Law in Contemporary Society
How to Be Creative in Law School

The Simple Answer: Don't Forget Yourself.

This means retaining/maintaining a consistent understanding of who I am, where I come from, and what I'm interested in. I must continue writing poetry writing fiction, writing essays; keep painting and drawing and designing books and objects; keep learning the guitar and making music; keep consuming and following the visual arts, literature, the performing arts, music, industry, science, and technology.

This leads to creativity by osmosis: by doing all these things, theoretical and practical principles and techniques will (hopefully) seep into my legal work and give me a different set of analytical tools to approach legal problems. I seek to merge my law-learning with modes of learning that I have had luck/success/enjoyment in.

I also want to reinforce the importance of intentionality in "becoming a law student." I must force myself develop ways not to lose sight of my goals and to dampen the effects of cognitive dissonance resulting from conflicting self-images. The first of these self-images is the prior-to-law-school-self, in which I fancied myself a creative guy, an artist, a writer, a musician, someone who will have a "creative career." The second is the in-law-school-self, my current emergent self, in which I imagine myself as some kind of lawyer, maybe: an advocate, a litigator, a negotiator, someone who will have a "legal career." The creative thing is to blend these two ideas together to make a greater whole, something that does most of both, among other things. The challenge is self-doubt, ignorance, mischief, and self-destruction; all of which are necessary in some measure, but all of which are dangerous predators of the offspring of good intentions nonetheless.

The Better Answer: Learn to Use the Law as an Artist/Become a Legal Artist.

This means changing my understanding of what "the law" is and what lawyers do with it. I begin by internalizing the functionalist approach to legal theory, "the law is what it does," which I already knew, in a way, from my anthropology studies. Laws create social order by encouraging and discouraging behavior, in theory; and in practice is the furthest thing from that. Both are true, but again, lawyers must be effective at processing through cognitive dissonance. Now I, as law-student-who-thinks-he-is-an-artist, must try to use the tools of the law to make the system work in my favor and produce an outcome (a portrait/landscape/poem/song/story/theory of the world) that fits with a view I possess of justice.

I have to develop an understanding of the theoretical frameworks of the law in a way that approaches the intuitive and intimate understanding of the underpinnings of the arts. The analogy here is of the formal elements of art practices (color theory, art history, spatial composition, meter, rhyme, form, character development, world building, narrative, brevity, humor, proportion, scale, the Circle of Fifths, etc.) to those of law practice (textual interpretation, Constitutional theory and interpretation, law and economics, crime and punishment, etc.). The point here being that at the moment, my understanding of the big-idea principles of the law is shorter and shallower than that of the arts and anthropology and my work experience. So, I must find idiosyncratic ways to make it make sense and to answer questions, and I must use all my multiple resources and skills (books, the internet, office hours, class time, my prior education (anthropology, languages, physical sciences, stats, etc), morals, ethics, emotions, personal history, finance, politics, on and on) to do so. Taking all this into consideration should help fold my new legal knowledge into my pre-existing being in a way that is conducive to productive and creative results in law school and beyond.

Anyway, nobody ever became a great artist by sitting around and reading a whole bunch of art history and thinking hard about "how" to "use" "paint." You have to stand up and paint; bleed ink onto the page; cramp your hand playing guitar; pronounce the language wrong, and then get it right the next time. More than anything, the most essential, ontologically determinative thing in common to both careers in law and art is the practice element: a process of iterative trials of error, fact, and theory. Just like there are various ways of engaging and practicing art (enumerate), there are similarly various practical methods of law (again, part of the point being that I don't really know yet what's out there, but: litigation, corporate, transactional/transaction design, legislation, regulation, arbitration, etc.). I want to do, put all the coursework to use and figure out how it works by trial error. I want to navigate the sticky points and feel out what works for me. In art that looks like things I've grown comfortable experimenting with (figure drawing, painting, collage, print, guitar, trumpet, bass, songwriting, poetry, fiction, essays).

So what does that look like in law school? Prior to coming to law school, my understanding of careers in the law stemmed mostly from my experiences with criminal justice and my experience last summer working at a law firm. Since starting school, I've gotten some practical/practice-adjacent experience doing the Jailhouse Book Club, the BLSA moot court competition, the Paul Robeson Conference committee. To be more creative in school I need to speak with people who can inspire me, challenge me, change my mind, and help me decide and executive what I'd like to do


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r3 - 24 Feb 2020 - 13:56:11 - ElijahTurner
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