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Improvisation enhances lawyer’s skill set

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off-clock-logoAs a theater major at the University of Notre Dame, Katrina Gossett always thought she’d be spending more of her time performing than prosecuting. However, life took one of its unexpected detours, and today she’s a mid-level associate in Faegre Baker Daniel LLP’s business litigation group.

“I actually did mock trial in high school,” she said. “I did it more for the theater aspect, but I did play a lawyer, and I really enjoyed that. But I still didn’t think I’d ever be an attorney; I thought I was either going to be a teacher or in Hollywood.” She paused and smiled. “Actually, if Hollywood comes calling, it might be hard to turn that down.”
 

comedy-gossett-katrina-1col.jpg Katrina Gossett (IL Photos/Eric Learned)

When Gossett eventually ruled out teaching as a career path, she thought back to her time in mock trial and decided law school would be a good option for her.

But she couldn’t escape her roots entirely. When the ComedySportz World Championship came to Indianapolis in 2011, it inspired her to take improv classes and eventually to audition for the local ComedySportz team.

ComedySportz is an all-ages improv comedy show formatted like a sporting competition. There are two teams of “act-letes” who perform on a “field,” not a stage, while a referee mediates. As the night unfolds, points are scored and fouls are called – such as the infamous Groaner Foul, called against an act-lete whose joke is so stupid or “punny” that the audience audibly groans. Gossett explained that there are also winners and losers, although it’s hard to imagine anyone losing when the ultimate goal is rampant hilarity. ComedySportz operates in 24 cities in America and Europe and has been around since 1984, making the Indianapolis team part of a proud global tradition in gut-busting belly laughs. It’s not hard to see why Gossett was eager to join the fray. But that’s not to say that making the leap into improv was an easy decision. Even seasoned actors often have a smidgen of stage fright.

“Even though I did theater in college, improv terrified me,” Gossett admitted. “I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be funny enough, so I kind of held back. But I decided to stretch myself because I still have the theater bug in me, so I have to find ways to feed it.”

After enrolling in classes with ComedySportz, Gossett discovered that she actually had a lot of the skills needed to be good at improv, like the ability to think on her feet and to “just go for it.” Most importantly, she learned to stop worrying and just let it happen.

“I learned that you’re not actually trying to be funny,” she explained. “You’re trying to perform and the funny just happens. I think once you let go of the idea that you have to be funny at all times, then you can kind of breathe and actually do improv.”


comedy-gossett-15col.jpgKatrina Gossett performs with Ben Fraley, left, and D.J. Murray, center, at ComedySportz in Indianapolis.

Once she had plenty of practice under her belt, and bolstered by positive feedback from her classmates and instructors, Gossett auditioned for the team last May. She made the cut, and she has been part of the regular rotation since December. Despite juggling a busy schedule, this is what she wants to be doing.

“I decide I’m going to make time for it, and the time appears. It leaves me very little time for sleep and vegging out in front of the TV, but I’m having a blast doing it, and it’s where I want to spend my time outside of work.”

Even though this is a relatively new hobby for the attorney, her enthusiasm is contagious and it’s hard for even devoted introverts not to be a little captivated by the charm of improv. It’s difficult to resist the idea of being someone entirely different – several someones actually – each and every time you mount the stage.

“I love the freedom of it,” Gossett said. “There are no limits when you’re doing improv. You can be anybody. So I could be an old man, I could be a toddler, I could be an elephant that can talk. There are absolutely no restrictions. I also feel that, being a person who uses a wheelchair, a lot of people put limits on me and think that I can’t do this or that, and it’s an opportunity for me to step out of that.”

Perhaps unexpectedly, Gossett also thinks that the time she spends at ComedySportz actually complements her work as an attorney, noting that the skill sets involved often overlap.

“How to react and interact with other people, all of that is very important in litigation,” she explained. “You have to collaborate, you have to respond, be quick on your feet and be ready to answer anything in the courtroom.”

Gossett encourages anyone who is interested to give improv a shot. She claimed that most of the skills necessary to do improv can be learned and notes that ComedySportz offers classes at all levels, including those for beginners to help you “get out of your shell.”

“Besides,” she added, “you get to play pretend for a few hours, and how many adults get to do that?”•
 

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  1. I have dealt with more than a few I-465 moat-protected government attorneys and even judges who just cannot seem to wrap their heads around the core of this 800 year old document. I guess monarchial privileges and powers corrupt still ..... from an academic website on this fantastic "treaty" between the King and the people ... "Enduring Principles of Liberty Magna Carta was written by a group of 13th-century barons to protect their rights and property against a tyrannical king. There are two principles expressed in Magna Carta that resonate to this day: "No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned, disseised, outlawed, banished, or in any way destroyed, nor will We proceed against or prosecute him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land." "To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Inspiration for Americans During the American Revolution, Magna Carta served to inspire and justify action in liberty’s defense. The colonists believed they were entitled to the same rights as Englishmen, rights guaranteed in Magna Carta. They embedded those rights into the laws of their states and later into the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution ("no person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.") is a direct descendent of Magna Carta's guarantee of proceedings according to the "law of the land." http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/magna_carta/

  2. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

  3. Such is not uncommon on law school startups. Students and faculty should tap Bruce Green, city attorney of Lufkin, Texas. He led a group of studnets and faculty and sued the ABA as a law student. He knows the ropes, has advised other law school startups. Very astute and principled attorney of unpopular clients, at least in his past, before Lufkin tapped him to run their show.

  4. Not that having the appellate records on Odyssey won't be welcome or useful, but I would rather they first bring in the stray counties that aren't yet connected on the trial court level.

  5. Aristotle said 350 bc: "The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of an modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural.

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