network was set up to provide support to all participants, in order to share experiences in moving mindfulness into the Law school curriculum. No other organization had as yet undertaken such a project. The pre-eminence of Berkeley Law in the world of legal education was greatly enhanced by the significance of this program.