Spoleto is in full swing. And the inspiring performances that are occurring daily on stages throughout our city have caused me to reflect on how the passion of artists might inform our approach to the practice of law.
Spoleto is one of the most remarkable festivals in the country. For two and a half weeks, some of the world’s top visual and performing artists come to Charleston for a series of concerts, performances and exhibitions. And during those couple of weeks, Charleston (which is magical in its own right) takes on a whole new energy.
I always try to attend a few Spoleto events, and this year was no exception. This week I’ve pondered the work of these artists and their commitment to their craft. I have tried to imagine what it takes to train one’s body to execute feats of strength and dexterity with so much grace. To train the voice to glide through vocal ranges with such delicacy and firmness.
As I’ve pondered all of this, it occurs to me that the one thing these performers all have in common is that what they do and how they do it comes from a place deep inside them that goes far beyond mere technical competence. Their work, their art, is more than their abilities.
Over the ages poets have used a lot of metaphors to try to name what it is that sources great art and inspires the breathtaking, heart wrenching performances through which it is often expressed.
Metaphors are appropriate because the source of this talent is not something that can be named. While we, as lawyers, are very suspicious of things that can’t be named, those metaphors (and the experience of these artistic expressions) are worthy of our contemplation. As we might find–in their consideration–a path for a new way to consider our own work.
“Technical ability and competence are not enough to satisfy work. Work deserves the best we have, all of us, all of the soul’s imaginative and creative capabilities. We must practice law as a musician practices music or an artist practices art. More is required than reluctant, begrudging toil. In a peculiar way, the lawyer’s lament that legal practice wants their soul might be pointing the way out of this impasse…
–Benjamin Sells, The Soul of the Law