Why Wayne Brady Would Make A Great Lawyer

Douglas Lief brings his improv skills to the courtroom  

Published in 2008 Southern California Rising Stars — July 2008

Lawyers are used to facing tough audiences, but Douglas Lief apparently can't get enough. When the 27-year-old associate at Bowman and Brooke in Gardena finishes his day job, he regularly spends his weekend nights at Ultimate Improv in Westwood, where he's been a troupe member since his undergrad days at UCLA.

A self-confessed "theater geek" during his high school days in Laguna Beach, Lief says he did not want to major in theater in college, but he did want to "continue flexing that muscle."

Improv was the ideal solution. He says it has proved valuable in his law career as well.

"In improv, of course, you don't know what's going to come out of the other person's mouth," he says. "You're always dealing with the unexpected." At the same time, he explains, you are required to take whatever your partners introduce into a skit and add to it. This ‘yes and ...' aspect of improv is a useful skill to have in the legal profession, particularly in unrehearsed situations such as depositions.

"In both improv and law, you cannot fight what the facts are," Lief says. "You have to be able to roll with the circumstances. At the same time, you learn to use every skill at your disposal to steer the conversation in the direction that you want it to go."

Lief doesn't back down from tough audiences in comedy or law. Humor, he says, is a great tool for connecting with a jury or even a judge, but only when the right situation presents itself.

"If you can make a judge laugh, that's good, but it's a risky proposition," he says. "It can blow up on you, and then it becomes comedy without the comedy. Suddenly, you're cast as the guy at the party that nobody wants to hang around."

In law, as in comedy, timing is everything.

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