This month we talk to writer and creative expert Daedalus Howell about how attorneys can use creativity to their advantage in both their work and their marketing efforts.
There has been much hype in recent years about the creative type – the right brained individuals destined to live a unique, unburdened lifestyle introducing great, new ideas to the world. But the existence of that meme implies there is also an uncreative type, and it takes a little away from people who may not be in what is considered a creative career. Don’t believe the hype. Everyone can be creative.
How is creativity important to attorneys?
Attorneys are inherently creative people though we may not always associate lawyering with the wild-eyed “out of the box” thinking of, say, the bohemian set. Attorneys are problem solvers who work with a finite set of tools, namely the law. It’s how they use these tools, however, that gives them wide berth for creativity, whether that be a unique interpretation or during the performative aspect of being in court. More to the point, creativity itself is a tool, that can be honed for a variety of professional applications. If winning cases is important to you, creativity should be too.
In his book, Imagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer discusses the importance of daydreaming in creativity.
Can attorneys benefit from daydreaming?
Attorneys would do well to take a few minutes everyday to think about anything other than their work and let their minds wander – they may be happily surprised by the results. A couple of years ago, the University of British Columbia released a study that confirmed that when we’re daydreaming our brains taps various regions of the brain including the so-called “executive network," which studies have associated with complex problem solving. What this suggests is that when we’re daydreaming, our brains are still working on the issues that vex us. If you have a difficult case and need a breakthrough insight, instead of scouring case law, take a walk or a shower or some other passive distraction that lets your mind roam unfettered. You should also disengage from iPhone and other attractive gizmos that focus your concentration and hinder daydreaming. A text message can cost you more than what’s on your data plan, it can cost creativity.
Do you have any tips for how attorneys can distinguish themselves through effective storytelling about their firm?
I once interviewed a Internet marketing impresario and former wine blogger Gary Vaynerchuk who had great advice in this area. By way of an example, he said “If you’re a lawyer and you also Hula Hoop – then be ‘The Hula Hooping Lawyer.’” Now, you might observe that a Hula Hooping lawyer might not be taken seriously by his colleagues and you might be right. A hip-whirling attorney will be noticed, however, especially by those potential clients in need of an attorney who is sympathetic to the needs of toy-makers, inventors and game designers not to mention media seeking experts on the intellectual property law in the toy industry. The Hula Hooping
Lawyer suddenly sounds hip. The essential sound-bite here is: “You are your own differentiator.”
How can attorneys use creativity to produce content that people will want to read?
The law can be a nuanced and slippery concept to the layman, so I think attorneys should rev up their capacity for metaphor, a cornerstone of creative thinking, to make recondite legal concepts clear for their current and future clients. A way to do this is to imagine scenarios in which their services would be necessary then “map” a single concept onto it. For example, how is family law like Star Wars? Would Darth Vader have custody of the young Luke and Leia even though he was estranged from their mother? Does he owe back child support to their caretakers on Tatooine and Alderaan? It’s silly but it’s also an effective way to connect abstruse concepts in a vocabulary non-legal professionals can understand. Moreover, when committed to a blog or resource page, this content should be shared freely. You’re not giving away your expertise when you dispense advice through blogs – you’re providing an opportunity for potential clients to associate themselves and their problems with you and your solutions.
What are the benefits of offering unique downloadable content like ebooks?
Creating and making available free information products like ebooks and white papers serves a couple of purposes. It will afford you a forum to showcase your expertise as well as aid in lead generation. By making the distribution of your ebooks part of an auto-response email after someone has submitted their contact information, it helps you build a list with which you can deepen the relationship with newsletters, special offers or digests of your blog posts. It keeps you top of mind.
Daedalus Howell is a writer, producer and creative entrepreneur.
He has been a newspaperman, novelist and self-proclaimed screen hack working on film development in Los Angeles. Howell has contributed to multiple editorial publications, including the San Francisco Chronicle, North Bay Bohemian, L.A. Downtown News and Sonoma Valley Sun. He is also a columnist for SONOMA Magazine.
In 2011, he won first place in the National Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest for "Best Humorous Column" for his contributions to the Sonoma Index-Tribune.
In 2012, he published the book "I Heart Sonoma: How to Live & Drink in Wine Country." Howell is currently a writer-producer at FMRL, a Berkeley, California-based digital publishing venture, and a founder of the Creative Lot blog, which can be read at www.creativelot.net. You can learn more about Howell at his personal website, www.dhowell.com.