The Creative Lawyer: Jonathan Tobin

I’m starting a series on lawyers who have figured out ways to integrate creativity & design into their professional life. Here is my first interview, with Jonathan Tobin, who heads up Counsel for Creators. He comes from a creative & design background, and has managed to bridge that into his legal practice.
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Would you describe yourself as a ‘creative lawyer’?

Absolutely. Aside from working almost exclusively with creative professionals and businesses, I am a designer and software developer so that informs the way that I handle my legal practice. Design and code will always be a part of how I practice law and I imagine it will only become more so as things progress. Both of those are very creative endeavors and I find the practice of law itself to be a creative endeavor.


Do you have a conscious process of how to be more creative in how you practice law?

I always start by seeking ways to expand the ways that I can make my services affordable for more clients. I try to focus on my own systems, automating as much as possible.

I also think that I have to be creative in the way that I discuss the law with clients because many of them have never worked with an attorney before and do not know what to expect. I try hard to connect on an artistic basis first so that I am sure I understand my clients’ goals. I have had more than one “initial consultations” turn into impromptu Photoshop sessions.

And finally, I stay involved in art, design, software and music. Mostly for my own enjoyment, but also to be able to get where my clients are coming from.


Have you created any new process or tech that you use to be better in your practice?

I am currently writing software that automates some of the well-defined tasks that I do for clients. Nothing particularly high end or sophisticated, but it results in me having to spend less time on a matter while maintaining a high level of quality.


Can you remember a time when you’ve come up with a great idea?  What process led you to it?

Sure. I have recently developed a series of workshops centered around the needs of creative professionals. What I have been attempting to do is answer the general questions that people have about the law as I see that there is a great deal of misinformation online on basic areas such as contracts and intellectual property. It seems that there is a need for this kind of information among creative professionals.

The workshops were initially meant to be a much bigger and involved venture that would have taken probably a year to complete, but after reading the book “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries, I decided to scale my ambitions down and get out there and get learning as soon as possible. So the process has essentially been to do less and to iterate. What I learn from this project can be applied to that larger project down the road.


Have you worked with others to be creative — whether it be brainstorming ideas or trying them out?

Whenever I come up with a new idea, I try to find someone to collaborate with, or at least bounce the idea off of. I am constantly surprised by other people’s insights. I have a ton of biases and blind spots so I am cool with getting new people involved to help me see things clearly.


Are you a creative & collaborative lawyer? Have you figured out ways to design new ways of practicing law, or managing your own work? We want to hear from you!

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