Cameron Rhudy

The Artful Lawyer: What The Creative Process Has Taught Me About Starting My Own Law Practice

I am very excited to share that September marks the beginning of a new phase in my legal career. I have said goodbye to stable employment with state government, benefits, and an office full of great colleagues to start my own transactional law practice. Bananas, right!?!

As you can probably imagine, I am feeling a good mix of emotions as I begin this adventure. I am excited, exhilarated, and hopeful, but at times I am also overwhelmed and a little nervous.

But these emotions are not that much different than what it feels like to start a new creative project. Sometimes I am excited to try a new medium or tool, and I am hopeful that my end result will look as I have imagined. But at other times, I am nervous that I might be disappointed by my own efforts, and even feel overwhelmed when I discover that my skills need refining before I will be able to achieve the effect I want.

So as I start down the path to establish and maintain my own law practice, I know that I have already learned some valuable lessons from the creative process that will come in handy in the future.

It is worth taking some risks.

One of the reasons pursuing a creative passion is risky is because the endeavor is often considered a form of self-expression. So it can be risky to create, because if the work is rejected then it can raise all sorts of self-doubt. Starting a new business is also full of risks.  For me, starting a law practice feels risky because I wonder if I know enough about the law generally and about running a business. It feels risky because this is also a way of putting myself out there, and I have no guarantees that anyone will want to hire me. It is risky because, like with most things, there is a possibility of failure.

But I have learned by struggling through the creative process that taking risks is almost always worth it, even if I can’t predict how that will be when I am at the starting line. This blog is a perfect example. I was super nervous about applying for the Ms. JD Writers in Residence program, and even more so when I was chosen to participate and the reality of having to come up with 12 different blog posts throughout the year set in. But I haven’t regretted it for a second. Despite my initial fears, participating in this program has made me more confident, has forced me out of my comfort zone, and as challenged me to become a better writer.

So when I am feeling scared or nervous during the beginning years of my law practice, I will keep charging forward because I know that taking this risk and putting myself out there will be worth it.  

Stay calm and problem solve

The creative process is full of “opportunities” to problem solve. The imagination, after all, does not wish to be bothered by real world limitations that will be encountered during the hands-on execution stage.  So inevitably, unanticipated problems arise during the creative process.

I may not know yet what problems I will encounter while starting my law practice, but I think I can be fairly positive that opportunities to problem solve will present themselves on many occasions and in many forms. Sure, I have tried to prepare; I have drafted a business plan, I have begun reaching out to like-minded attorneys, and I am filling the gaps in my business knowledge as much as possible. But I also know that planning and preparing only gets me so far, and that only when I am actually implementing my plans will I start to see what is working and what needs to be modified.

I learned this hard lesson during my wedding invitation fiasco last summer. I had been bitten by the letterpress bug, invested money in a tabletop press, and was eager to design and print my very own wedding invitations (classic newbie mistake, but I did it anyway). When the prints did not turn out as planned I panicked. In short, there were tears, ink got everywhere, and I started turning important bolts with a wrench, which just made the prints worse. Thankfully, I had to stop what I was doing to pick up some friends from the airport for a trip out of town. If I had continued that day, I am afraid I may have given up on printing forever. But taking that break was the best thing I could have done, because it allowed me to calm down and think about possible solutions to try when I got back home. My wedding invitations were not perfect by any means, but when I returned home I was eventually able to print invitations that I could use and get them in the mail.

So when I an encounter hiccups while building my law practice, I know that I have to keep calm and problem solve in order to overcome my obstacles.  

Enjoy the process

Enjoying the process is difficult to do in art making and I anticipate that it is just as difficult when starting and maintaining a business; both are hard work, they are mentally and emotionally taxing, and they are time consuming. In addition to the risks and unanticipated problems I have already mentioned, there are usually financial investments on the line, and these types of endeavors have also been known to strain personal relationships.

But at the end of the day, the reason that I tackle creative projects is because I like learning new skills, I like testing my abilities, and I ultimately hope to create something asethically pleasing or interesting. And in order to accomplish these goals, I must endure the creative process. And truthfully, without the process, the creative act would not be nearly as gratifying on those occasions when I am actually successful and proud of what I have created.

So I am determined to enjoy the process as I start down the road of business owner and solo practitioner. I will do my best to make sure that I don’t forget why I decided to take this leap in the first place,  and that I try to appreciate how much I am learning along the way. After all, enjoying the process will make my success that much sweeter.

2 Comments

Janet

Congratulations on starting your own practice! Very exciting!

Cameron Rhudy

Thank you, Janet!

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