March 07, 2019 Voices

Connecting Law with Art—and Vice Versa

By Amy Noe Dudas

When I was five years old, my family went to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind. And when we got home, I picked out the notes from the score perfectly on the piano, prompting my bewildered parents to beg the local piano teacher to take me on before she felt I was old enough to get anything out of lessons. I was creative (weird?) from an early age and marched to the beat of a different drummer. This was before nerds were cool.

I left music behind when I went to college but soon discovered theater, spending my time outside of class and study climbing high around the catwalks learning to design stage lighting and wearing black backstage while learning to stage manage and direct.

Then I became a lawyer. In that world, “reasonableness” is a perfectly normal way to measure a standard of care and not an utterly subjective touchstone. The rules are the rules, no exceptions, only subject to interpretation based on a strict set of standards. Writing must be concise, logical, and direct. The more formulaic and template-adhering a pleading is, the better. I became a robot, cranking out logical subject-verb-adjective-object arguments on forms that looked like everyone else’s, right down to the 12-point Times New Roman font using cryptic symbols, antiquated language, and redundant phrasing.

After about eight years of infallible logic and analytical precision, I realized what was missing. Practicing law had squeezed the creativity right out of me. After all, when a lawyer is described as “creative,” the connotation is not often positive. And I let my creativity be stifled—for a while. But not for long.

I began stalking (not, of course, as the term is legally defined) the music director of a local community theater musical production so I could play in the pit orchestra. (It worked.) Experiencing my artistic side again, after such a long gap, made me crave more opportunities. And what I realized is that I had gained skills as a lawyer that can be described inartfully as “getting-it-done-ability.” So I led the way in forming a volunteer community orchestra so local avocational musicians, including me, would have a regular opportunity to practice and perform. Ten years later, the organization is flourishing and offers free violin lessons to area elementary school students. And I still play in it.

I have continued my participation in theater pit orchestras and have recently graduated to music director. In the past few years, my husband and I have co-directed two theater productions and recently formed the Dudas Inspiration Venue for the Arts (DIVA, in this world of acronyms), a nonprofit dedicated to making the arts accessible to everyone, regardless of ability, income, or resources. (For more information, go to www.imadiva.org.) To help fund the venue, we started an improv troupe (using grant-writing skills I would not have perfected but for the law degree) offering monthly (nearly always sold out) performances.

Although becoming a by-the-book, template-testing, logic-loving lawyer motivated me to run screaming for creative avenues, that precision-driven profession gave me the skills to not only cultivate my right brain, but also to support the growth and flourishing of my own artistic ventures. Creativity has, in turn, seeped into my law practice, giving me more patience, empathy, and productivity. And I’ve switched to 12-point Garamond.

Being a lawyer has made me a better artist. And being an artist has certainly made me a better lawyer. It turns out that a seemingly unrelated interest may not be so unrelated after all.

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By Amy Noe Dudas

Amy Noe Dudas is an attorney in Richmond, Indiana, and is president of the Indiana Bar Foundation. She is active on the boards of the Richmond Symphony Orchestra and Wayne County Foundation and is married to Andy, with whom she operates the Dudas Inspiration Venue for the Arts (DIVA).