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Putting the Fun Back in Legal Fundamentals

by Jay Reeves |

Want to rejuvenate your Law Life? 

Stop working so hard and start playing more.

The key to a saner, safer and more sensational Law Life might just be to have more fun, not bill more hours. And there’s a growing body of evidence to back that up.   

In Play Makes Us Human, psychologist Peter Gray shows how free play is essential to human growth and adaptation. It builds social connections, reduces aggression and sparks creativity. And far from being a wasteful frolic, it makes you more productive. In one study, a team that played a collaborative game for 45 minutes increased their productivity by 20 percent. Not a shabby ROI for a little fun. 

Yet nowhere in the Rules of Professional Conduct will you find a Duty to Recreate. No ethics ruling parses the parameters of pickleball. No awards are doled out annually to the Happiest Lawyer or Most Well-Adjusted Advocate.

And that’s too bad.

We tend to celebrate the wrong things. We use flawed and outdated metrics for gauging success – in life and the law. We forget that moderation in all things – including (especially?) practicing law – is healthy and centering. 

Good news! It’s easier than you think to put the fun back in the Fundamentals of Law.


Playful Law Life Pointer #1: Your J.D. Should Stand for Just Delightful

Watch a kitten chase a sunbeam, or two bear cubs tussling, or toddlers at the park, and it is self-evident that playfulness is baked into our DNA. 

Yet we are brainwashed into thinking that as we age – and certainly when we embark on grave, grown-up pursuits like practicing law – we should minimize or even excise what Dr. Gray calls an essential “biological germ” of being fully human. 

Unwash your brain! Add some joy to your Law Life before you turn into a crazed cat or growling grizzly.


Playful Law Life Pointer #2: If You Have to Think, You’re Doing It Wrong

When the aforementioned kittens, cubs and children play, it is with boundless joy and effortless ease. That’s because they are fully in the moment. They are unburdened by agendas or strategies or to-do lists or 8 AM Zoom meetings or past regrets or future expectations or sizing up situations and manipulating others to their advantage. 

That part comes later, when they enter law school.


Playful Law Life Pointer #3: Play Makes the World (and the Law) a Better Place

“[W]hen we bring playfulness to bear in our social interactions we create a spirit of equality and personal freedom that allows us to overcome our equally human drive to dominate one another,” writes Dr. Gray. “Hunter-gatherer societies were especially successful in cultivating playfulness as a means of defeating aggression and dominance. Their way of life required close cooperation and sharing. Their playful approach to social life apparently enabled them to survive, relatively peacefully, for hundreds of thousands of years prior to the invention of agriculture.”


Playful Law Life Pointer #4: Say Goodbye to Decision Fatigue

Ever finish a workday so mentally and emotionally drained you can’t choose between pizza and calzone for dinner? It’s called decision fatigue. Left untreated, it can lead to irritability, skin rash and stagnation on the sofa watching endless Grantchester reruns.

The cure: (1) stop scratching, (2) give your poor brain a break, and (3) wow the family with pizza AND calzone, and (4) try The Lincoln Lawyer (movie or tv series, your pick)


Playful Law Life Pointer #5: I Loaf and Invite My Soul

“At my ease observing a spear of summer grass / Creeds and schools in abeyance / Nature without check with original energy / Do anything, but let it produce joy.”

(Walt Whitman, Song to Myself

Playtime Rhetoric: “Having fun is the best way to learn.” Albert Einstein

Law Life Playlist: Top 10 Songs for Fun and Games
(10) Hot Fun in the Summertime, Sly and the Family Stone (9) Games People Play, Joe South (8) Play That Funky Music, Wild Cherry (7) All I Wanna Do (Is Have Some Fun), Sheryl Crow (6) Fun, Fun, Fun, Beach Boys (5) Baby Let’s Play House, Elvis Presley (4) Mind Games, John Lennon (3) Playground in My Mind, Clint Holmes (2) Quit Playing Games (With My Heart), Back Street Boys (1) Fun & Games The Connells (North Carolina’s own)


Jay Reeves practiced law for nearly 40 years in North and South Carolina. He lives in Newberry, SC, halfway between Prosperity and Waterloo. He finds The Connells very rejuvenating. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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