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Kopping-Pavars incorporates ancient teachings into law practice

A book based on ancient Toltec wisdom impressed Toronto-area family lawyer Nicolle Kopping-Pavars so much that she now incorporates its core messages not only into her personal life but also her legal work.

“Earlier this year a friend told me about The Four Agreements, so I went online, bought it, and devoured it,” says Kopping-Pavars, principal of NKP Law and Lotus-Law.

“As I was reading it, I realized the advice I’ve been giving my clients — about not taking things personally and being impeccable with their word — has been around for thousands of years,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com.

Kopping-Pavars says the book, written by don Miguel Ruiz, talks about how people can find happiness and contentment in their lives by adhering as closely as they can to four principles or 'agreements.'

Those agreements include: be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions and always do your best.

“With family law, I'm dealing with people going through these huge transitions in their lives,” says Kopping-Pavars. “They are in the middle of these conflictual conversations and are consumed with conflicting emotions.”

She feels so strongly in the transformative power of the agreements that she now incorporates them into her client retainers.

Kopping-Pavars says a clause in her retainer reads: “As part of ensuring that we have a positive client/solicitor relationship, I have certain expectations of my clients. By signing this retainer agreement, you agree to adhere to these basic principles to the best of your ability as it will allow me, you and the team to work with integrity, respect and trust.”

The Four Agreements are listed, she says, followed by, “While these may seem trite, it allows us to be objective when navigating a complex and overwhelming transition.”

Kopping-Pavars  says no one has refused to sign retainers with this clause.

“I want to my clients to be accountable to me, or I can call them out,” she says.

Kopping-Pavars says she keeps cards in her office, each one focusing on one of the agreements.

“If we are going into a difficult meeting, such as facing a spouse, I tell my clients to choose one of the cards, and let that be a mantra for them in the meeting,” she says.

Kopping-Pavars recalls a mediation session she held with a husband and a wife, who each took a card before the meeting, and put it down beside them when they met on opposite sides of the table.

“During the mediation, while they didn’t pick up the cards, I could see them looking at them throughout the meeting,” she says. “I could tell it worked as a mindfulness tool.”

Kopping-Pavars describes how she incorporates the Four Agreements into her work.

“To be impeccable with your word really just means to speak with integrity, say only what you mean, avoid using words that speak either badly about yourself or the other person, and avoid gossiping,” she says.

“Use the power of the impeccability of your word to move in the direction that you would want for yourself,” Kopping-Pavars adds.

The Second Agreement, to not take anything personally, is the hardest one for clients, she says, as many are dealing with intense emotions.

“Of course, they are going to take things personally, as this is their life, which is falling down around them,” Kopping-Pavars says.

“However, this agreement is really about understanding that what other people say is coming from where they are and how they feel,” she says.

“That’s their view of reality, not yours, so don’t take it personally,” Kopping-Pavars says.

The Third Agreement — don't make assumptions — calls on people to be “very clear about what they feel and think,” she says, “so that you can avoid miscommunication or misunderstanding.”

Kopping-Pavars notes that we all often assume we know what that another person is thinking, though many times we are wrong.

She says the final agreement, do your best, calls on people to make an honest effort to perform as well as they can at all times.

“Give yourself permission to know that your best will change moment to moment, but wherever you are, you did your best, and if it is not quite right, life will give you an opportunity to correct it,” Kopping-Pavars says.

Kopping-Pavars admits she is a “completely different type of lawyer.”

Her office is home to a variety of self-help tools such as a box of fridge magnets — that clients can pick out — displaying positive messages such as “life is simple, it just isn’t easy,” and crystals that clients can hold in their hands to receive positive energy. She's also written a book about mindfulness and made a deck of mindfulness cards. 

“I used to be very worried that I'm just not acting like a lawyer,” Kopping-Pavars says, “but then I realized that my profession is only one part of me.”

Kopping-Pavars says she is good at reading people, to gauge how accepting they will be of her mindfulness approach.

“I'm not going to make someone drink the Kool-Aid if they don't want to, but I will still use it for my own purposes, to guide me through the process,” she says.

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