What do lawyers and dancers have in common? Preparation

Dec 7 2012 - 10:46pm


The Nutcracker Ballet -- Tchaikovsky music, magical toys and, of course, the Sugar Plum Fairy dancing across the stage and in our heads -- is a grand holiday tradition. In my household, the latest part of the Nutcracker tradition includes my participation in Ogden's own Imagine Ballet Theatre production of The Nutcracker.

It began last year when I attended the parents' meeting for the young dancers. We were informed that the role of Herr Drosselmeyer, the eye-patched uncle who actually brings the nutcracker to the party, was up for grabs. My neighbor and my wife promptly "volunteered" me for the role and a new holiday tradition was born.

Next Friday (and five additional performances), I get to reprise my role as Drosselmeyer in the Nutcracker performance at Peery's Egyptian Theater.

Trying to equate anything legal to Christmas is always going to be quite a stretch. Charitable giving, peace on Earth and joy are rarely things associated with the law. The law is not often viewed as compassionate, resembling more the crass consumerism of Black Friday than herald angels singing. In fact, the proverbial "War on Christmas" is usually conducted via lawyers initiating litigation against various manger-displaying municipalities.

So how am I going to torture this column about the Nutcracker into one about business law? Well, the ballet is actually in a lawsuit in 2nd District Court right now on a lease dispute. I learned about the dispute when I began sashaying last year. As is the case with most civil litigation, everyone was pointing the finger at everyone else about who was responsible for the problem, and nothing was getting done.

To get things moving, I found a local attorney, Craig Jacobsen, who agreed to handle the case for the ballet on a pro bono basis, which is Latin for the attorney plays Santa Claus with his fees.

Craig graciously agreed to help out the ballet, since I rarely spend time in state court. The Utah State Bar encourages attorneys to contribute 50 hours a year in pro bono representation. At a lawyer's regular hourly rate, this amounts to at least a $10,000 to $15,000 annual contribution to the administration of justice. These acts of giving certainly wreak havoc with the conception that attorneys are always cold-hearted Scrooges.

Attorneys are faced with all of the pressures of a normal business -- advertising, marketing, employees, customers/clients and so on. In addition, the legal profession deals with society's disputes and contentions.

Rarely is anyone the law is dealing with completely happy. (If they were completely happy, they wouldn't be talking to lawyers.)

Because of this important societal function, attorneys operate under ethical guidelines that seem as strange to the general public as a port de bras is to me in the ballet.

Yet it is those very ethical rules that elevate attorneys -- on our best days -- to a profession that is the guardian of societal order. The legal profession strives to be something more than just another business.

Becoming an attorney is similar to dancing in the ballet -- lots of mind-numbing work and education and then you get to go on stage, or into the courtroom, and are asked to perform, praying you don't fall flat on your face.

I've watched with amazement the hours and commitment of the young ballerinas. They perform their pirouettes and plies with aplomb, in moves that would send my body scattering across the floor in an ungraceful thunk.

Know your capabilities, and if you find yourself on a ballet stage or in court, make sure you have someone with you who is professional and knows what they are doing. If you do, a Merry Christmas is much more likely.

E. Kent Winward is an Ogden attorney. He can be reached at 801-392-8200 or creditcorrection@gmail.com.


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