August 2018

“A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....” (aka Why Finding a Hobby is Good For Your Health)

By Jeffrey Chinn

Director of Career Services, Thomas Jefferson School of Law

At Comic Con 2018, I sat through a panel titled “Judges on the Law of the Last Jedi and Solo” including with Judge John B. Owens of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Magistrate Judge Stacie Beckerman, and (San Diego’s own) Magistrate Judge Mitch Dembin. Each showed pictures of their chambers with displays of Star Wars-related memorabilia.1 It was refreshing for each judge to show their fandom of Star Wars. I thought that this makes sense as every lawyer needs some activity to take their mind off of the everyday briefs, motions, research, etc.

I. Finding a hobby (or I want to be like Stu Rees)

What form can these activities take? At one end is Stu Rees, San Diego attorney/cartoonist, who got his start while talking to a client. “One day I was one the phone with a very well-known syndicated newspaper client who had an idea for a new creation. I advised him that he had a stranglehold on his very specialized and lucrative topical niche, so he should leverage his millions of readers by creating something using his existing beloved work. He was undeterred (and ultimately failed on that new, unrelated project). I, however, was inspired to take my own advice. I decided that law cartoons by a lawyer FOR lawyers (rather than non-lawyers attacking lawyers) was a good market niche. I taught myself to draw and incorporated elements from successful cartoons into my drawing style — big eyes are not an accident! I was also funnier after being in the industry for many years.” Today, “Stu’s Views” has had over 2,200 of its cartoons published nationwide.2

Rees also told me why he believes younger attorneys need creative outlets. “Younger attorneys need something outside of their job to provide a mental break. Drawing is a nice choice because it uses the right side of the brain, so is a full transition from lawyerly left-side thinking. But any hobby or interest will do. Or an active sport — I like running on my treadmill while watching stupid sci-fi.” 

Many publications reflect Rees’ thoughts. Psychology Today has cited several benefits to finding a hobby. The benefits included improved time management, making new social connections, coping with stress, making yourself more interesting, maintaining active and not passive (TV/web surfing) leisure time.3

So how to do you choose what to do? It’s important for attorneys to relax, and many do via yoga, mindfulness, physical fitness, and other activities. But while those are fine pursuits, there are other activities and creative escapes available as well.

II. Crossword puzzles/Trivia Nights

The USA Today online puzzles are fairly easy and can take only 20 minutes out of your day.4 The New York Times and Los Angeles Times tend to be more difficult. Plenty of researchers have discovered the positive effects that crossword puzzles can have on one’s brain if played regularly (this can be weekly if you want).5 A connected activity is participating in trivia nights. Usually lasting two hours, this is an enjoyable and competitive evening of socializing and testing your knowledge. Check out sunsettrivia.com for locations and form your own team!

III. Being the next John Grisham    

Like rappers want to be NBA players, lawyers want to be authors. Of course, everyone dreams of becoming the next John Grisham. And many attorneys have done so.6 A good start is entering local short story contests such as the one sponsored by the San Diego Public Library.7 And the topic does not have to be law-related either. Whether you enter a contest or submit a manuscript to a publisher, the idea is to exercise those creative juices. For the bold ones, try writing a TV show (current or past) or movie script. There are also community college classes on book and scriptwriting as well.  

IV. Beer/Wine

Become expert on a certain type of wine or beer (in moderation, of course). For example, learn what makes a quality Cabernet Sauvignon and only drink that type each time you go out. Ask the waiter or bartender what is the newest or best Cabernet Sauvignon they have. The same goes for beer tasting. Instead of simply trying every sample at a beer festival, be discriminating, only try certain styles (e.g., Belgian style) and keep track of what you like with the phone app Untapped. Start to pay attention to which breweries and wineries you like.8

V. Nerd Alert!

Be nerdy and proud of it. Is there a TV show or movie from your childhood that you can start collecting? There is a growing fandom of the 80s TV show Golden Girls. If you are a fan … embrace it, buy your own Golden Girls action figure or skateboard deck and display it prominently. 9 I have a line of Star Wars Pop figures across my desk spanning all the movies (no Jar Jar Binks … ).

VI. Take an annual trip.

Think of taking and planning an annual trip. This can be to a specific gathering (e.g., Comic Con) or planned together with friends. I know a group of attorneys that plan a college football road trip every year. Maybe there is an annual convention devoted to your interest. Another attorney I know plans her schedule around the band Phish and their annual festival. There is less planning involved with repeat visits. Go. Every year.

VII.  Final thoughts

Everyone needs a hobby at least to take your mind off of work a few hours a week and keep your brain active. Set aside a consistent time every week to devote to your hobby. Make sure your hobby time is uninterrupted time (put that phone away!).  Most importantly, never wait until you “have time” — make the time. Your inner happiness will thank you later.


1 http://thelegalgeeks.com/2018/07/27/sdcc-2018-after-action-report/
2 http://www.stus.com/about.htm
3 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happy-trails/201509/six-reasons-get-hobby
4 https://puzzles.usatoday.com/ 
5 https://teenkidsnews.com/tkn-news/careers/science-explains-why-crossword-puzzles-are-good-for-your-mental-health/
6 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/soloish/wp/2017/08/17/these-attorneys-practiced-law-by-day-and-wove-stories-of-seduction-by-night/?utm_term=.0403abef0d2f
https://www.online-paralegal-degree.org/posts/10-novelists-who-started-their-careers-as-lawyers/
7 https://www.sandiego.gov/public-library/short-story-contest
8 https://www.tomsguide.com/us/pictures-story/915-best-apps-for-wine-lovers.html;
https://untappd.com/
9 https://www.funko.com/blog/article/2018-sdcc-exclusive-reveals-funko-miscellaneous
https://www.previewsworld.com/Article/216603-Seen-at-SDCC-NECAs-The-Golden-Girls-Action-Figures