Sunday, October 21, 2007

Being Patient in the Studio

My last few posts have centered on the theme of understanding, which I suppose is indicative of the point I am at in my legal education. As a 2L, I am “in the studio” of law, taking the utility courses in order to lay the foundation of my legal knowledge. While I am comfortable with the notion that life is a journey spent pursuing deeper understanding, the impatient part of me wants to just get there. I envision “there” as the place where the intuition, factors, policy and history of law all meld happily together in my brain. Being “there” would mean that I could add my own contribution – creativity – to resolve complex issues by maneuvering through the law with the seeming effortlessness of my professors (or at least to know where to start).

I am working on my note for law review this semester. The wonderful thing about working on a project like this as a student is that we have access to some amazing minds in our faculty. Not only are our professors receptive, insightful and generous with their time, they model adeptness in legal scholarship. The fact that each professor I have approached is able to think along with me, give me constructive feedback, and suggest useful resources, all extemporaneous and without familiarity with the specific subject, is striking. I want to be able to do that.

What I have observed in my professors is that their creativity stems from a solid foundation of knowledge. Creativity alone is insufficient; in order to press legal scholarship forward in a meaningful way, one must have a command of the fundamental principles of law. In this way, legal scholarship is like choreographing a ballet. Choreographers may have inspired visions of expressive movement, but without technical proficiency and mastery of ballet form, the composition will be wanting. So is legal scholarship rooted in a mastery of the substance of the law. As novel as an argument is, if it departs without justification from what is known, it will fail to persuade.

I am an aspiring legal scholar, and while most of what I am now learning is principled and structured, this structure provides the framework for creative thought. Before I can begin to “choreograph” with the law as my professors do, I must spend more time mastering the fundamentals in the studio.

1 comment:

Alison M. Kilmartin said...

In response to Kelly's post I quote the late, great Justice Benjamin Cardozo who said, "Method is much, technique is much, but inspiration is even more." Thankfully moments of inspiration come along the way as method and technique are mastered.