Law in Contemporary Society

A Libra's Scale: Balance Between Law & Creativity

-- By LarryTaylorIII - 26 Feb 2021

I thought coming to Columbia would allow me to actualize the full range of my artistic interests without being consumed by the law. I have a passionate desire to make music, explicitly writing and performing songs within the genres of R&B and Hip-Hop, and I also have the interest to continue modeling.

With Columbia situated in NY and one of the better schools I got into, I thought coming to the city would provide the opportunities necessary to continue my artistic pursuits given the cultural art hub that is NY. However, since the start of the school year, I realized that this was a more challenging reality to bring into being than I thought. A significant part of that stems from the lack of creativity that I have experienced throughout law school. I found myself grappling with how law school consumes my mental capacity daily. Information I absorb from readings and classes often crowds out thoughts for anything else. Initially, I did not have an issue with the lack of creativity. I thought it was expected the first year of law school, and learning the blackletter law requires a considerable amount of time and effort. However, as the school year progressed, I realized that my mental health was taking a hit due to stress and testing anxiety. Being one of the few Black people in my section, I felt like there was additional pressure on my ability to perform in and outside the classroom. I underutilized the creative outlets I usually use to balance my work and personal life. The realization brought to light that even though I may have multiple interests, the reality is there is only so much time in a day.

The concept of the sacrifice made its way into my head as I found myself debating whether or not I would have to give up one aspect of myself in the pursuit of another. The standard of professionalism in the legal field contrasted the idea of the Black artist I viewed myself to be. I understand that the two are not genuinely irreconcilable. However, being in law school has shown me the difficulties of having multiple crafts and properly cultivating them. I find myself deciding between doing more work for law school classes that I don't have a genuine interest in and taking the time to decompress by freestyling and writing. Whatever I end up doing comes at the expense of the other, and I understand that's the tradeoff that comes with making decisions, but the unbalance between the two unsettled me. I felt as though law school was detracting from my ability to live life and create new experiences that serve as my art.

A significant reason for the unbalance is the curated culture and indoctrinated by the students here at CLS. As I navigated various settings here at CLS, I recognized that pursuing big law opportunities is prominent and more supported than public interest work. However, what was more frustrating to me was that the school still expected us to focus on summer opportunities that "determined" our futures despite not having completed an entire semester. It was a stark contrast to the mentality I developed for how I wanted to approach law school coming in. I came into law school with the idea that I would take advantage of all the learning opportunities offered at Columbia and utilize those privileges to develop as an attorney and advocate for my community back home in South Dallas. As the first semester progressed, I found myself succumbing to the pressures of applying to jobs before the winter break during the free time that I had that I wasn't using to study. The forces further contributed to the unbalance and, I would say, severely limited my creativity.

As I've grown to learn through the course, the structure of law school curriculums is not framed in a way conducive to students feeling as though they have the autonomy to feel fulfilled. For myself, I have been juggling the feelings of being disappointed in how the law school operates concerning external circumstances impacting marginalized group's academic experiences and developing the space for creativity in response. The culture here at CLS posits each of those statements as mutually exclusive and comes at the expense of my wellbeing as I struggle to pass the imagination test of law school. The way law school classes operate, there is little room for subjectivity in how we think about applying the law as it's framed now and in the past. The traditional framing of law school classes creates antagonisms both within and outside the classroom. Opportunities to bridge the personal with the political in classroom discussions are scarce. This seemingly objective manner of understanding and the mental toll that results from the number of daily readings suffocates my creativity, and maybe that's a testament to not finding the time to be inspired.

I can say that this course has put me in a position to discover an answer to my qualms. Ultimately as Prof. Moglen has often said, grades do not matter. They are not an accurate representation of your ability to succeed in pursuing what you desire in the legal field. Keeping that in mind, I am more intentional about using my time and making more of an effort to be proactive in cultivating a balance between my artistic interests and my development as a legal scholar. To engage that intentionality, I believe it will be essential to have conversations with the university administration in my capacity as a student leader to shed light on similar experiences students face and create spaces for the development of creativity and self-determination.

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r3 - 19 May 2021 - 01:50:51 - LarryTaylorIII
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