Members in focus: Seth A. Blum
Duke University School of Law
Founding Partner of Kurtz & Blum, Raleigh

By Amber Nimocks

For Seth Blum, the works of William Shakespeare offer not just philosophical inspiration but also a means of self-expression, an opportunity for family bonding and a chance to enhance some of the skills he uses in the practice of law. Blum, a founding partner of Kurtz & Blum, is also an actor who frequently brings the Bard’s works to life on the local stage.

He said he doesn’t remember a moment when he decided to pursue involvement in theater, but that he has been acting for as long as he could talk.

“The only time I did not do any acting was the three years of law school and two years that followed when I lived in a small town that did not offer any opportunity,” Blum said. “When I moved to Raleigh in 1995, I auditioned within a couple of weeks and got cast. It felt like my chest opened and I could breathe again, like I could see in color for the first time in years.  I had no idea how much I’d missed it.”

Theater fans who saw Bare Theatre’s production of “Macbeth” this summer at Raleigh Little Theatre or at the Forest Theatre in Chapel Hill will recall Blum’s performance as Banquo.  The play also featured Blum’s three children, Eowyn, Havana and Scarlett, and was directed by Blum’s wife Rebecca, whom he describes as the most talented actor he knows.  He said working together in the theater allows the couple to be creative together. And performing helps their children grow creatively as well.

“To my mind, the theater is a great place to raise a child,” Blum said. “Artists are usually very accepting of differences,
sensitive to the needs of others, and community minded.
Performing requires projection of confidence, ability to read well, memorize, follow instructions, and work as part of a team.”

Blum hopes to someday have played a role in all of Shakespeare’s plays and is incredibly grateful for Bare Theatre for allowing him to play so many great ones so far, including Iago, Caliban and Hamlet. He and some writer friends also kick around the idea of putting together original comedy for the web. During college in Boston and London, Blum did improvisational comedy. He said the experience comes in handy when he has to think on his feet professionally.

“It taught me to roll with whatever was thrown at me,” Blum said. “Acting helps with lawyering in that I have some experience being heard and understood, facing an audience without allowing my nervousness or fear to compromise the message. It also helped me learn to occasionally say things that people did not really want to hear without making them hate me. Being a lawyer, especially a criminal defense lawyer means being OK with rejection. That can also be a recurring theme in the life of an actor.”

An NCBA member, Blum grew up in Atlanta and moved to North Carolina to attend law school at Duke. He has practiced here for 22 years.

Favorite quotes:  Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? (Who watches the watchmen?)

And from “Othello” (William Shakespeare):

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls.
Who steals my purse steals trash; ‘tis something, nothing;
‘Twas mine, ‘tis his, and has been slave to thousands;
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

What advice would you give to law students looking to enter your field of practice? At the end of the work day, go home. Build a life outside of the office. Being a lawyer is hard.  Defending the accused is crucial and fulfilling work, but it will not make you popular. You are going to need an escape. If you depend on the law to give you a sense of self-worth and self-esteem, you will run into trouble. NCL

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 edition of North Carolina Lawyer.