Thoughts from Eimear McCann.
Stereotypes. They can be really hard to shake off. We like to label and we like to group people together, collectively assigning them to a particular category. It makes us feel safer to tell ourselves people are exactly how we perceive them to be. Otherwise, it upsets our sense of how the world looks, or rather, how we’ve been told the world looks.
I find it really interesting that we are keen to search for individual differences among members of our own social group, but for various reasons, other unknown groups tend to blur together in some kind of distant homogeny.
Take law for example – externally, there have always been distinct legal stereotypes; perhaps more so than other professions. There is both intrigue and mistrust around the profession, propagated by images in TV dramas (from Suits to Better Call Saul) and literature (To Kill A Mocking Bird being one of the more favourable portrayals of a lawyer and his/her moral compass).
Internally, we know that law centres on trust and relationship building. We also know how unrealistic the outward portrayal of lawyers can be. But this doesn’t prevent internal stereotypes from existing. For example, we tend to label human rights lawyers very differently to corporate lawyers, rather than focusing on commonality.
On a personal level, I left practice for quite a few reasons. Ultimately, I was more interested in seeing how we could change the way that lawyers work. I wanted to see how design and law could intersect. I wanted to find a more creative outlet.
Ironically, since making that transition away from legal practice, I have inadvertently ended up speaking to far more lawyers than I ever met in practice and I couldn’t possibly put them into one category. Or even sub-categories. They are creative, innovative, human, humble, passionate, open, and highly intelligent. These aren’t labels though, but universal attributes that tend to connect rather than dissect.
Law is full of brilliant minds and problem solvers and I think there has been a collective epiphany of sorts within the legal world. We are far more creative than we were ever allowed to believe.
It makes me wonder how we can break down stereotypes further, and not just internally, but for all those people looking in. Perhaps as we move more towards the productization of legal services, with a shift away from traditional models, the rest of the world will start to see a more innovative, client-focused, tech-driven profession; no more labels, but instead, a diverse and creative collective.