by Ginger J E Grant, MA
Is there a point to being disheartened with the practice of law? Of feeling that the ladder is against the wrong wall? Is there a place for creativity in the practice of law? Can the current culture of most law firms be changed? Perhaps using some of the wisdom of the past may provide a path for a better future.
Joseph Campbell believed that there was a myth that crossed all cultural barriers, all age groups, gender and race and called it the Hero’s Journey. The story of the hero is as old as time. Campbell believed that the story of the hero is one we all follow – aware or not, we are all on the Heroic Path. The practice of law is no different. There are few Hero/ines in our society but some would argue that lawyers still serve that purpose.
Campbell advised his students to follow their bliss. Not in a drugged-out state, not a Pollyanna-like feel good group-hug, but to follow the deepest desire within you that drives a life forward into the unknown. None of us lives the life we had planned. Most people have suffered a loss of some kind and been forced to come to terms with that loss. To have passion for something or someone denotes previous suffering; the word passion means to suffer or endure. It is only through our losses that our passions become evident, become clear. To follow your bliss means to follow your passion; to heed the knowledge so dearly paid for through suffering and loss.
Passion rests on a foundation of core beliefs, those hard won values gained through encounters with life. It is always fascinating to hear the war stories told around the water cooler or the local bar. To follow your bliss is the path of the Hero, and stories of victory and defeat carry those archetypal values that each lawyer must choose.
Corporate cultures reside in large firms and in small ones. Even a sole practitioner creates a corporate culture in which he or she lives. That culture is a concrete example of the core values of the practitioner. It doesn’t matter what you say, how articulate your argument, if your behavior makes a liar out of you. Your stories, or myths, are the lifeblood of your firm. Every client that comes to your door comes with a story. Where can you link your client’s story to your own? What if you considered understanding, collecting and telling those stories to be your best marketing tool? Lawyers probably best understand the power of story. They are used every day in every law office under the disguise of precedents. The power of a simple story well told has not changed. Thus the importance of understanding the Hero’s Journey, for it is a favorite regardless of age.
To work from a mythic perspective necessitates choosing what you believe in and why you believe in it. You claim your own story and your right to live it. You seek others who share your commitment and your beliefs. This shared story is the rock-solid foundation of a practice and to lose the commitment to your own story is to lose your way in the dark.
The drudgeries of practice will always be there. There will be too much paper, not enough time, and pressure from above and below. But if you renew your commitment to your own archetypal values, and consciously incorporate them into your day-to-day practice, the corporate culture in which you live will be a nourishing one. To use the ancient wisdom of mythology by claiming your archetypal values, and putting them to story will renew your passion for your profession. Try it. What do you have to lose?
Ginger J E Grant, MA is an expert in Corporate Culture and Creativity. www.creativityinbusiness.org
This article was published in the August 2004 issue of BarTalk. © 2004 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.