Art: The Learned Friend of the Law… or Vice Versa


Art: The Learned Friend of the Law… or Vice Versa

Storytelling is at the heart of the law and its’ fellow friend, art. Both have provided solace to me as I have evolved in this bittersweet tale of life. At times, art has been the saviour and on more than one occasion, the practice of law has underscored the ebb and flow of human life searching for certainty and clarity. Both law and art strive to meet this objective.

Like all great theatre, the setting, characters and costumes matter. To the trial lawyer, this is evident. What greater theatre than the one that unfolds in a courtroom? The presiding judge hearing the story and the lawyer telling the story of each character. Unlike a book of fiction, despite the efforts of counsel, the story unfolds with abandon — perhaps due to the characters themselves. What is clear is that the audience is beckoned to partake in this ancient desire to be heard, seen and understood.

The artist’s calling is the same, regardless of the medium. A painting, poem or film call out with the same message albeit with no similar seeking of remedy. Or perhaps not. What remedy are we seeking as purveyors of art? The alleviation of pain, of human suffering. This is the same matrix that confronts the purveyors of law.

The art of practising law means being alive to the nuances of the written and spoken word. It also means being alive to the lived experiences of others, including our own.

In telling the story of others, we, as lawyers, inevitably tell our own. This is a sobering thought. We consider ourselves separate from our clients, the court and our learned friends. Perhaps artists are in the same predicament — how does a novelist let go of their novel without feeling a sense of attachment and loss? Why do trial lawyers commiserate about their respective war stories which never leave them?

Contrary to popular thought and possibly our own expectations, the law is not black and white. It does not provide absolute certainty and consistency despite noble attempts to do so. Rather, much like art, it attempts to make sense of the human experience and uses logic, rules, and often grace in rendering an outcome, a remedy.

Both art and law are persuasive acts — the audience may not be the same but they have more in common than not. They are also engaged in acts of resistance. Many rebels are cloaked in the garb of law and that of art. I am grateful for the same.

Reading a book underscores a fundamental fact: we are not alone. Practising law underscores a fundamental fact: we are not alone. Am I viewing the practice of law with rose tinted glasses? Perhaps so — unlike art, the practice takes a toll on us lawyers. It requires us to have reprieve, solace. Does art do the same? Not so much for those who receive but for those who create? Are we in the same predicament?

I would like to think that we, as lawyers, would be welcome to sit amongst the poets, painters, philosophers and the mystics amongst us. In fact, with great certainty and clarity, I respectfully submit that we would be welcome to sit at the table reserved for the artists in this world.

I have been fortunate to sit on the board of the Indian Summer Art’s Society and to attend our local Indian Summer Festival. Inspiration and wonder have been experienced from my attendance of the annual New Yorker festival in New York City and Jaipur Literature Festival in Jaipur, India.

On many occasions, I have been asked to share stories from the courtroom.

As witnesses to the human journeys of many, we in turn have become poets, philosophers — modern day artist warriors.