Susan Daicoff

Document Type



This article outlines the history, context, importance, and development of ten or so "vectors" of an emerging change in the law comprising the "comprehensive law movement." This is a movement towards law as a positive force in the resolution and administration of legal matters. The vectors include: creative problem solving, therapeutic jurisprudence, preventive law, restorative justice, collaborative law, transformative mediation, and holistic justice. The movement utilizes the insights of procedural justice and other social science-based understanding of the intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics of legal affairs and legal disputes. Developments such as problem solving courts, which include drug treatment courts, unified family courts, and mental health courts, are examples of the comprehensive law movement in application. This movement and its vectors intersect in two broad areas: first, it explicitly seeks to optimize human wellbeing in the administration of law, the resolution of legal disputes, and the resolution of legal matters, when to do so does not impinge or reduce the legal rights of the individuals involved. Second, in resolving legal matters, it explicitly considers more than strict legal rights, duties, and obligations; it includes needs, goals, values, beliefs, resources, relationships, psychological dynamics, and other nonlegal factors in its analysis of legal problems and legal solutions. The legal profession has been suffering from a "tripartite crisis" in the past two decades or so, of deprofessionalism and incivility, low public opinion of lawyers, and lawyer distress and dissatisfaction. The comprehensive law movement holds promise for infusing a set of restorative, therapeutic, collaborative, reconciliative, cooperative, and humanistic values into law practice and the administration of laws that may appeal to many lawyers and many clients. In offering an alternative to the traditional approach to law and lawyering, the comprehensive law movement may help to ameliorate some of the internal and external dissatisfaction with lawyers and the legal system.