I do not know if I can be accused of being a good lawyer, but I am certain I can be accused of not thinking too hard. But, let us face the truth. We all tend to come up with our best stuff -- out best ideas -- our best thinking on a subject when we are distracted and thinking about something that we sometimes more pleasant.
This is the problem I have with those lawyers that disregard the concept of work-life balance or blending. Those that think you take a new associate, chain him or her down at a desk staring at documents 60 hours a week, might be expanding billable hours, but they are not promoting creative lawyers.
Do not we all find that the prime moments of thinking come when we appear distracted? That what we want to come to us does not when we are struggling to come up with it? Well, the same is true for law.
It is nice to think, as lawyers did in the Second Wave, that you are going to maintain to-do lists, calendars, get up early, go to bed late, and stay on a work schedule. In truth, you will end up bored out of your gourd, tired and just plain unimaginative. And, any way you cut it, that does not make for a good lawyer. That makes for someone that wants to exit the practice of law.
How many of us have come up with our best legal ideas, causes of action, solution, arguments, legal theories, and during moments when concentrating on other things, in front of the TV, at our kids track meet, watching a ball game, walking around the block, blogging, at a concert, on the golf course, doing yard work, on a card ride, or otherwise no expecting to? I would dare to believe most of us.
It is undoubtedly part of the saying that goes something like, "All work and no fun makes Chuck a dull boy". It also makes me -- and you -- unimaginative, one dimensional, and burned out on the practice of law.
I was reading an article recently in SmartMoney magazine, while waiting to get my hair cut, that pointed out that Nobel Laureate physicist Richard Feynman used to visit a topless bar, sip soda and scribble quantum mechanics on a napkin. Now that is a distraction, but not one that I would necessarily advise.
Albert Einstein came up with his theory of special relativity while not thinking about it at all. He was imagining himself as a child riding on a beam of light.
Brain scans show that when we think we are not overly thinking our unconscious mind is working overtime looking for the perfect solution. And yet, when try to force it with our conscious mind we get nothing but confused and a headache. The conscious mind is sort of like working with a pencil and paper, while the unconscious mind is more similar to inputting data into a computer and letting it run through through all random data.
This is the reason that answers often seem to come to us from nowhere. Better yet, these thoughts from nowhere tend to be more creative and novel than the ones we slave over.
When you concentrate on a matter you turn on your brain's prefontal lateral areas, which governs analytical thought. But, your insightful and more nuanced answers come when you allow your medial areas to work.
This is the old right brain, left brain analogy. It is part of the women are from Venus and men are from Mars understandings. Hey, maybe it is what distinguishes conservative -- prefrontal -- people from liberal -- medial -- people. But, I digress.
The point is that creativity comes when both parts of the brain are allowed to work effectively. Therefore, those that never do any work, and those that always work at the practice of law have a problem. The data has to be in the your brain before the unconscious computer can do its work.
The difficulty with trying to find the "aha" moment is that you cannot work for it. You cannot dig for it. Prolong staring at codes, statutes or case law is going to help. You cannot get to the deeper regions of your brain just because you want to. The more you press to get there, the less likely you will find the solution or the idea for which you are looking. The only way you can access this portion of your mind is to let your mind wander freely by doing something repetitive, such as washing clothes, power washing your driveway, playing video games, watching cooking shows on the Food Network, attending your child's recital or play, watching football, going to a movie, or casually surfing the Net. This is because when we concentrate, the brain suppresses territory on our mental map, and it tells all of the thoughts and theories in the unconscious to be quiet.
So go to the movie matinee, go to the ball game, go work in the yard, go walk your dog, go read that novel, go catch part of that old movie on Turner Classics, and take a nap. It does make you a smarter person and a better lawyer in my opinion.
Now, what does make this easier to do is to not work within the direct scrutiny of others that can observe you doing this. All these people need to know is that you get your work done, and you deliver the thoughts and ideas that they need. It is no secret that some people view this the wrong way. Therefore, working at home is best. It is the place that you can best blend work and life into a powerful and creative thought cocktail that will impress not only others, but also yourself.