I’m in the middle of playing Connect 4 with the 7 year-old. He loves this game, and he’s pretty good at it. I, on the other hand, am bored out of my mind. Then I berate myself that I need to share his enthusiasm, to enter his world. So I try to understand the attraction of the game.
That lasted for roughly a millisecond. Then found myself thinking that if object of the game were to work together to make interesting patterns with a limited number of moves, I’d be so much more into it.
Then it hit me: This is why I never liked law, and was never, ever going to. I just don’t give a shit about stymieing other people and winning. At heart, I’m only interested in creating, whether it’s new ideas, new art, new words, new clothes. Anything different and interesting.
Which Job Do You Want: Building Up or Tearing Down?
I’m going to go out on a limb just slightly and say that if you’re at all interested in creating, you’re never going to be happy in law. Law, in its DNA, is about tearing stuff apart. Whether litigation or deals, it’s about pitting one side against another. That means channeling energy into opposition and strategy, rather than into creating agreement and movement along a path. It’s the extrinsic v. the intrinsic.
Clients often hate their lawyers precisely because of law’s DNA: The client wants to go off and make something new and exciting, and the lawyers are the wet blankets telling them they can’t. Lawyers tear at the new idea, new product, new whatever, trying to make it like something they already know, and don’t add any good ideas about how to get to a new place. (This rant isn’t about the clients who want their lawyers to help them beat or outmaneuver the other side.)
On the other hand, creativity is about putting together some existing things in a new, unusual or just different way; basically, that drives lawyers insane because they don’t understand it. The new thing doesn’t fit into precedent neatly, if at all.
I trust you can see the deep tension between these two ways of walking through the world: enforcing the status quo v. busting it wide open. If you’re wired to challenge the status quo, you’re never going to be happy in law.
Often, people—and lawyers in particular—don’t think they’re creative because they weren’t art or theater majors or aren’t obsessively writing a novel. Certainly those folks are creative, but that’s not the only way to tell. Next time, I’ll talk some about the clues that you might in fact be a creative person in lawyer’s clothes.
Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who still wants to learn Photoshop, even though she isn’t a graphic artist (so far). She helps unhappy lawyers discern where their real happiness lies, in both career and life. Jennifer offers discounted sample coaching sessions. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule yours today.