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Creativity within the Legal Profession: What We Can Learn

| Career Insights

When we hear the word 'creative', our minds usually jump to visual artists, musicians and fiction writers. However, the term is broad and refers to the creation of new ideas through the human brain. Society recognises creativity as an essential to progress, but the legal profession has never viewed it as a necessary component in both legal study and legal practise.

A 2017 study by Australasian Legal Practice Management Association (ALPMA) and InfoTrack researched into 114 Australian and New Zealand law firms emphasis on creativity, communication, collaboration and critical thinking. The results demonstrated that only 40 per cent of respondents said they valued creativity as opposed to the 76 per cent for communication and 66 per cent for collaboration. The lack of emphasis for creativity may mean that firms are missing out on the opportunity to tap into an idle part of the human mind.
Creativity Is Not Foreign to The Law  
The lack of emphasis on creativity within law is usually accredited to the nature of common-law based jurisprudence of judicial precedent. Judges that were 'creative' in the past such as Lord Denning were not reciprocated by his peers. Although many of his judgments were overturned, many also remain good law. In the case of High Trees House, Denning J referred to a largely forgotten case of Hughes v Metropolitan Railway Co which invoked principles of equity into contract law and thereby creating the rule of promissory estoppel. Today, the rule protects promisees who rely on an unequivocal promise by a promisor and change their position based on that promise.
Creativity Keeps Our Profession Relevant  
In modern-day discussions, creativity has only been limited to the use of legal tech to automate legal functions. However, the legal regulators have to make sure that lawyers' skills go beyond the realms of automation as the law embraces artificial intelligence and technological advancements. While some legal services can be automated, customised services such as trust-building, negotiating, and advocacy requires the capability to adapt and make relevant connections. In Moonwalking With Einstein, it states that the ability to find connections with facts or ideas would subsequently lead to the creation of new solutions. Heuristic thinking is applied in legal practice by barristers as they would be required to be creative in their advocacy for legal arguments that side by their client, whether in court or mediation. Technology cannot enter all fields of litigation, and therefore, the profession and regulators should keep themself relevant by emphasising on these skills in its practices.
Creativity Can Transform Accessibility to the Law 
Creativity does not need to be an entirely new concept for it to make an impact. For example, CrowdJustice is a crowdfunding platform started by a lawyer, Julia Salasky, which helps individuals crowdfund money to be able to afford lawsuits. The platform builds on a current tool to deal with legal aid cuts and allow access to litigants to pursue their claims. Among the platform's success stories include raising money to challenge the Investigatory Powers Act legally, and the High Court ruled that the Government was breaking the law by forcing companies to store records of internet history and calls without independent oversight. The next great legal platform does not need to come from other competitors within the same industry. Innovation can be found by researching other industries or niche areas. Therefore, the legal profession can develop creativity by not accepting the status quo and always learning about how other industries are growing.
How can lawyers and firms be creative?
Here are some ways the legal world can revolutionise itself via creativity:
 · Set-aside a specific percentage of time for personal projects or networking endeavours. Google’s “20 per cent time” led to the creation of Gmail. Lawyers could conduct brainstorming sessions on the firm's practices or marketing strategies.
· Ask your client the value they seek from you. Do they want more predictability in fees? Do they wish to have bespoke services tailored to their industry? Do they find any value from your monthly newsletter? 
 · Expand your legal research from the confines of legislation and case-law and make heuristic connections using case studies from other industries.
Creativity should be embraced at all levels of the legal profession, from firms to the profession’s regulators as we enter a new frontier where artificial intelligence is becoming a constant in our field. The teaching of law should go beyond law-to-fact application, and focus on the customisable services and other soft-skills for new entrants to remain relevant. We should embrace new possibilities to improve efficiency as well as recognising the power of creativity to make a transformative impact to our profession.
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