"I'm happy you're going to law school. Don't forget to turn off your lawyer brain every once in a while and come back down to earth." -a close friend
Over the past several months, while contemplating whether or not to attend law school, I've learned a lot about just what those who practice law do and don't do. Good thing. More than a few misconceptions exist about lawyers, and, even before my first day of law school, I find the responsibility falling on me to dispel some of these misconceptions.
In the creative world of musicians and artists that I come from, law is looked upon as an annoyance, about as creative and exciting as meeting with your tax consultant at the end of every year. It's mostly a waste of time, so better put as little time into it as possible. Contracts, agreements, corporate structures...all these concepts are nothing more than annoying human contrivances taking up time that could otherwise be used to compose a symphony or perfect a monologue.
Thanks to many conversations with many individuals practicing law in many different ways, I no longer see law this way. In fact, I now view the study of law as a creative enterprise that is just as much capable of creating beautiful expressions of the mind and spirit as any purely artistic discipline.
In order to understand how I could possibly see law this way, let's take a step back and ask the following question:
Why laws? Why the concept of 'law' in the first place?
With respect to criminal law and penal codes, the answer to this question is easy: to ensure the basic safety of all the members of a society. But we have plenty of laws that go beyond ensuring basic safety for the members of our society. Why do we need them? Also, don't forget about the civil court system, in which verdicts are determined based not only on written laws but also on what other courts have decided about similar cases (the legal term for this is precedent).
The answer is that in order for any project of any respectable level of complexity to occur, the individuals working on the project must first get together and agree to the terms and conditions of the project.
Since understanding this, I look at the whole world differently.
An example. Outside of my window here in Echo Park, I can see part of the downtown Los Angeles skyline. This skyline looks wildly different than it did five years ago, and it will look wildly different in five years than it does right now. Los Angeles is growing at a rate faster than it ever has since its 1920's Hollywood-powered golden age. I can see six cranes slowly erecting six different skyscrapers on plots of land that used to be parking lots.
My mind zooms in on a hypothetical crane operator, operating the crane to slowly move beams and joints into place. The number of legal agreements that led up to this crane operator putting beams in place on May 18, 2016, is staggering.
Notice how each and every step requires lawyers who are trained in how to clearly, thoroughly, and unambiguously write down the terms and conditions of an agreement. It is this clear, thorough, unambiguous agreement that allows the two parties to move forward with the project, knowing that their individual interests are protected even when challenges do arise.
This is the thing I find most fascinating about law. In the end, law is the practice of researching, synthesizing, and codifying, and the "deliverable" in law is the contract, or the case, or the verdict. In other words, the deliverable in law is a particular pattern of thoughts and facts. Like any great symphony or screenplay, a thought pattern is intangible, and yet it certainly must still exist in some concrete way, since these thought patterns are the requirements without which major projects and agreements among individuals and entities could never come to fruition.
This, to me, is why law is so exciting. Remember that all legal needs and disputes arise from real, genuine, day-to-day human interactions. As a lawyer, I get to bring my powers of observation, synthesis, and creativity to these human interactions to draft a thought pattern such as an appellate argument, or a contract. If I do a good job, if my creative thought pattern is based on sound reasoning and is properly relevant to the parties involved, then:
In other words...my creative work has a meaningful positive impact on the world around me.
If that's what it means to be a lawyer, then sign me up.