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THE INNOVATION ISSUE

 Table of Contents | Features | Frontlines | Technology | Business

April/May 2009 Issue | Volume 35 Number 3 | Page 46
FEATURES

SIGNS OF INNOVATIVE LIFE IN THE PRACTICE OF LAW - ART, STRESS AND PRODUCTIVITY

CAN ART IMPROVE YOUR MOOD AND YOUR BOTTOM LINE?

Your partners might be looking for ways to bring in some quick cash in these times, but wait—don’t call the auction house yet. There might be a higher purpose for your firm’s art collection. Consider the results of an unusual art experiment conducted last year by Minneapolis’s Parsinen Kaplan Rosberg + Gotlieb. The firm joined forces with an artist and a local holistic medicine practice in an experiment aimed at improving both business practices and the health of its lawyers. The 10-week study, overseen by Robert Bruley, MD, set out to determine if the calming nature paintings by artist Joan Solomon could affect productivity—and help increase profitability—by providing stress relief.

At the beginning of the 10-week experiment, Bruley measured each of the 18 participating lawyers’ stress and adrenal fatigue levels. Then 60 Solomon paintings and 40 prints were hung throughout the firm. Bruley focused on how stress and adrenal function were affected by art through an “Art Calm” relaxation and meditation technique devised by the artist. The participating lawyers each selected a painting for their offices. Then four times a day, with the ringing of a Zen bell sounding through their computers, they spent 10 seconds or more in Art Calm meditation while gazing at the paintings. The lawyers’ stress and adrenal fatigue levels were recorded again at the end of the 10-week period.

So is there a link between art, stress reduction and a better bottom line? According to Bruley (see www.bruleycenter.com), collective and individual results showed a marked improvement among those studied. There was a 66 percent overall improvement in stress response among the lawyers, a 9 percent increase in collected revenue for the firm, and enhanced relationships with legal staff and clients. (We can only assume the results would vary depending on the art selected. Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” may not yield such good results. Monet’s “Waterlillies” may do better.) The benefits of the experiment were clear from the start, according to a press statement by the firm’s marketing director, Mary Kay Ziniewicz: “We saw attorneys stepping out of their comfort zone and into an artist’s studio to connect with art. They learned about themselves and their colleagues. Clients and staff gained insight into the sensitive side of their legal counsel and conversations took place that would not have otherwise taken place, ranging from ‘Why did you select that painting?’ to ‘I didn’t know you liked fish!’”

Parsinen Kaplan, which uses the tagline “Not Your Average Law Firm,” has a reputation for innovation in other areas as well, most notably its marketing. For example, in 2008, the firm “leaked” its Little Black Book , in which firm lawyers reveal their range of connections and highlight insider favorites in organic catering, couture, jazz, recycling, travel agents, writers—and one Vegas bookie. In past years, the firm has also produced holiday magazines such as Despicable Lawyer and Perfectly Legal. And it engages in unique client networking events such as a Renewable Energy Social Hour and Interesting People Dinners, where lawyers invite clients to meet other interesting people and surprise guests.

About the Author

Joan Feldman is Managing Editor of Law Practice

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