The Significance of Art in Right-Brain Lawyering: Exploring the Role of Attorneys

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I still remember my very first lecture in law school, as if it happened yesterday, even though it’s been more than 40 years. The professor who welcomed us to this new academic journey was Robert E. (“Nig”) Lee – a true expert in real property law in North Carolina and a renowned teacher and lecturer at Wake Forest University Law School. What he said during that class left an indelible mark on me.

Professor Lee initiated a thought-provoking discussion by asking if any of us were poets. Given my background as an English major in college, I eagerly raised my hand. He looked directly at me and said, “After we are through with you, you will never write poetry again.” His statement resonated deeply, as he proceeded to elucidate how the legal profession demands a specific, logical approach that relies on precedent, research, and persuasive techniques to build a compelling case.

That moment became a defining one in my legal journey, leading me to embrace a different way of thinking and honing my skills as a lawyer. Though my poetic endeavors may have taken a backseat, the pursuit of justice and the intellectual rigor of the legal field have proven to be just as fulfilling and rewarding.

Balance, Health, and the Importance of Art

Contrary to his belief, the professor couldn’t have been more mistaken. Lawyers not only require logical thinking and left-brain skills but also need to embrace creativity, imagination, and right-brain thinking. Cultivating their artistic and creative “soul” contributes to a balanced, healthy, and successful legal practice.

Relying solely on logic and left-brain skills might lead lawyers to neglect a vital part of themselves – their artistic side. Art embodies the dreamer, the magician, the philosopher, the volunteer, the creator, and the creation within us. It transcends individuality, enabling us to bring dreams to life in an otherwise logical world.

Many law students enter law school with altruistic intentions of making the world a better place. However, upon graduation and entering the legal profession, they confront the business aspect of law, characterized by competition, logic, and stress. Their original altruistic dreams may fade as they focus on billable hours, client retention, and courtroom success, often driven by their ego and the need to win.

For some lawyers, this disconnect leads them to switch careers or become professors. However, through art, lawyers can find fulfillment when the demands of the legal profession fall short. Not every lawyer will seek this path, as some genuinely find joy in the practice of law, delighting in the battles, competition, debates, and victories of their careers.

For instance, my father, a West Point graduate, embraced the adversarial nature of the law, seeing it as a battle to be won. On the other hand, after 27 years, I found that the law was not enough for me, and I sought artistic pursuits to complement my legal background. Embracing art allowed me to find fulfillment beyond the business-driven aspects of the legal profession.

The true gift of art is that it expands our horizons and allows us a different perspective.

Absolutely, art has the power to ignite our imagination and take us on a journey of self-expression. It can manifest in various forms, such as painting, music, dancing, poetry, writing, or even immersing ourselves in the creative works of others. Engaging in artistic pursuits is not just a leisurely activity; psychologists affirm that exercising the right side of our brain through creativity is as vital as physical exercise for our well-being.

The transformative impact of embracing art goes beyond the confines of our professional lives in the office or courtrooms. Art provides an avenue to dream and explore our passions, allowing us to experience a sense of liberation and expanded consciousness. In this surreal and boundaryless realm, we can escape the rigidity of the legal world and experience a form of healing and rejuvenation.

Living in a logical, structured universe as part of the legal profession can be demanding and limiting at times. Engaging in art and the creative process enables us to break free from those boundaries, fostering personal growth and nourishing our souls. The balance between the structured reality of law and the imaginative world of art enriches our lives holistically, leading to greater fulfillment and well-roundedness.

Cultivating Your Art

Lawyers can cultivate their art by embracing a wide range of creative activities that allow their imagination to soar. The beauty of art lies in the absence of a specific starting point or destination, making it a limitless and liberating pursuit. Any activity that allows them to envision something beyond the legal world can serve as their artistic outlet.

Engaging in various creative endeavors such as music, sculpture, pottery, painting, carpentry, dance, physical exercise, reading fiction, creative writing, and traveling can promote learning and personal growth. The key is to let go of the need for perfection or external validation, avoiding the trap of ego-driven concerns about one’s art’s quality or comparison with others.

Art should not be a source of stress; rather, it offers an opportunity to escape the ego and immerse oneself in a world of pure expression and creativity. By allowing the creative nature to take over, lawyers can experience moments of profound insights that positively impact their legal work and relationships with clients.

Art enriches our perspective, making us less judgmental and more open-minded. It expands our horizons, offering a different lens through which we perceive the world. This artistic pursuit helps lawyers become better individuals, fostering emotional intelligence and a deeper understanding of themselves and others.

I wholeheartedly recommend that lawyers dedicate time, even if it’s just a short period every day or week, to engage in imagination and creativity through their chosen art forms. This continuous practice can lead to enhanced intelligence and personal growth, ultimately benefiting both their personal and professional lives.

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