Cameron Rhudy

The Artful Lawyer: A Legally Minded Patron of the Arts

Some of you may be wondering, “how can I be an artful lawyer? I am not a creative person?”

When I talk to people about art or creativity that is what I sometimes hear people say, “I am not a creative person.”  What baffles me, however, is that it is usually the woman that says she is not creative that then comes up with really great decorating ideas for parties, or turns around and makes a kick-butt homemade Halloween costume for her son or daughter. Or sometimes it is the person who can look into a sparsely filled refrigerator and take what I would call “nothing to eat” and make an amazing meal without wasting a moment on recipe searching.

These examples sure sound a lot like exercises in creativity wouldn’t you say?

Forget the Creative Bone Business

So, for starters, don’t believe for one moment that you are not a creative person. If you thought about it long enough you probably could come up with several ways in which you practice your creativity on a weekly or perhaps even daily basis.

But even if, for the sake of argument, you truly believe you do not or cannot “create” anything in the traditional sense, then answer this question:

Do you enjoy reading, listening to music, going to art galleries or museums, watching T.V., movies or plays, playing video games, or even buying clothes and shoes?

Of course, right? In fact, the likelihood is high that you enjoy more than just one of those things, which are all types of creative works. I would argue, therefore, that by deciding what you like to read, watch, listen to, or buy you are exercising your creativity. Perhaps you may not be a maker of art per se, but you at least have an inherent sense of creativity. After all, you are using your senses, such as your ears and your eyes, to participate in a form of arts appreciation. You decide what creative works you like, and which ones are not for you.

So forget about lamenting over your lack of a creative bone in your body, turns out you didn’t need it after all!

And, if you are wondering how you can be an artful lawyer, one way is to become a legally minded patron of the arts. Toss out the notion that you have to be filthy rich to be a patron. A patron is just a fancy term for supporter. If fact, we just discussed how you are probably already a supporter of the arts in many was. But one way to step your patronage up a notch is to volunteer for one of the many volunteer lawyers for the arts organizations sprinkled all over the county. As an attorney, you have valuable skills that can be used to help artists share their work with the world.

It’s the Perfect Cocktail!

I am not be talking about the happy hour beverage, but if you are looking for a wonderful way to mix your love of the law, art, and public service, volunteering your time to emerging artists who have various arts-related legal needs might be a good fit for you.  

Although it is not associated with the other organizations on its list, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in New York has a handy directory of similar organizations around the country. Click here and check it out, there might be one close to you!

While each organization runs its programs a little differently, many have lawyer referral services or pro bono legal services programs, participate in arts advocacy, and run education and outreach programs.

And if you are like me, what first comes to mind when you think about an artist’s legal needs might be intellectual property.  But after checking out the different programs, I discovered that many of these organizations have a broad definition of what an arts-related legal need is. So while a background in intellectual property may be useful, artists also have needs for attorneys with experience in a variety of other practice areas, such as landlord-tenant, contracts, alternative dispute resolution, and even estate planning. Your practice area, therefore, might be a better fit than you think.

So that, my friend, is one of the ways you can be an artful lawyer! 


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