Law as Social Sculpture

Practicing the Legal Profession as a Social Sculptress by Isabel Añino Granados

Madrid 17 May 2017

It is been a while since I had a first glimpse of how art and law are interconnected and how one can work in the field of law even in practical cases from an artistic perspective. To do so one needs to expand the concept of art as I do in my work as a Social Sculptress. In the field of Law my experience comes from my practice as a corporate lawyer. This is the background from where I am writing this article.

Working as a lawyer I had an unbearable feeling of stiffness. On one hand I wanted to serve my clients’ purposes and be creative in order to provide them with a wide scope of solutions. I also wanted to create flexible structures for their projects, which would be adaptable in the different circumstances that may occur during the life of their projects and businesses relationships. On the other hand I encountered three main obstacles:

x    A legal frame that works as a fixed structure which is not able to adapt on time to social needs and obviously even less to start up projects or new ventures. Once the law is written and implemented during a certain period of time, sometimes even a very short one, it decays and it crackles, to put it in pictorial terms.
x    A misunderstanding of the role of a lawyer. It is commonly assumed that creativity is not a crucial skill for a lawyer. We are seen (and not uncommonly we behave) as purveyors of the law. Therefore clients tend to call us to stop the fire once the house is almost completely burnt and not at the beginning of their ventures. It is very common to hire a lawyer to be equipped with a weapon to fight against the counterparty. To prevent conflict businesses must create defensive walls against a potential enemy. This way the conflict will be prepared from the outset.
x    Yet another obstacle is the idea that the law is not everybody’s business but it is  left  to  the  so-called  ‘experts’,  i.e.,  lawyers,  judges,  politicians  and university professors. However, the fact is that the so-called lawscape is omnipresent, it is everywhere we go, even if we stay at home and even inside our own body. Every day consciously or unconsciously we are co-creating it.

It took me many years of professional legal practice to notice where the dissonance was coming from: I saw clearly that I needed to be creative in order to offer a much more efficient service. In addition, I definitely couldn’t see myself as a weapon. So I decided to stop for a while and explore the artistic perspective. This is how I came across the Expanded Concept of Art. From this approach art is seen as universal creative capacity that manifests itself in every single field of human activity.1  In this sense, Joseph Beuys, the artist who put forward the concept, understood that every human being is an artist. From that moment on I saw the legal structure as a sculpture, which I  can contribute to reshape and to introduce changes  on its composition.

I started my work as a legal artist by putting forward the Warm Law Social Platform2 through which we work to identify those legal and political structures that have become rigid, fossilized and frozen in order to warm them up and return them to life, movement and flexibility. It is not about discarding what is obsolete disregarding its value. Rather it is about transforming it so that it tunes in with the needs of our society and of the planet.

To work from art requires pushing the limits of the rational mind. Once one enters this realm synchronicities start to happen. I came across the etymological roots of the word abogada (Spanish word for lawyer). In ancient Greek the term was parakletos (παράκλητος)3 and means a person who gives relief or comfort, who intercedes to help and who invigorates. So I decided to start my own legal practice in Madrid and work as a parakletos in conflict prevention and resolution.4

Now, how can one work this way within our current paradigm and with real clients? I do it in different ways, which include the design of social sculpture processes, and also workshops that I offer as part of my services. But what about the traditional services a client might require from a lawyer? What about drafting contracts?

I was invited to work on a contract by a colleague of mine and friend the Dutch lawyer Digna De  Bruin  whose  area  of  expertise  are  the  so-called  ‘Conscious Contracts’.  This is how I came across the most transformative strategy, which in my view can really help to change the legal paradigm. There are many amazing aspects to this way of understanding contracts. I will highlight only those I have found most interesting as a social sculpture practitioner.5

To start with THERE ARE NO RECIPES! It is not useful for the parties to download a model from the Internet or for the lawyer to paste the standard clauses that she or he may have elaborated through the years of practice. The core of these contracts is the concrete relationship within the parties. To continue you cannot work using this strategy as a lawyer if you have not been through a previous personal process of inner transformation. This means that it is not possible to learn the required skills in a 10 hour crash course. There you will only be able to learn the methodology but they will not lead you to a different result if your consciousness it not aligned. The word ‘conscious’ implies that the lawyer is prepared to work with the ‘brain in the heart’ and to use the brain in the head for that what is really needed but not exclusively. Transformation is an inside out process and not the other way around.

Imagine the freedom to work as a lawyer without any pre-established framework. As an artist you will not have a certain canvas, your canvas is formed by the party’s vision, mission and values. These are your materials. Imagine a non-adversarial encounter within the parties who do not see themselves as potential enemies but as collaborators. It is a process in which everything that may affect the parties in their venture and in their relationships, is taken into account.

Yes, but, what about the imperative of law? Well, this is where the greatest insight emerged. As you are drafting the contract paying careful attention to the party’s vision, mission and values but also to the obstacles and difficulties that they may find, you are creating a living manifesto of the current social needs. You are fulfilling the established legal frame but you are at the same time challenging it and showing in how far is no longer useful and what is exactly obsolete!

If this way of understanding and writing agreements flourishes, this will be the new way for the people to express their will to the lawgiver beyond elections and political parties. This could be the new way of exercising popular sovereignty! It is the new version of customary law but much more dynamic, and it is in tune with the needed change of legal paradigm.

I hope I have succeeded in expressing the fact that we are all able to respond there where the legal system is not properly working. In other words, I hope that this experience will help other lawyers to see themselves as artists and people with no legal background as co-creators of the legal system.


1 Beuys in Stachelhaus, 1991, pp. 61-62.
3 Barclay, 2002 pp. 87-90.
5 For more information about Conscious Contracts you can visit Digna De Bruin’s Website and read Álvarez, Linda, ‘Discovering Agreement – Contracts that turn Conflict into Creativity’, ABA, USA, 2016.


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Contact Isabel at, website

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