A Band of Barristers
California Lawyer

A Band of Barristers

November 2010

Frequently found with a legal brief on his computer and a music score on his lap, Los Angeles sole practitioner and violinist Gary S. Greene started the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic nearly two years ago.

A civil litigator by trade, Greene was inspired to create the city's only orchestra of esquires when a trumpet-playing judge told him about other musician-judges. Greene's own musical career began at age twelve when he joined the Junior Philharmonic Orchestra of California, which his uncle founded in 1937 and which Greene now conducts.

When Greene placed ads seeking other legal practitioners with advanced musical training, he received a flood of responses. "The intensity of law school and a law practice makes it so that these people want some kind of an outlet," notes Greene, who naturally assumed the role as the conductor of the new philharmonic.

Nowadays, Greene holds auditions for the group in the lobby of his office building, which also houses his family's hat business. To keep in tune, the orchestra practices every Monday night in the nave of an ornate church. Mindful of his musicians' day jobs, Greene accepts latecomers and interruptions - including the occasional jangle of a BlackBerry - as the orchestra works through a score.

He is nonetheless an exacting conductor. "If you miss the beat, don't play," he chides the violin section at rehearsal. "You're better never than late!"

Since its founding in January 2009, the philharmonic has grown from a string ensemble to a full-fledged, 75-member orchestra with everything from piccolos to bassoons. In fact, Greene keeps nearly 200 musicians on the roster, rotating attorneys in and out as their work schedules permit.

At least two other U.S. cities have all-legal orchestras, but Greene proudly points out that his philharmonic plays original scores, just as professional orchestras do. The group has developed its musical chops enough to play at top venues: A summer concert, dubbed the Habeas Musicum, was held at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. (It drew an audience of more than 1,700, and a portion of the proceeds was donated to support a local bar association's pro bono projects.)

So far, just one player has grumbled about the orchestra's demanding performance schedule - 14 concerts in less than two years. Despite some turnover, the orchestra continues to grow. "The idea is to have a break from the grueling ordeal of litigation and adversarial head-butting," says Gregory Victoroff, a music copyright lawyer and percussionist. "Here, we are a more harmonious gathering."

For the orchestra's upcoming concert schedule, visit www.lalawyersphil.org

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