From courtroom to concert

Founded by a Malibu resident, The L.A. Lawyers Philharmonic prepares for its first black-tie gala concert.

By Jimy Tallal / Special to The Malibu Times

Billed tongue-in-cheek as “L.A.’s only legal orchestra,” the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic was founded just last year by Malibu resident and lawyer/conductor Gary S. Greene. After 18 months of practice and a number of public performances, the 75-member orchestra will play its first black-tie gala premiere at their Disney Hall Concert Debut on July 15.

When Greene’s formation of the L.A. Lawyers Phil was first made public, major news outlets around the country covered the story and couldn’t resist a few clever word plays on lawyers making music. “To get to this orchestra? Law practice, law practice,” said the New York Times in an article that started off with, “a defense lawyer, a prosecutor and a judge walked into the concert hall…”

The Washington Times headline read “Lawyers find philharmonic convergence in music.” Los Angeles’s Metropolitan News-Enterprise began its story with “Attorney Gary S. Greene: Conducts depositions, conducts orchestras;” and ABC News said “L.A. lawyers put objections aside to make music.”

Despite all the attention given to Los Angeles, a handful of other cities also have all-lawyer orchestras, including Chicago, Atlanta and London.

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Greene, a trial attorney with more than 30 years in practice who has also served as a temporary judge, trades his gavel for a baton quite frequently. He not only conducts the Lawyers Philharmonic, but also the L.A. Junior Philharmonic. His late uncle, Ernst Katz, a renowned concert pianist and conductor, originally founded the Junior Philharmonic and taught Greene how to conduct.

“I was 16 when I first conducted a selection at a concert,” Greene said. “I grew up in Malibu [after] my family moved here in 1955. The violin is my instrument, and I studied it from the time I was quite young.” Greene was also interested in politics, so he majored in political science at UCLA and then went to law school at Loyola.

Playing music in an orchestra is the perfect antidote to the everyday stress experienced by many practicing attorneys and judges. L.A. Lawyers Phil member Linda Echegaray, a new Pepperdine Law School graduate currently studying for the bar exam, said, “It’s incredible stress relief. You take all that anxiety and just pour it into the music; and you’re with people who understand.” Echegaray, a pianist for 25 years, says another advantage of being in the orchestra is not having to give up music in order to practice law. “You still get to perform without devoting your life to it. It’s accepted that we all have professions on the side. I get to play, which is nice, and what’s even more fun is the other people are like-minded-it’s our own little weird group of attorney-musicians.”

Greene conducts auditions and interviews with new member, and expects the musicians to play at an advanced level.

“Some of our lawyers have attended some of the finest music conservatories in the country,” he said. “The discipline required for music is well applied to the discipline of the professions, like law.”

All types of law practices are currently represented in the orchestra, including personal injury, workers’ compensation, business law and litigation. However, Greene notes that entertainment and copyright lawyers working for studios are probably the most common.

Although the orchestra is nearly complete, Green said they can always use backup for certain instruments, especially since some attorneys travel frequently on business. In particular he’d be interested in hearing from any lawyer, judge, law student or law staffer who plays (or is willing to dust off) the bassoon, French horn, bass trombone, violin, viola, cello or string bass. Rehearsals generally take place Monday nights at the cathedral-like Wilshire United Methodist Church in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Lawyer’s Philharmonic “Disney Hall Concert Debut” on July 15 at 7:30 p.m. is billed as a “Pops Concert (habeas musicum)” that includes a wide range of music -everything from “Beethoven’s Fifth” to “Mary Poppins.” “L.A. Law” television star Alan Rachins, who played attorney Douglas Brackman, Jr. on the long-running series, will emcee the event and Richard Chamberlain will narrate selections from the musical “Camelot.” Presiding Judge Charles McCoy, Jr. of the L.A. County Superior Court; Roger and Jo-Ann Grace, attorneys and publishers of Metropolitan News Enterprise; actress June Lockhart; Petri Hawkins-Byrd, the bailiff on “Judge Judy;” and benefactor Thomas Girardi, founding partner of the law firm Girardi & Keese, will also appear.

To purchase tickets, join the mailing list or schedule an audition, call 323.525.1800 or go to www.LALawyersPhil.org.

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