(January 24, 2024) - Katherine Tapp of Wilson Elser shares her experiences at the cross-section of lawyering and falconry.

Falconry is an ancient practice defined as the taking of wild quarry in its natural state and habitat by means of a trained raptor. I have been a falconer and an attorney for approximately the same amount of time and, although these disciplines may seem worlds apart, I am consistently reminded of the overlaps in their application.

For example, did you know that falconers also have to take a state-issued written test before they can be legally licensed to practice? Or that the feeling when you first release a bird you have spent months training is identical to the feeling of standing before a jury for the first time? Or that learning how to practice falconry involves the same kind of mentorship-style learning seen in almost every firm in the country?

The reality is that both lawyers and falconers share a commitment that requires embracing strategy, patience, mentorship, adaptability, and the delicate balance between control and letting go. In this article, I aim to highlight some of the parallels I have observed during my time pursuing these two seemingly disparate interests.


The pursuit of mastery

In both law and falconry, the pursuit of mastery is a common thread. Both require an unyielding commitment to hone one's skills and embrace a lifelong journey of learning and excellence.

Dedication and commitment

Good lawyers, like falconers, must exhibit unwavering dedication. The practice of law demands years of education, rigorous ongoing training, and countless hours of research and case preparation. Just as falconers spend years building a bond with their raptors and perfecting the art, lawyers dedicate themselves to understanding the intricacies of the legal system and advocating effectively for their clients.

Continuous learning and skill development

In law and falconry, stagnation is the enemy of success. Lawyers must quickly adapt to evolving legislation, precedent, and strategy. Similarly, falconers must refine their techniques and learn from each bird they acquire. The pursuit of mastery in both fields necessitates a thirst for knowledge and a commitment to staying current and aware.

Long-term dedication

Perhaps the most striking similarity between law and falconry is the requirement for long-term dedication. Success in either discipline is not achieved overnight; it is the result of years of work, practice, and passion. Whether arguing a landmark case in court or training a hawk to perfection, both lawyers and falconers understand that mastery is a journey with no fixed destination.

The pursuit of mastery in law and falconry shares a common foundation built on dedication, continuous learning, and a commitment to long-term growth. These are the qualities that set apart exceptional practitioners in both disciplines, demonstrating that the path to excellence is paved with the same unwavering determination whether you are in a courtroom or on the hunt.

The bond between master and apprentice

In the legal profession and the world of falconry, the mentorship dynamic plays a crucial role in the exchange of knowledge and expertise from one generation to the next. Experienced lawyers and falconers both take on the responsibility of guiding and nurturing the skills of those who are just beginning the journey.

Mentorship in law

In the legal world, mentorship involves seasoned attorneys sharing insight, strategy, and wisdom with junior lawyers. This mentorship often extends beyond pure legal knowledge to include valuable lessons in professionalism, ethics, and client relations. Much like a falconer teaching an apprentice the art of handling and training raptors, lawyers guide the development of their mentees, helping to navigate the complexities of the profession.

Mentorship in falconry

In falconry, mentorship is a fundamental — and legally required — aspect of the tradition. To become a falconer in Indiana, for example, a would-be falconer is required to undergo a two-year apprenticeship under the supervision of a general or master-class falconer.

During the apprenticeship, the seasoned falconer passes down knowledge of raptor behavior, hunting techniques, and bird handling to ensure the next generation of falconers acts both ethically and with the requisite skill. Trust and communication between mentor and apprentice are paramount, mirroring the importance of these qualities in the partner-associate relationship.

The shared value of mentorship in law and falconry reinforces the significance of learning from those with experience. These relationships foster a sense of responsibility to preserve the traditions and knowledge of the respective fields.

Strategy and preparation

Another striking parallel between practicing law and falconry lies in the meticulous planning and strategy required to succeed. Both lawyers and falconers must analyze situations, anticipate challenges, and adapt their approaches to achieve their objectives.

Legal strategy

In the practice of law, strategic thinking is essential. Lawyers methodically plan arguments, research case law, and develop a comprehensive strategy to advocate for clients. This involves assessing the strengths and weaknesses of cases, anticipating counterarguments, and preparing for alternative outcomes.

Falconry strategy

Falconry, too, is a strategic endeavor. When I plan a hunt, I take into account factors such as the type of game I will be pursuing, the behavior and condition of my bird, the terrain, the weather, and a myriad of other considerations. I then develop strategies on how to maximize the efficiency and safety of the hunt while ensuring the well-being of the bird.

The ability to strategize effectively is a shared trait among lawyers and falconers. Both understand the importance of preparation and foresight in achieving their goals, whether in a courtroom or in the field.

Patience and perseverance

Patience and perseverance are woven into the fabric of both the practice of law and falconry. These qualities are not only admirable, but essential for success.

Legal advocacy: waiting for the right opportunity

In law, patience often comes in the form of waiting for the right opportunity. Cases can take months or years to resolve, requiring attorneys to exercise restraint and strategic patience. Lawyers must be persistent in their pursuit of client goals, even in the face of setbacks or delays.

Falconry: the art of waiting

Falconry, too, is a testament to patience. Falconers understand that raptors have their own pace and rhythms. Waiting for a bird to return from a hunt — if it does so at all — or to respond to commands requires not just patience but also a deep trust in the partnership forged between falconer and bird.

The lesson in patience

Great achievement often requires time and unwavering commitment. It is the understanding that setbacks are not failures, but opportunities to grow. Patience and perseverance enable practitioners of both law and falconry to endure the challenges and uncertainties of their respective fields.

Adaptability and quick thinking

In the dynamic worlds of law and falconry, adaptability and quick thinking are vital attributes. Both attorneys and falconers must be prepared to adjust to changing circumstances and make informed decisions — pardon the pun — on the fly.

Legal advocacy: navigating changing terrain

Attorneys frequently encounter unexpected twists in their cases. Key witnesses change their testimony, or new evidence emerges suddenly. Attorneys must adapt their strategies swiftly, revising arguments and approaches as needed to ensure the best outcome for their clients.

Falconry: responding to the unpredictable

Falconry is an outdoor pursuit where factors such as weather, prey behavior, and the raptor's disposition can change rapidly. Falconers must be quick thinkers, making split-second decisions during a hunt, adjusting their plans based on the bird's actions and the evolving situation.

The power of adaptability

The power of adaptability and quick thinking is evident in the success stories of lawyers and falconers alike. Both understand that the ability to pivot when circumstances shift is a skill necessary for success. The worlds of law and falconry remind us that adaptability and quick thinking are not just assets, but a daily requirement. They reflect the ability to think on one's feet, respond effectively to changing dynamics, and continue moving forward despite the unexpected.

The balance between control and letting go

One of the most intriguing parallels between the worlds of law and falconry lies in the delicate balance between asserting control and allowing natural processes to unfold. In both disciplines, practitioners must grapple with the tension between directing outcomes and recognizing when it's time to relinquish control.

Legal advocacy: asserting control

In the practice of law, attorneys often are tasked with exerting control over legal proceedings, shaping the narrative of a case to best advocate for their client's interests. They painstakingly prepare arguments, gather evidence, and present their case persuasively. Control in this context is about influencing the direction of a legal dispute.

However, seasoned attorneys also understand the limits of control. They recognize that they cannot control the actions of opposing parties, sometimes their own clients, judges, or juries. As such, they must strike a balance between asserting influence and adapting to unforeseen developments.

Falconry: the dance of control and release

In falconry, the relationship between falconer and raptor epitomizes the delicate interplay between control and release. A falconer must exert control when training a bird, ensuring it responds to commands and returns to the glove. This control is essential for the safety of both bird and falconer.

Yet, falconers also understand the importance of letting go — literally. During a hunt, the falconer releases the bird to pursue prey independently. This act of release underscores the trust and partnership between the falconer and the raptor. The falconer relinquishes control, allowing the bird to exercise its natural instincts.

The common thread

In both law and falconry, true mastery often involves yielding control. Lawyers understand that the legal system can be unpredictable, and no amount of preparation can eliminate uncertainty entirely. Similarly, falconers recognize that they cannot micromanage a hunting bird; they must trust its training and instincts.

The balance between control and letting go is a nuance that successful lawyers and accomplished falconers master. It is an acknowledgment that, in their respective realms, there are elements beyond control, and a reminder that sometimes the best course of action is to trust the process, have faith in one's training, and allow events to unfold naturally.

This shared understanding of the balance between control and letting go highlights a profound connection between the worlds of law and falconry, where practitioners recognize that true mastery is not just about dominance but also about harmony and collaboration with the forces at play.


From the pursuit of mastery through dedication, continuous learning, and long-term commitment, to the significance of mentorship, strategy, patience, adaptability, and the delicate balance between control and letting go, the worlds of law and falconry intertwine in unexpected and enriching ways.

Both law practitioners and falconers, despite the apparent differences in their chosen paths, embark on journeys characterized by unwavering determination, a thirst for knowledge, and a profound respect for tradition. They understand that true mastery extends beyond technical proficiency; it encompasses a deep understanding of self, the craft, and the world in which they exist.

In the end, the stories of lawyers and falconers alike inspire us to approach our own endeavors with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment. They encourage us to embrace the wisdom gained from unexpected sources and to recognize that the journey toward mastery is not just about the destination, but about the lessons along the way.

Originally published by Westlaw Today.

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