Like farming, the practice of law will inevitably move into the 20th century, bringing with it innovation and intensifying pressures for efficiency. While we are big believers in innovating as soon as you have to, innovation may not always be the best choice. In fact, with the “slow food” movement and other “back to basic” initiatives such as the debtors’ prison and eradicating childhood polio, there are real opportunities today to reinvent your practice. And what better time to do so than as a slow artisanal lawyer.
What is the slow law movement and how do you become an artisanal lawyer? Good questions. Here are three key components and a short explanation.
Dress appropriately as an artisanal lawyer, which generally means sensible shoes and nice hats. For women, it’s best to adopt a flapper style, as it denotes independence and tidiness. Cloche hats and Mary Jane ankle strap button shoes are musts, as are a horsehair wig and jabot for court appearances. Because of the wig, the Eton crop hairdo is recommended. For men, wool clothing, a pocket watch, and a monocle are best choices for practicing artisanal law.
Dress also applies to office accoutrements, such as wax seals, quill pens, and the everpresent snuff box (yes, the artisanal lawyer partakes of snuffing and makes it freely available to clients, along with absinthe). While the fax machine is a key piece of equipment in a modern firm, it is not available as an option in the artisanal lawyer’s office. If immediacy of communication is a concern, use note cards, delivered by courier. Otherwise, stick to letters that your scriveners put into a pillar box. If you face absolute urgency, Western Union remains an option.
Probably the most distinguishing factor of an artisanal lawyer is the shift in tone and language, both in the office and in written materials. Two key components in the transition to a more artisanal practice are the opening and closing portions of documents. For correspondence, the opening should usually include the English standard spelling of “Honour,” as in “Dear Honourable Sir.” Other openings could include “Your Imminency” or “Your Royal Madameness.” Importantly, the closing is where the artisanal lawyer really shines. Avoid modernist tendencies toward “best regards,” “TTYL,” or “check ya.” Instead, rely on the true art of slow law signatures, such as:
- Belive me, dear Sir, Your obliged and faithful humbl. sert. &etc.,
- Belive me, Honourable Madame, at all times with sincerity and respect, duteous and bounden, I am,
- Your most docious and undeserved steward, I am, ever faithfully, &etc., yours truly,
Do not worry about what appear to be spelling errors or overuse of capital letters. While grammatically incorrect and now in modern disfavor, these errors are critical pieces of affectation, similar to today’s use of “LMAO” or “#w00t.”
Remember that the slow law movement and an artisanal law practice are real. While some of your colleagues may harangue you and ask to see your membership card in the Society for Creative Anachronism, remind them that you are, in fact, practicing law. This is not larping, in which you attack playground equipment with swords and battle axes, celebrating afterward with a plate of roast beef and potato salad. It is also not the Renaissance Fair, even if you call yourself the King’s Counsel and say “m’lady.” It is real. It is a movement. It is what you were made to do. Go out and do it.