Recently  two things happened to lead to this post on Professionalism.  First I received a haircut from Charlotte a young hair stylist in training. Second, I read a law review article by Professor John Nivala, Zen and the Art of Becoming (and Being) a Lawyer, 15 UPS L. Rev. 387 (1991). Professor Nivala draws from his reading of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to discuss practicing law at the highest level. Here I draw from Charlotte and Professor Nivala to discuss Professionalism in the practice of law. By Professionalism  I mean doing what you do at the highest level.

Passion. The first requirement for Professionalism is passion. A  professional loves what she does. With young Charlotte being a hair stylist is her first career choice. She is a college graduate choosing to be a professional hair stylist. The best lawyer is a lawyer who loves what she does. This means she is passionate about helping  people through legal representation.

Immersion. The  professional immerses herself in her work. She forgets about all else except her project. She becomes one with her work. I observed young Charlotte in this zone of immersion while she focused on my hair. A Lawyer at her highest level enters a zone of focus where she loses track of time, she loses track of outside stimulus, and there is no separation between her and her work.

Creative. There is no road map or set pattern for a professional. Charlotte was cutting a man’s hair for the first time. My hair grows different ways in different places. She made decisions as she cut on how to style based on what she had learned and on her creative instinct. The result was a great haircut. The lawyer practicing at her highest level does so without set instructions. Rather the nature  of the material determines her thought and writing, which simultaneously changes the nature of the material she produces. See Nivala.

Growing. When I reflect on Charlotte it is clear she is evolving. She will continue to grow. She will continue to create. According to Professor Nivala the able lawyer is an artist capable of improvisation. Although grounded in tradition, the able lawyer responds to every new situation in a way she is open to new viewpoints and solutions. Thus, the practice of law for the professional is an art. An art that commits the lawyer to “a lifetime of continuous adaptation and learning.” Like young Charlotte the professional lawyer produces quality through passionate immersion with a disciplined imagination.

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