Bar News - April 6, 2007
Creative Lawyers Setting the Bar High
By: Jeanné McCartin
It’s a tale of lawyers in love. Their passion pushes them to forgo other forms of discretionary pursuit, often to work two full-time jobs or just to leave the practice for painting, singing, strumming or even dipping truffles.
The motives vary. The manner in which each barrister carries out his or her dream differs as well. But there is a common denominator: the practice of law alone is not enough. They either leave it, or juggle it with a serious creative pursuit in an effort to feed another element of their souls.
John Perrault has practiced law since 1979. His artistic pursuits precede that career, starting in high school. The North Hampton resident is both a poet and musician of renown. While practicing law, he has taught his art, recorded seven CDs, had his poetry widely published and was the Portsmouth poet laureate from 2003 to 2005. He just released his latest publication, Here Comes the Old Man Now, with Oyster River Press.
Perrault has given considerable thought to why lawyers are drawn to the arts.
“I have a guess,” he says.
One possible contributing factor could be the liberal arts education many have.
“It’s more in the realm of the humanities, and they got hooked on painting, music or poetry way back. Law is language, a branch of the humanities. So that may be a reason.” In conversations over the years, artist/lawyers have shared the knowledge that they never felt cut out for the more scientific fields.
“They are the kind of people that are very much influenced by art,” he says. “Art is where they get their values. (Values) don’t come from law, they arise from what the great poets, novelists, painters and musicians have provided us with — the foundation of who we are — going all the way back to the Greeks. It’s the poets that lay the foundation of the core identity of the community.”
“Our very sense of the sanctity of the individual arises not because the law in Western society recognizes it, though it does now. It’s derived from centuries of slowly evolving the concept of what human is and that concept is provided by artists.”
The only problem Perrault perceives with the mix is time. “The trouble is with bridging, not conceptually.”
Freddie Catalfo of Dover is the lawyer also known as Alfred Thomas Catalfo the screenwriter/actor director. He penned and directed The Norman Rockwell Code, which he also acts in. He played all three roles in his previous film, Wages of Sin. Currently, he’s working on his third short, The Stag Hunt.
Catalfo has juggled law and art for more than a dozen years. He agrees time constraints are trying at times, but generally doable. To handle both pursuits one must learn the art of “gear shifting” he says. For example “Stag Hunt” recently had a time-compressed shoot.
“Within a few days I was in trial with one transition day,” says Catalfo. “But it was OK. Once you get into gear — into the switch — it isn’t difficult.”
Skills learned through law support his art efforts, such as organization. And the types of law he practices, family, divorce, personal injury and criminal, also inform the art. It’s all those hours in court. It improves the storytelling skills. “It’s the same thing you do as a screenwriter, actor and director, just in a different way.”
Catalfo doesn’t plan on leaving law, at least right now. Like Perrault, he was drawn to it for altruistic reasons. Catalfo likes that he can affect lives directly. Art does as well, but in a broader and less immediate way, he says.
“Doing both certainly makes life interesting,” he adds. “The law gives me the satisfaction of helping people in a direct way. The art feeds me and fills me. It’s where my heart is.”
There are others doing the pursuit shuffle. Catalfo mentions Matt Cox, a Dover lawyer, and Paul Hodes, now a U.S. congressman, both professional musicians. A January Portsmouth Herald article profiled lawyer Jim Lamond, who plays with the Joyce Andersen Band and the Liz Lannan Band. Then there’s Chris Calivas, who all those interviewed mention.
Calivas of North Berwick, Maine, is a painter. Just a painter. After 25 years at law he quit in 2001.
“I made a jump,” he says. Why? “I wasn’t that happy lawyering for a long time and I wanted to dedicate myself full-time to painting. It was a career shift, not a retirement.”
Calivas knows a lot of others, still at the bench, who split themselves between law and art. He rattles off a few names, including Tom Dunnington of Dover, an actor with Garrison Players.
“I’ve known him 30 years and he’s been involved all that time.”
There’s Glen Anderson, from up his way, who performs at Ogunquit Playhouse and other area theaters.
“He’s taken months off his practice to participate in different theatrical productions.” Both Portsmouth’s Justin Caramango and Rochester’s David Azarian are fine guitarists.
All those he mentions still pursue law and art, he says. “But it’s not for me. It doesn’t feed me the way it should.”
Calivas has a theory regarding the art/law connection. He thinks law attracts multi-interested individuals.
“I think in the professions lawyers are considered generalist, even the specialists; you typically have to be flexible enough to understand and get involved with other disciplines.”
“So most lawyers tend to have a broad range of interests,” he says. “They often have interests in music, theater and visual art. Not all, but a fairly large percentage.”
Any regrets at leaving law?
Both Calivas and Catalfo mention Susan Tuveson, the chocolatier. If you doubt her pursuit is an art, you haven’t stopped by Cacao Chocolates in Kittery, Maine. Tuveson admires others who juggle law and art, but it isn’t for her.
“It was impossible for me to do both the way I did it. There was far too much conflict.”
Tuveson entered law school at 35: “Loved the education.” After graduating, she opened a practice in Minneapolis. “The St. Paul area, seven courts, seven counties.” Hers was a private practice, which meant taking what came through the door, she says. A fair percentage of her workload was divorces, something she found trying and difficult. Four years into the business she met her husband and moved to Maine. That was in ’97.
Her plan was to set up shop here. “But I kept failing the bar exam,” she says, laughing. “I realized, upon some serious reflection, I didn’t want to (practice law). Sometimes you have to pay attention to the clues. Sometimes you need to be whacked upside the head.”
Cooking was a longtime pursuit. Her travels afforded her a broad knowledge of cuisines and she’d apprenticed with a chocolatier. Tuveson taught the cooking before and after arriving here.
“But still I didn’t get it.” Eventually she did. And in December 2000 she opened Cacao. “I never knew how satisfying it would be to work with your hands every day,” she says.
Tuveson knows there are lawyers who love what they do. But others come around asking her questions about her switch. “And if you see four or five, you know there’s probably 10.”
The main thing she cautions them about is the change in lifestyle. “It requires a drastic financial scale back and I learned I had to readjust my ego. What I had to learn was power did not come from a business card or title. It comes from me.”
What are the gains? “For me, freedom and the power to just dream up certain concepts, things that are going to happen in people’s mouths. I execute it and put it out for sale and doggone it, they come and buy it.”
From the Seacoast Media Group, March 11, 2007 and reprinted with permission.