Lately, I have come across a few media interviews with lawyers who would choose a profession in the arts as an alternative to law. Ayuli Jemide of Detail Solicitors was interviewed on this platform some weeks ago and said that he would be a filmmaker if he wasn’t practicing law. Just last week, I read an interview with English lawyer and human rights activist, Shami Chakrabarti, where she says that if she wasn’t a human rights activist she would be a Hollywood screenwriter. Lawyers’ flirtation with the arts and vice versa is not new. Locally, we have examples in singer turned pastor, Chris Okotie; comedian, Lepacious Bose; radio personality, Lolo One; art collector, Yemisi Shyllon; movie producer, Mildred Okwo; make-up artist/entrepreneur, Tara Fela-Durotoye; and actor turned politician, Richard Mofe-Damijo, to name a few. But it seems lawyers are flying out of the art closet these days. That is not such a bad thing. I have read closing arguments and court judgments that would make literature teachers take notice. And who can forget the late Johnnie Cochran’s attempt at poetry with the now famous quote regarding the bloody glove in the O. J. Simpson double-homicide case, “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”?
Globally, there are lawyers in the arts like David E. Kelley, the award-winning screenwriter and creator of hit television shows like Ally McBeal, The Practice, and Boston Legal. There is also Hill Harper, actor, author, cum laude graduate of Harvard Law and friend/law school mate of President Barack Obama – you may remember him as the black scientist from the television drama CSI – New York. There are others that may surprise you, like singer Julio Iglesias and artist Henri Matisse.
Julio Iglesias became a global sex symbol by accident, literally. After a serious car accident in 1963 left him unable to walk and use his limbs, his dreams of playing soccer and completing his law studies were truncated for a few years. While convalescing, a nurse gave him a guitar which he started playing as a way to develop and increase the dexterity in his limbs, and his love for music was born. After his recovery, he went to England to study English, and by the time he returned to Spain in 1968 his foundation for a career in music was established, and he was hugely popular especially among the ladies. Despite his growing popularity and success with his music, to please his parents, he went back to school and completed his law degree.
French master artist Henri Matisse received his law degree from the University of Paris at the age of 20. After obtaining his qualification, he returned to his hometown and worked as a court administrator until he had an attack of appendicitis, which kept him in bed for almost a year. While he was recovering, his mother bought him some art supplies (a box of oil paints and a how-to book) and he discovered ‘a kind of paradise.’ That was the turning point in his life. He decided to become an artist and went back to Paris to study art, deeply disappointing his father.
The ability to dream in colour, and to see and paint the one orange leaf hidden in a landscape, is what makes it possible for two people to look at the same facts and come up with different stories for two opposing parties.
All I have to say is this, even if you may never exchange your wig and gown for a paint brush embrace your creative side.