We can learn this from novelist Harper Lee: works of creativity evolve. This also: we become better at our craft as we work at it with diligence and with the guidance of a mentor. This applies to lawyers, as well as to artists. The practice of law has many facets. Lawyers are businessmen. Lawyers are counselors. Also, lawyers are storytellers.
The difference between a storyteller and a lawyer is that a lawyer has to prove the story in court. In addition, lawyers tell stories to each other, to mediators, and to clients. This takes talent honed by practice.
How does this relate to Harper Lee? The recent controversy associated with the publication of the novel Go Set a Watchman has to do with two considerations. First, is the character of Atticus Finch who is represented as a secular saint in To Kill a Mockingbird and as a segregationist in Go Set a Watchman. Second, is the quality of Lee’s writing which is at best cumbersome in Go Set a Watchman. However, it is important to know that Go Set a Watchman was the novelist’s first work. It was written and submitted prior to To Kill a Mockingbird and never published until this past July. Instead, Lee, with the assistance of a talented editor, went back to work and the Pulitzer prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird emerged. Both authors and lawyers know that good writing is the result of drafting and redrafting.
As lawyers, we would do well to see ourselves as artists, as creative problem solvers. They call it the “practice” of law for a reason. Like any skill, with diligence and the help of a mentor, the practice of law approaches an art form.