By Cameron Rhudy • November 11, 2014•Writers in Residence
Most of the year I have written about how pursuing creative activities can benefit the practice of law and about how the creative process has taught me many skills that I can apply to my practice. I have also highlighted how creativity is not just reserved for the artist-types; that it can be employed to solve all sorts of problems, that it can be used when crafting a lifestyle that is more in tune with your true self, and that there are ways to use your J.D. in creative and new ways. But even I have to admit; creativity and the law do not always mix, at least not at first.
This has been especially on my mind the more I learn as a Sustainable Economies Law Fellow. As I learn how to serve cooperative and community-based businesses, I become more aware of the legal obstacles that stand in the way of some really great ideas for strengthening local economies. Law has a way of raining on parades.
Of course, many laws are in place to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the public. They help prevent exploitation of workers, they ensure your food is safe to eat, and they deter crime. And with some additional time, research, and resources, workable solutions can sometimes be found within the current legal framework. Other laws, however, are simply too restrictive or are out of synch with how people and businesses function in today’s age. And therefore some ideas require a change in the law at the local, state, or even federal level to make them legally sound.
The prospect of trying to change a law before moving forward with an idea can feel like defeat before a client has even gotten out of the gates. And this feeling is not without some basis. As a former legislative attorney I had a unique view into how hard my clients and their bill sponsors worked to get a piece of legislation passed. It can take more than one legislative session to get a policy goal enacted into law, can require a lot of lobbying and rallying the public for support, and a lot of compromise. But many laws can be changed, and so a legal roadblock does not necessarily have to be the death of an idea. And instead it can just be a detour.
When I initially decided to start my own law practice, I did not have a clear vision of how my prior experience as a legislative lawyer could be incorporated into my new law practice, if at all. Before, my services were typically employed once a policy issue had already garnered at least some attention from a member of the Legislature. That was my role because the members of the Legislature were my clients.
But now I see the legislative process from a new perspective. I see the process in its infancy stage, when a need for a change in a law that unfairly or unnecessarily restricts the implementation of an innovative idea is initially identified. And as I see this more and more, I am realizing that my legislative experience may fit more naturally in my new law practice than I had expected. Instead of simply telling a client he or she can’t do something when his or her creative idea smacks into a legal roadblock, there may be times when I can use my experience as a legislative lawyer to provide a client with some valuable tools for taking that detour and pursuing a change in the law.