Poetry and practicing law.

What lawyers can learn from poets.
by J. Boyle
Law is considered a scholarly profession, so we lawyers consider ourselves scholars. Worse, those of us who concentrate on litigating trials and appeals consider ourselves polymaths. A litigator’s expertise is process, not substance, so we take any case that walks in the door, assuming we can master the substantive law with our scholarly erudition. It’s no wonder we’re notorious know-it-alls. And on no subject is our conceit more apparent than literature. We trade in words, so some of us fancy ourselves writers and, yes, even poets.
I have a friend I met as an adversary—we tried a case together, on opposite sides. Flaubert presumably intended the pejorative connotation of “every notary bears within him the debris of a poet” for lawyers like my friend—he always wants to talk about literature, and I oblige him. But while my former adversary has forgiven me for besting him in the courtroom, he will never forgive me for admitting that, no, I don’t love literature for its own sake, but rather because it sharpens my persuasive rhetoric. He contends I’m abusing my “creative talents” by practicing law, but I’m quite certain he’s projecting. I am a lawyer first, foremost, and always. For me, literature serves the law, not the other way around. As I see it, Flaubert couldn’t cut it in law school anyway and dropped out, leaving lawyers to resolve the denotation of his poetic debris. We take out the poet’s trash.
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