Law Office of Paul Black - August 2018



LEADING IS LISTENING How Dancing Can Save Your Life

A s someone born with two left feet, I never expected to discover a love for dance. If you went back and told my younger self that I would become deeply involved in the Atlanta swing-dance scene, he would say, “Sorry, you have got the wrong guy!” But life has a funny way of surprising you at the most unexpected times. It was the spring of 2012, and I found myself wedged between new beginnings. I had just started a practice after graduating law school while simultaneously going through a tough breakup. With the opening of a new career and the close of a relationship, much of the support structure I had enjoyed throughout my schooling was gone. To keep my world from being turned completely upside down, I knew I had to be active and make new friends. That is when I discovered the swing-dance community. Atlanta is blessed with some amazing, talented people who hit the dance floor to have a great time. But more than anything, the dancers are incredibly supportive, helping novices like me find the confidence and develop the skills to cut a rug with the best of them.

Despite my aforementioned left feet, I kept going out dancing, and I found my rhythm. It was a great source of exercise and socializing, to say nothing of the music. I have danced to swing, Cajun, blues, contra, and so much more since first starting out. And believe it or not, all this dancing has made me a better lawyer. There is a phrase professional dancers use that should be taught in every law school in America: “Leading is listening.” To be a great lead in swing dancing does not just take confidence — it requires that you listen to and leave room for your partner.

As an elder law attorney, I have also seen the good swing dance can do for the young at heart. There are swing-dance regulars who are well into their 80s — a few of them are former clients of mine! It is great to see so many elders out there. Dance is not just a great source of exercise; it also strengthens neural plasticity, helping to combat dementia and Parkinson’s disease. During my mother’s battle with early-onset Parkinson’s, one of our goals was to get her dancing again. I held out hope I would get to dance the Texas two-step with her one day. But the disease took a turn for the worse, and we never got that dance. So now I have a personal goal. Inspired by the folks I have met in this community, I am determined to keep dancing well into my 80s. Finding this passion is one of the best things I have ever done. I have had plenty of bad days in my life, but I have never had a

If you are too aggressive a lead and try to dictate every move, the person you are dancing with is never going to trust

you. The same goes for lawyers who think they

“know best” and ignore the wishes of the people they are supposed to represent.

bad night dancing. I always leave in better spirits than when I arrived.

Great leads and great lawyers listen to the person they are working with while walking them through the steps with confidence. In my experience, that is the best way to help someone feel they are in good hands.

-Paul Black

Do you have estate planning or elder law-related questions? Write to me at with Asked and Answered in the subject line. Your identity will be kept confidential. The opinions offered in this column are not intended to replace or substitute any financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. | 1

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