The Music of the Law

Unlike my co-bloggers, I practice law for a living. Like most would-be lawyers my view of practice was powerfully shaped by Law & Order episodes. I do mainly civil and appellate litigation, so my practice contains few trips to Attica, but I did envision the practice of law as being a much more social endeavor. At the very least, I expected there to be some noise. My law firm, however, tends to be a very quiet place. People work in their offices, and if they talk they do so in conference rooms. There is none of the noisy bustle of the Law & Order DA’s office. As it happens, I don’t think well in silence. I find it distracting and unnerving. Even in college, for example, I found it impossible to study economics in the library. The quiet destroyed my concentration, so I always did econ work in the student union cafeteria. At work, I escape the silence by closing my door and playing music, which leads to the important question of which music goes with which tasks.


For document review, I find that I like rock music, especially U2. I think that for the rest of my life the music and lyrics of “One” will be permanently associated with insurance documents in my mind.

If I am doing general legal research — looking on Westlaw for cases or statutes — I find that I like folk music or bluegrass. There is something about the sound of Nanci Griffith or Allison Krauss that I associate with SCT-OLD searches or rummaging around through ALLFEDS.

For more serious research such as close reading of key cases or a careful review of the opposing parties’ briefs I prefer baroque music, in particular Handel or Correlli. At the very least, there is something about the rationalism of Correlli or Bach that just makes me feel more incisive, analytical, and logical.

For writing I find that I do best with either lively folk and blue grass (something about banjo picking gets the words flowing for me), choral music — especially Beethoven or Brahms — or, somewhat inexplicably, the Dave Matthews Band.

Of course these are not hard and fast categories. I have been known to review documents while listening to Handel’s Water Music, and I recently wrote a cert petition while listening to “Joshua Tree” over and over and over again.

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7 Responses

  1. Ben Barros says:

    When I was in practice, most of the time I wrote to classical or MC Solaar — since I don’t know French, I couldn’t be distracted by the words. But sometimes late at night I’d want something loud to power through a brief. One night I seriously freaked out a legal assistant by blasting Marilyn Manson at around 1 a.m. She opened the door to my office, looked horrified, and left. A few minutes later, the rest of the team arrived at my office and looked in cautiously. I assured them that I wasn’t killing small animals and they wandered off.

  2. Paul Gowder says:

    Research: random classical radio station

    Writing: jazz, funk, jazz-funk.

    Reviewing documents: the sound of my mortality marching toward me…

  3. Bring in the Noise

    I hope all my Jewish readers had a good fast. I personally didn’t fast, but I did spend much of the day repenting over the fact that I didn’t fast, so hopefully it evens out (right?). Somewhat distressingly, my hit counts for yesterday still topped 2…

  4. Scholarship You Can Dance To

    This post by Nate Oman reminds me of a conversation at last weekend’s works-in-progress IP colloquium at Wash. U. A group of us in St. Louis were inspired by Mark Schultz’s description of what he listened to while he worked up his forthco…

  5. Isaac says:

    I used to be a no words when thinking kind of guy, but now I need a chalkboard to do mathematics (since it isn’t in my room, that precludes music) and any music at all while doing anything else (I’m rocking Kanye West as I type).

  6. Kaimi says:

    Dylan’s greatest hits is permanently linked in my mind with a particularly brutal stretch of document review for a big antitrust production. I must have listened to that CD a few dozen times over the course of several 20 hour days. I listened to other music as well, but for some reason Dylan was listened to a lot, and the mental association is probably permanent.

  7. Mike says:

    When I’m going through an area of law I know really well, it’s KJAZZ. When I’m dealing with a new area of law, and need to bang my head through tough concepts, it’s the Wu-Tang (esp. The Mystery of Chess Boxin’, which I’ll keep on repeat). Of course, “It’s All About the Benjamins” is also a good song to have on the cpu.