Law in Contemporary Society
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Legal Creativity

-- By LeslieRidings - 28 Feb 2020

Section I - Some comparison with experience

What is creativity in the law? I used to be a professional creative in film, but that’s not the same thing. Maybe a little. There can be a body of work that adds up to a “practice.” A lot of “convince the client I’m doing what they want – but actually doing what I want.” In my perception, law is somewhat different. A client comes to you and asks, “how do we best make this happen/keep this from happening?” Legal creativity may be how you answer that question. Law is a structure of power, made out of its history of exerting power, and used to exert even more. Your clients want you to deflect or channel that for whatever they’re after. At the end of the day, you get paid and go onto the next one. The lawyer licks their wounds or buys the bar a round, and again. But then again, I’m no lawyer so what the fuck do I know.

Legal creativity isn’t like being a fine artist, either. All self-generated bullshit. Maybe a little. In my experience, fine artists are self-destructive and either obsessed with the industry, themselves, or a little of both. Self-effacingly selling sizzle so that they convince their collectors – who they view with utmost contempt – that the sizzle is worth taking a risk on them for social capital. Until one day the artist supersedes the collectors and becomes a titan of pure ego. Well now that I say it, maybe there are similarities between the arts and Law. But then again, I was never a successful painter so what the fuck do I know.

Section II - Some assumptions

How are you creative in the law? Is it in the performance? Does it mean a dazzling display of rhetoric during oral argument? I don’t think that’s it. Though I’m sure that properly applied a dazzling display of rhetoric may win you a case or two. Or at least get the other side to hate you and that’s got to be worth something to someone. Maybe it’s an incredible stroke of the pen in a brief. Or a masterful display of wit in tersely worded letters threatening legal action against someone if they don’t stop/start/vacate/occupy/ pay/stop paying someone or something – immediately, of course. But I don’t think it’s really about the performance of the thing. Legal creativity isn’t about getting creative with the substance of the law either. Well, not too much. That’ll get you disbarred or arrested - or is at least illegal. But then again – well you know.

Is legal creativity more of a perspective? Is it broadening your scope of understanding, and presuming you know shit you can’t, and in the insecure self-importance of a world-weary adolescent, seeing it for “what it is?” Every graduation the loosing of another nest of vipers upon the earth? The law school – a charcoal suit-clad leviathan – swallowing generations of the ambitious innocent. Dragging them in gilded chains to a conformist hell with morally bankrupt work, decades of meaningless effort, and an eternity of strained smiles at well-appointed cocktail parties in rooftop lounges while deep house floats through thick air rank with Tom Ford. Shit – there may be something to that. But then again, I don’t think that has as much to do with creativity as it does fear. Or maybe simplistic evaluations. Cynicism betrays you and stinks like new plastic, self-importance gone stale. That’s not creativity in the law – but I think we’re getting somewhere.

Section III - Some suggestions

Maybe creativity in the law is just looking at it differently. Being fucking honest with what it is that you are doing – challenging yourself to engage with the full range of possibility of what “lawyer” must be and the many things “lawyer” need not be. The worst suit you will every wear comes “off the peg.” The best suit you will every wear was made for you. So why get some cheap shit that’s tight across the shoulders but sags somewhere else – when you can get your own bespoke number with that midnight blue liner with the extra pocket for your grandpa’s fountain pen that you like?

Maybe creativity in the law isn’t so much about what you do but how you do it and why you do it. Thinking critically at what it means to be a lawyer and what that means coming from your personal experience, how it aligns with your personal goals, how it will be a chapter – or the rest of the book – of your personal journey. Being honest with yourself about what you want from growing a practice of law and what that means for you and where you want to take it. Getting comfortable with not knowing shit and asking for help, and sometimes knowing exactly what you have to do and ignoring those ignorant fucks. When it must be that you bite a hand that feeds you or knowing when it must be that you sit down and shut up and say, “you’re absolutely right.” Or maybe, how to hang onto being a fucking human being in a profession that in some permutations seems designed to grind people up into little chips that reconstitute in warmer climates as “actors,” “serial entrepreneurs,” or “influencers.”

“Creativity in law” sounds at first blush a contradiction in terms. But I don’t think that it is. Sometimes, it is seeing what the law wants to take from you, trying to understand why it hungers for that part of you, and resisting it when you don’t want it to get near you. At other times, you welcome it. As you say, to be near the thing but not of the thing. To have a foot in it – and a foot out of it. To remain critical of yourself and your thoughts, words, and actions. To be evolving, to be alive, to be incomplete. To be light and heavy, to be a contradiction, to take it serious as a heart attack and laugh it off because it’s just another day in the gravel pit.

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r1 - 28 Feb 2020 - 22:56:16 - LeslieRidings
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