Is practicing law an art? Is it a craft? How much self-expression do you really want your lawyer to put into his or her work? Join us at Everyday Law as we preview these questions about art and creativity in the law of real estate, family law and trial work.
Is Real Estate Law Creative?
When I first considered a real estate law practice, for example, I didn’t think that there was much art or creativity to it. The lawyer has standardized form contracts. Every transaction is similar in terms of its parts – contract, inspection, attorney review, title search, closing documents, etc.
But speaking with Judy Maldonado really opened my eyes. She explained how much there was involved in keeping a deal afloat, and that her skill in negotiation is what helps families achieve their dreams of home ownership.
Moreover, knowing Judy personally helps me understand what a genius she is with people. She is a connector, and her love for helping her clients shines through in every deal. I was a little jealous – but not surprised – when she told me that her clients inundate her with gifts of chocolates and cookies around Christmastime, and other holidays.
What About Family Law?
Because I don’t practice family law at all, I had a hard time determining the answer to this question – until I sat down for lunch with Gary Schlesinger and Mike Strauss of their firm — Schlesinger and Strauss.
Family law certainly takes creativity, according to those two divorce attorneys. The most difficult part of the job, according to them, is shoe-horning delicate family disputes into the rigid bureaucracy of the court system.
Here is an example. How should the court system handle the situation where Mom has the kids on the weekend, but there is a baseball game; Dad does not want to miss the game, but he brings his new girlfriend, ruining Mom’s weekend with the kids? So much emotion goes into this kind of dispute – love, maternal or paternal instinct, jealousy, control, boundaries, etc.! How should the court handle this, I wonder?
Trial Work as Artistry
The kind of attorney work that I feel is indisputably creative is “trial work” – mostly because it seems to be a kind of performance art. As a trial attorney, you have to write your lines, direct your witnesses, perform your part, etc.
You have to have the skills of a master story-teller, the stage presence of an actor, the insight of an experienced director and the finely tuned instincts of a poker-player, all at the same time.
We’re really looking forward to having Steve Larson of Swanson Martin & Bell — an outstanding and creative trial attorney — on the show in May to talk about trial work and everything else that is involved in medical malpractice defense work!
What got me thinking of art in the law is a book by Seth Godin, called Linchpin. It is about putting “art” into your work. And what he means by that is doing more than just “punching a clock,” or working on the assembly line. The idea is that the more of yourself that you put into your work, the more your work becomes “art,” no matter whether you are a real estate attorney, a family law attorney, a trial attorney, an accountant, or a barista at Starbucks!
I’m curious about your opinion about this matter. If you have something to add or a question, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening to my ramble and I’ll see you soon!