Divorce lawyer and playwright Jonathan Kline inspires lawyers to pursue their creative passions

Jonathan Kline released his new play "Get A Dog" at the 2022 Toronto Fringe event

Divorce lawyer and playwright Jonathan Kline inspires lawyers to pursue their creative passions
Jonathan Kline is a family lawyer and writer and producer for Wisegirls Productions

Toronto-based divorce lawyer Jonathan Kline wants lawyers to know that it is never too late to pursue their creative passions. The playwright and winner of the 2010 Toronto Fringe’s 24-hour playwriting contest announced the premiere of his new play “Get A Dog” as part of the Toronto Fringe Festival this summer, following an 11-year hiatus.

“If you have creative projects in you that you’re yearning to get out, it’s a neglected side of your personality. It doesn’t mean it’s gone,” Kline says. “It’s been over a decade, but it’s still there.”

 Kline says he learned during and after law school that many lawyers are interested in doing creative projects. For example, his law school classmate, Emma Williamson, just published a book of poetry.

 Kline says he spent a significant part of his childhood reading books and watching TV and got more involved in creating plays in his high school theatre.

“There was always part of me that wanted to get on stage and tell stories, and I was too shy to do it for a long time until high school.”

Kline studied philosophy at the University of Toronto and was motivated to pursue a law degree at UT law after a temp agency told him he was unqualified for any job. 

“I knew that my aptitudes for language and critical thinking, being previously involved in theatre in high school and university, and that public presentation together would make for a decent structure to be a litigator.”

Following his 2008 call to the bar, Kline says it was important for him to balance his legal career with doing something creative. He says writing was a vital skill, and part of his job as a junior lawyer involved interviewing clients and writing the first draft of an affidavit.

“It was an interesting challenge for me, and clients responded positively to it because I told their stories in ways they couldn’t tell themselves and so when it came time to get to court, they knew at least that win or lose, the judge got to understand them,” he says.

Kline joined a writing workshop in 2010 to improve his story writing and says he wrote “The Editor: A Love Story,” for the workshop produced in 2011. In addition, he won a playwriting contest in 2010 for another of his plays, “Tempest and the Birch Tree.”

The demands of a legal career, balancing a family and doing art projects ultimately became tough, causing the 11-year gap between “The Editor: A Love Story” and his new play “Get A Dog.”

Kline credits the production of his new play to the COVID pandemic, which created time and space, his wife, who took on a more significant childcare role and domestic life, and the good relationship with his clients.

Kline, who runs a solo practice, says there are two ways of approaching a family law case and the lawyer’s role in it. He says the first is a traditional model where the lawyer is the boss because they know the law, have the expertise and skill and tell the client how things are. However, he believes that is a trap and the wrong choice. 

Kline says his approach to family law, which focuses on teaching clients how to solve their problems when possible, has helped him foster relationships with clients where they are okay if he needs to vacation for a couple of weeks. 

“When the client first comes to see me, I’m like, ‘look, this is your conflict and you’re going to get out of it, and the first thing that you’ve done to get yourself out of it is to hire me. I’m going to tell you everything you need to know, I’m going to tell you how the system works, and you’ll find out what you need to know, but ultimately, you’re responsible for your case.’”

He says it is gratifying to teach clients tactics for dealing with conflicts without him to avoid translating a personal problem into a public issue and the legal fees incurred every time a new application comes up. 

“I try to avoid feeling attached to outcomes and being proud of it. But what makes me happy about this project is because of COVID and the way my practice is run,” Kline says.

In “Get A Dog,” a wealthy woman attends a therapy session, seeking help to reignite her passion for her one true love – money. Kline says the play explores the price of wealth and its potential cure in an “intense, character-driven and hilariously dark” way.

Five people were involved in the production, and Kline says the play reflects the team’s respect, trust, and chemistry. “I was able to pick people whose egos would not get in the way of the work, so everyone’s good at listening. Everyone’s good at trying things, which I’m extremely proud of.”

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