Law in Contemporary Society

Law School, Detachment, and Creativity

-- By AsherKalman - 26 Feb 2020

Detachment makes space for creativity

Organizations have creeds, and creeds exert pressure on members to conform. There are radical ways to find creativity while under such pressure. For example, revolution or total rejection. But a more common and attainable means to creativity has its root in detachment.

What is detachment

In one sense, detachment means self-sufficiency. It means an ability to have a contained amount of self-worth, protected from external socio-political forces. In a related sense, detachment means maintenance of a genuine dedication formulated outside the bounds of the prevailing mythology.

Law school myths

Law school is an organization with a creed. Its central myths are corporate law as a reasonable method of debt repayment and social recognition, grades as a source of stratification, and alcohol as a means of bonding and coping.

My detachment

I am lucky to have come to law school with some detachment. Before signing my lease, I flew to Poland as a reminder. I quietly walked through the barracks where my family was kept and the train cars, gas chambers, and roadside ditches where their lives were taken. In my time in Poland and later Palestine, I was reminded of Israeli amnesia. The ease of forgetting being a refugee people was apparent, and Palestinian suffering hasn’t faded.

Why detachment makes space for creativity

Working in international law and relatedly Israeli settlement policy has been an interest of mine for some time. This interest has allowed me to make original choices in the face of the law school creed. I actively participate in international groups that are not mythologically prestigious and take time away from my casebooks. I chose my elective on the basis of its apparent substance, not how a biglaw recruiter might perceive a course title that didn’t read ‘corporations’ or ‘tax’. Honest passion is freedom to make original decisions. But does this claim stand up to scrutiny?


It might seem that detachment, at least as I understand the term, would lead away from originality and independence. In the first place, law students are uniquely sensitive to people who stand out. Independence is threatening when the dominant creed rejects it. The more detached, the more pressure will be exerted to establish conformity. This takes the form of surprised and concerned reactions from friends when discussing summer plans and condescending conversations with the career service office. However, this appears merely to explain why those who are detached and subsequently act out fail to maintain detachment. It doesn’t address the narrower question of whether detachment breeds creativity.

Maybe detachment is a one-dimensional term. It merely signifies that another creed has control. For example, my apparent self-sufficiency may be a guise for greater control by an alternative creed imbedded in international groups of which I am a part. However, by focusing on a hypothetical reality, this argument avoids the theoretical question altogether. If it is possible for an individual to stand apart from all creeds, it’s possible for detachment to mean something more than allegiance to an alternative mythology. I choose to believe it’s possible, at least to some extent.

How to find detachment

Now that I have attempted to demonstrate that detachment sparks creativity and explained why, I will try my best to describe how to find detachment. There are some people with an inherent power of detachment. That is, there are rare individuals who can walk down streets in Jakarta, jeered at for being a black kid, and remain unaffected. But for most of us, detachment is attained by having goals that transcend the organizations of which we are a part. There should be no categorical imperative for organizations.

But this inquiry scratches the surface. It’s unhelpful to tell a law student to find detachment by making sure to find it before coming to law school. So, I will explore how to find detachment, and therefore creativity, while in law school. It is much more difficult to find detachment after being baptized by the admissions committee in mythological water.

Finding detachment in law school

Law students should focus on absence. Presence in law school is easy and continual. The trouble is moving from the pack. After a single semester, the three central myths I mentioned earlier (among others) no longer seem to be questions. The power of Columbia Law School has made ‘thinking people’ disregard them as inquiries. The best place to start is not by attacking or attempting to disregard these myths, but only by making them questions again.

I believe that law students struggle to question prevailing myths because they do not know how to value their own happiness. Because they place so little emphasis on their own wellbeing, the myths, which lead to unhappy lives, do not appear to deserve criticism. Absence means asking yourself what you wanted out of your life before law school came into the picture. It means acting on impulses that are independent of the myths constructed by OCS and Student Services. Once these inquiries are seriously made and happiness has reentered as a life objective, detachment from mythology becomes easier. Creativity can flourish in this mental environment because original expression and action will not be stifled by the creed.

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r5 - 28 Feb 2020 - 13:30:50 - AsherKalman
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