By Preston Clark
Queens, New York– In our continuing series dedicated to lawyers working and thriving outside of the legal profession, this week TheLawInsider.com is featuring artist Jaimee Todd of Queens, New York. Jaimee earned her JD in 2004 from the University of Miami. She is now a full time artist with her first solo exhibition, Visions of New York, scheduled for July 28 at the Brooklyn Artists Gym. More Info Here.
TheLawInsider had the opportunity to interview Jaimee and ask about her career path, her work and her advice for other lawyers seeking a profession outside law.
As both an attorney and an artist, which was a passion for your first?
Creating art was always my passion as I’ve been painting and drawing since I was very young. I often took art classes on the side during my academic studies in high school and college. I gravitated towards law school because I majored in Latin American Studies and Business and thought I would end up going into international law. Interestingly, once I did get into law school, my creative side went dormant and I barely did anything artistic at all. I think it was because since I was using my left brain for all that legal analysis, there really wasn’t room for anything else, even though art had been always an outlet for me. It wasn’t until I graduated from law school and moved to New York that my creativity returned.
What led you to pursuing an art career after law school?
Shortly after I passed the New York Bar and started working, I started photographing imagery that I thought would make great subject matter for my watercolor paintings. One day I shared pictures of my paintings to my coworkers and many of them were very impressed. I remember one of them looking at them and saying to me, “Why aren’t you really pursuing this?”For a while, I had dismissed my creations as just products of a hobby but the more I thought about it, I really decided that it was time for me to pursue something that brought me great joy and I took on the attitude of “Why not?” After that, I wrote a game plan for my goals and a timeline for each one of them that included developing a website, joining at least one local art organization and displaying my work publicly. As I met each goal, my confidence in my art grew.
What’s your advice for lawyers who might be reluctant to pursue a career outside of the legal profession?
I think that people get too caught up in this identity of being a lawyer once they graduate from law school and pass the bar; they let it define who they are. That’s an easy pattern to fall into when non-lawyers are quick to attach everything you do as being part of being a lawyer. Case in point: Once when I went to visit a gallery of a local arts organization one Saturday afternoon, the gallery director was shocked to learn that I was a lawyer because I was wearing jeans and was “so casually dressed”, as if I was supposed to be wearing a suit 24-7. Once I joined the organization, everything I said and did was automatically attributed to my being a lawyer, no matter how benign the topic was.
My advice would be to not be so caught up in the “lawyer identity” and to feel free to explore other interests outside of the legal profession by seeking out like-minded people who are going through a similar transition. Finding social connections through Linked-in, Meetup.com is a great resource.I also found that collecting articles of other lawyers who have made that transition to be motivational and inspiring. Even some bar associations have committees dedicated to lawyers who want to transition out of the legal profession.
Do you bridge art and law in your current career?
Yes, especially when it comes to my blog. I’ve written a couple of articles about various legal issues concerning artists, most notably one entitled “Artist Beware“. It dealt with issues related to the Work for Hire Doctrine under the U.S. Copyright Law for a t-shirt contest with a major clothing retailer. It was really well received and I got a lot of positive feedback from a lot of of artists. For my art career, my legal education has come in pretty handy when navigating contracts with other parties regarding my own art-business transactions.
You’ve used your art to impact social change—does that continue to be a key focus of your work?
I really enjoy using art as a way of drawing attention to social issues and I want to continue to do so. At times, I’ve donated a portion of sale proceeds from my paintings to help various social causes. Now that I’ve been focusing more on my photography, I’d like to develop more specific projects that address issues impacting various communities and create dialogue for constructive discussion and education.
Where can people learn more about you and your work?