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Musical Lawyers and Lawyerly Musicians

Music notes

Music and the law, two disciplines (dare I say art forms?) about as far afield from one another as it’s possible to be. OR ARE THEY? Let’s investigate that idea.

Firstly, a brief wander through history. Music has been a favourite pastime of many lawyers, former lawyers and law school dropouts. In fact, for some it was the push they needed to dive head long into their true passion.

Here are just a few of the lawyers and not quite lawyers that have succeeded in music:

  • Famed composer Handel went to law school to please his parents but later dropped out.

  • Tchaikovsky worked in Russia’s Ministry of Justice before throwing it all in and writing the 1812 Overture, The Nutcracker etc.

  • Stravinsky, another famed composer, also studied law.

  • The American national anthem was written by lawyer/songwriter Francis Scott Key.

  • Lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II quit Columbia Law School and wrote over 800 songs during his career, including lyrics for musicals like Oklahoma!, South Pacific and The Sound of Music. He even took home a few Tony Awards and Oscars for his efforts.

  • Paul Simon, one half of Simon & Garfunkel, is another law school dropout turned muso. He did a brief stint at Brooklyn Law School before Mrs. Robinson, Bridge Over Troubled Water, fame and fortune beckoned.

  • Legendary guitarist Robert Quine gained a law degree from Washington University Law School, but spent most of his career collaborating with the likes of Lou Read and Brian Eno.

  • Not exactly loving his time at UCLA’s law faculty, Ray Manzarek transferred into film school, met Jim Morrison and The Doors were born.

  • Tenor Andrea Bocelli’s worked through university by singing in piano bars, and his law career lasted only a year before he decided that music was his real passion.

  • Retired NSW Supreme Court Justice George Palmer has been writing music since his childhood, and many of his compositions have been performed in recent years.

  • Before he was a politician that was formerly a musician, Midnight Oil frontman Peter Garrett studied law at UNSW.

  • Mark Holden did the legal and musical career in a different order. In the 1970s, he was a regular on Countdown. In 2003 he became a judge on Australian Idol. In the intervening period, he studied law and became a barrister in 2009.

For some law students, the closest they will get to a career in music is tapping their foot to the Boston Legal theme song. But for others with a musical flair, it turned out that music was their true calling. Of course, here at Survive Law we say why not do both!

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