While certain types of lawyers characterize themselves according to the legal areas in which they practice, such as patents, bankruptcy, or estate planning, arts and entertainment lawyers define themselves by the work of their clients. As an arts and entertainment attorney, I chose this specific discipline because I care passionately about creative work and the people who produce it. I advise and educate artists on the law, but it is artists who have inspired me to find my bliss. In fact, every lawyer could do well to learn some life lessons from artists.
1. Be Patient.
Watch the excellent Ira Glass on Storytelling video. He specifically refers to the writing process, but his commentary has resonated with all artists about creating quality work. The bottom line is that developing great work takes time, effort, experience, and the humility to recognize all this. Artists understand that it is necessary to start on a modest scale, continually improve their skills, and refine their work. Mr. Glass encourages artists to persevere because eventually this dedication will pay off, yielding work to be proud of.
Attorneys, especially young attorneys, should view their work in the same way artists do. All the mistakes made, critiques received, and rewrites performed when we are starting out contribute to our becoming better lawyers over time. When we pursue and embrace opportunities for self-improvement and stay committed to why we want to become lawyers in the first place, the quality of our legal work will positively reflect this.
2. Be Versatile
When I worked at California Lawyers for the Arts, I handled prospective client calls to the Legal Referral Service. Over the course of conducting intakes and collecting client information, I noticed that many artist clients classified themselves as working in several different types of art. Among the clients I remember helping include a sculptor-painter-graphic designer, a filmmaker-writer-musician, and a dancer-writer. Cultivating multiple talents, these artists reflect the value of being adaptable, resourceful, and well-rounded.
Attorneys too can be flexible and multifaceted. Much like artists, we have an innate interest in learning new things. We should channel this interest so that as many people could benefit from our legal knowledge as possible. Gain competence and exposure to new practice areas, new geographic/demographic/cultural markets, and new approaches to sharing legal knowledge.
3. Do What You Love.
The stereotype of the bitter lawyer should not have to be a lawyer’s reality. Priorities are misdirected when any attorney has to endure an unfulfilling and unhappy job in order to gain prestige, wealth, and presumably happiness at some unknown point in the distant future. Happiness is not a goal currently beyond our grasp because we have not “earned” it yet as lawyers. On the contrary, the work we are doing now should be work that makes us happy to begin with. Artists seem to grasp this concept well. The pleasure and pride they have in their work is apparent. Attorneys, regularly ask yourself: Am I proud of the legal work I do? Am I proud of the clients I represent? Am I content with my career choices? Am I happy? Then proceed with constructing the masterpiece that is your life. Make it meaningful.
Are you doing what you love and loving what you do? Keep in touch.
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