Lawyers, Use Improv to Reach Your Goals
Productivity to an improviser means communicating quickly and clearly to the audience in a way that elicits a powerful emotional response. In business and law, productivity is achieving the highest level of output (quality product) with the lowest number of input (time/resources).
The strategy used by improvisers also works in other forms of productivity. When a scene begins, we have nothing; no script, no set, no props or costumes. Improvisers immediately identify some fundamentals. Who are we? What is our relationship and history with one another? Where are we? But most importantly, what do we want? A character in a scene does not come to life until she wants something. If Romeo doesn’t want Juliet, the story is never told. If your want is not compelling, you will never be motivated to be productive.
DEFINE YOUR WANTS
First, ask yourself “What do I want?” Be specific, and then choose the most compelling wants from the list. Choosing weak wants results in lazy people (and boring improv scenes.) You can’t find your path without having a goal, but if your goal does not excite you why would you be motivated to achieve it? To supercharge your productivity, choose more exciting goals. Lawyers should take cases that are intellectually stimulating and challenging. Use engaging and unique systems and strategies to achieve your goals. When we improvise, it is more exciting to see a character want to fly than to simply watch TV. An improv scene is more interesting when characters are invested in achieving their goals, and the best way to accomplish this is to really want that goal more than anything else. What do you WANT?
IDENTIFY THE SUPER-OBJECTIVE
Just wanting a goal might not be enough. You want to win a case, but maybe it is dry and boring. Finding the motivation to get started just seems impossible. When this happens, look deeper under the layers to find the super-objective. Earlier, I mentioned that an improv scene is more interesting when the character wants to fly rather than wanting to watch TV. However, sometimes the character has no choice and is placed in a scene where his want is to watch TV. At this point, the actor looks deeper to the super-objective. What does “watching TV” really mean? Maybe it means overcoming blindness or personal freedom from an overly controlling roommate. What is your super-objective? Don’t just look at drafting a motion as putting pen to paper. What does it truly represent? The super-objective of drafting a legal document might mean a step closer to earning enough money to start your own law firm, financial freedom, or respect. Be crystal clear to increase the value of your wants.
In improv we say, “you can commit, or you can comment.” A player can talk about doing a task, or can jump right in and do it. Taking action in a scene makes for a better scene 100% of the time. Choose to commit. When we watch improv we are excited to see the players jump on the stage with full commitment. They don’t pretend to cry; they cry. Improvisers don’t talk about driving a car. They pull out two seats and start driving. What would happen if you knew what you wanted, identified your super-objective, and took action with full commitment? When you know what you want and it’s supported by a powerful super-objective, all you have to do is take action with everything in you. If your want and your super-objective are strong enough, you have no choice but to commit 100% of your energy to achieve your goals.
Improvers know that they may have to change course in the moment and they are always flexible. Sometimes when we have a clear want, a strong super-objective, and 100% commitment, we still need to adjust our trajectory. We learn additional information along the way that requires us to be flexible in the moment. We must be adaptable to unforeseen obstacles as they enter our path. How flexible are you in your approach? Ultimately, we reach our goals when we are focused on our wants, have compelling reasons to back up our wants, commit ourselves to reaching the goal and stay in the moment, and are ready to change course as needed. This formula results in an exciting, engaging and emotionally charged improv scene, as well as empowered productivity in all walks of life.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
In 2009, Tommy Galan, a Senior Partner of the Galan Law Firm, P.C, and a performer with nearly 20 year of experience, developed a Continuing Legal Education program that uses improv exercises to strengthen the skills shared by attorneys and improvisers. Improv(ed) Legal Skills was accredited by the New York State Continuing Legal Education board, and is currently offered as part of the curriculum at The Peoples Improv Theater in New York City. Tommy is currently the Director of Corporate Programming at The PIT where he develops, teaches and markets a full range of corporate and professional improv programs, as well as performs comedy weekly.
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