September 14, 2011
New York lawyer Daniel Baum is not your stereotypical litigator. He spends his time away from the office focusing on health and wellness by practicing Tai Chi. Find out how he does this and practices law with the help of WestlawNext.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR PRACTICE?
I graduated from Georgetown Law in 2005, and then went to a mid-sized New York commercial litigation firm from 2006 until 2010. During that time, I also was a member of the 2009 cohort of NYCELLI, the New York City Environmental Law Leadership Institute. For the past year, I have been a solo practitioner focused largely on commercial litigation, environmental law, education law, as well as employment and general practice.
TELL US ABOUT TAI CHI, WHY ARE YOU PASSIONATE ABOUT IT?
I got into martial arts when I was 16 years old, when I began training Karate. I just really liked it from the start and I made a commitment to develop my practice of the art. I have been teaching almost since I started Karate and really enjoy teaching as both a way to spread the art and deepen my own practice and understanding. Later, in college, I began training Tai Chi, although Karate remained my main focus until I was 30. At that point, I transitioned into Chinese martial arts, focusing most of my efforts on Tai Chi. The reason I transitioned then was because I was in law school and found karate to be a very intense physical practice that was leaving me more tired than when I started. Given all the other demands on my time, I needed a form of training that would leave me more energized then when I began and Tai Chi is really great for that.
As my focus on Tai Chi grew, its health and wellness benefits became really clear as did its accessibility for people of various ages and people who fall across a spectrum of physical ability and health. I’ve trained with people from age twenty to eighty and seen Tai Chi provide great benefits in all cases. I know a young man who learned to developed fantastic strength and speed and also know an elderly woman with severe osteoporosis who learned to perform a sword form balanced on one leg. That kind of training makes just about everyone who tries it feel really good, which is what drew me to it early on and caused me to further commit to practicing it more and more. Now, when I teach Tai Chi, I tailor it to my students’ interests, backgrounds, and ability making it more or less physically demanding, meditative, or self-defense oriented. I’m also lucky to teach students of all ages and backgrounds and have found that I am able to give them something that has a really positive impact on their health and lives, which is wonderfully rewarding. And of course, I really enjoy teaching it. I get to work with people in a very direct and immediate way in the context of an art I respect and love to practice. This makes teaching a wonderful experience for me.
I WOULD NOT EXPECT A COMMERCIAL LITIGATOR TO BE PASSIONATE ABOUT TAI CHI, IS THAT A CORRECT ASSUMPTION?
It’s a nice balance for me. I guess the stereotype is that all litigators are generally antagonistic and aggressive, and it certainly can go that way. But I find Tai Chi really complementary to my legal practice. Tai Chi emphasizes relaxed movement and answering force not with instinctual resistance but with a kind of flow and following that lets you deal with aggression on your own terms and, I think, in a more effective way. It also explicitly teaches its practitioners to remain calm and relaxed in stressful and demanding situations – another boon to litigation practice. And, about the same time I was getting into Tai Chi, I also found myself getting really excited about mediation, another passion of mine. I was able to practice some mediation during and after law school and now find that my training as a commercial litigator is helping to position me to continually weave more mediation into my practice. I think mediation and tai chi have a very similar vibe.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH WESTLAWNEXT?
I think WestlawNext is a really good product. It’s a great research tool that I can access anywhere I have a computer. That means that I do not have to go to the library every time I have a research need, which is often, and that adds up to huge time savings and convenience. And of course there’s the matter of locating relevant information. The new WestlawNext search method helps me find research answers even more quickly than before, which is another major advantage. As far as WestlawNext in particular, you guys at Westlaw made a really good product here. When I first used Westlaw, the earlier product, I was happy with that search tool. But now, in the era of Google, users expect even more natural, intelligent, and easy searches and I think you’ve really delivered there. In addition to that, the new screen arrangement makes everything really accessible and it was a good idea to build in the folders feature so we can save material online. In short, the whole upgrade has made the Westlaw experience more user-friendly, intuitive, and efficient. So now I can find everything I need in less time, making me and my clients very happy.