Lo♥︎ing Legal Life: How to develop creativity as a lawyer

This week, systemic coach Zita Tulyahikayo and barrister James Pereira QC discuss the importance of creative thinking in the legal profession and how you can learn the techniques needed to give your career a creative boost.

Law and creativity

The best lawyers are creatives. Within the framework of statute, precedent and other legal rules, the job of the lawyer is to resolve the client’s issues by innovation. To transform the present problem into a future solution. The same goes for many other consulting professions.

James Pereira QC

We do this by searching for a solution that sufficiently respects legal norms while creating an outcome that fits as closely as possible to the client’s desired objective. If we stray too far from the legal norms we lose the case. If we stray too far from the client’s objectives we lose the client. So we must be innovative. This is particularly so when faced with seemingly “difficult” or “unwinnable” cases.

However, to achieve true success requires more than logical reasoning and dispassionate discourse can ever provide.

We must listen to our clients in order to understand properly what they are telling us. We must empathise in order to fully comprehend their objectives, which themselves lie sometimes hidden behind emotional and other barriers. And we must invision potential outcomes of particular action, whether those outcomes be good or bad, in order to plan a strategy for success.

Contentious work has added creative challenges: the need to package a case within an attractive and memorable story; to create tag lines and metaphors that will persuade; to formulate evidence that gives life to a case; to create mind tricks and set traps for cross examination; and to unite a team with the self belief needed to endure successfully the challenges which the opposition will raise.

All these – and much more – require us to follow a creative process: to take what we are given, to innovate, to transform and to resolve. Were it otherwise, all lawyers would work in the same way, yet none do; and cases could be decided by the impeccable logic of artificial intelligence, yet none are.

Developing creativity

How many of us spend time developing the creative powerhouses of our minds and emotions? How many of us purposefully apply creative processes and techniques to our work?

The answer is, very few. Creativity is not taught at law school or bar school. It is not an overt part of articles of pupillage. Its value remains largely unacknowledged by the profession. Yet it is recognised by the market: the best and highest paid lawyers tend to be the most creative.

Zita Tulyahikayo

So what can you do if you want to raise your game to a higher level by harnessing your creative power?

It may surprise you to learn that organisations such as The Creativity Workshop (www.creativityworkshop.com) can teach you the tools you need to develop your professional skills and innovative powers by tapping into your creative potential. 

The Creativity Workshop was established in 1993. It is based in New York City and is taught around the world including Dublin, Barcelona, Florence among many other inspiring locations.

Teachers Shelley Berc (former Professor at the University of Iowa, a novelist and playwright) and Alejandro Fogel (expeditionary artist and author) hold carefully structured courses, informed by their long experience and deep knowledge, in which you can learn the processes used by creatives to spark imagination, innovate and transform.

Skills learning through the creative process

Skills you can learn by creative processes include:

  • Silencing the inner critic – creative solutions often fail to see the light of day because of the inner critic. You can learn creative techniques that will bypass the inner critic, thus allowing your innovation to roam free. This is also a vital skill for leaders who want to bring out the best in their team.
  • Automatism – automatic techniques such as free writing and free drawing were developed by the surrealists in the early 20th century as a means of expressing the subconscious. They are an anathema to lawyers, but employed in the right way they can create unexpected and valuable resources that can generate solutions in unexpected and surprising ways.
  • Developing voices – any form of written or oral communication requires sensitivity to context. You can learn how to develop and practice different voices to suit particular contexts for communication.
  • Story telling – your client’s arguments are more likely to prevail if they are packaged in a suitable story. You can learn and practice the techniques behind memorable stories so that you can employ them where the opportunity arises
  • Enhanced empathy – the ability to see an issue from the perspective of another – be it the client, the opponent, the judge, your boss – is an essential tool of any lawyer. Creative techniques and exercises can harness your imagination and emotions to enhance your empathy, and therefore your ability to understand other points of view.

As Ms Berc observed, “Everyone has creative ability when they are younger, but many of us lose touch with it as adults. We show you how to get back in touch with your creative side and how to use it constructively. Our clients include not just artists but also businesses, other organisations and, increasingly, attorneys and lawyers from around the world.”

Is it time to sharpen your creative mind?

Next time you hit a seemingly intractable  legal problem, or your drafting fails to hit the right note, or  your oral presentation is failing to persuade – think about whether it is time to supercharge your practice with a dose of creativity. It is likely that you have the ability within you to find the solution you need – you just need a key to unlock that extra potential. Enhanced creative skills may well be the key you are missing.

In a market place that is  becoming more challenging by the day, those of us who can enhance our abilities above those of our competitors have the edge. In this market place, can you really afford to overlook new ways of thinking?

The authors welcome feedback from anyone concerned with the issues raised in their writing, and are also interested in hearing from anyone with suggestions for future articles. You can reach them at zita@lifetherapywithzita.com and on Twitter @LifeTherapyZita and at james.pereiraQC@ftbchambers.co.uk and on Twitter @JamesPereiraQC.