Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Old Friends

One of the unexpected pleasures of this campaign has been connecting with old friends from high school, college, law school and from my first jobs in the law. Some I have not seen or communicated with in years but the ease with which we have picked up where we left off makes me realize how fortunate I have been in friendship. The common thread that seems to unite my friends is a quality of kindness which is a quality I value more and more as I get older. Not in the sentimental sense of being "nice" but in the original sense of word, of being "kin." It seems to me that the basis of most moral teaching is simply the recognition of our kinship with one another and the obligation that that imposes upon us to treat each other -- and for that matter, all sentient beings -- justly and compassionately. This also seems to me to be the moral basis of those strains in the law that fall within the rubric of equal protection; all are equal before the law because in some sense all are equally members of the human family. Friendship is another recognition of our kinship and I have been fortunate that, when I left home at 17 and threw myself in a world that home had not prepared me for, I met so many sisters and brothers.

The poet Yeats says it best: Think where man's glory most begins and ends, And say my glory was that I had such friends.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Law and Literature

I was at the gay and lesbian institute leadership conference over the weekend and I met several people who had read my novels. One of the asked me if it was difficult to be both a lawyer and a creative writer, a question I have encountered before. The answer is, not really. Writing fiction requires some of the same skills as practicing law: discipline, organization, the ability to think broadly and also to pay attention to detail. Writing a novel is, like producing a brief, a form of persuasive writing because the writer is attempting to persuade readers to suspend their disbelief (in Coleridge's famous phrase) and to enter into the fictional world, even though they know it does not exist, as if it did. Most of all, writing requires discipline, the same discipline required for sitting at a desk for hours, reading and analyzing case law. Writing fiction is work, it's a job or a vocation and the same work habits that lead to success in other fields, like law, are necessary for success as a writer (and by success I mean actually writing the book.)
And what about law? Well, lawyers are professional writers. Like novelists most lawyers get paid to produce written work and their ability to communicate effectively on the page is part of their arsenal of professional skills. Moreover, like fiction writers, most legal writing tells a story; even the seemingly driest insurance coverage case has a story with human beings in it somewhere. Lawyers would do well to study the techniques of fiction and deploy them in their legal writing when they are appropriate. I'm doing my part: I have designed a creative writing course for law students which I hope to teach once this campaign is over.