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They battle on the chords, not in the courts

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Kirkland & Ellis partner Walter Lohmann said he is convinced of one thing: All lawyers are just frustrated rock stars. In 2004, when he was thinking of ways to raise money for the law firm’s nonprofit partner, he knew exactly what to do — gather a bunch of lawyers on a stage and charge people to watch them rock out.

So recently, an audience of more than 1,000 people gathered at the Black Cat nightclub in Northwest Washington for the law community’s 8th annual Battle of the Bands event.

Through sponsorships, ticket sales and donations, the event raised $145,000, which will support Gifts for the Homeless, a nonprofit that provides homeless people with winter clothes and items.

Audience members also voted for their favorite act by stuffing cash in the band’s jar. The band with the most money at the end of the night would win. Competing bands represented firms, including Sidley Austin, Steptoe & Johnson, Crowell & Morning, Dewey & LeBoeuf and Hogan Lovells U.S.

But it was Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, performing under the band name Sutherland Comfort, which took first place.

From backstage, Lohmann watched Naseem Nixon, a Sutherland associate, belt the vocals of Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” in glittered pumps and black leather stretch pants as the crowd jumped, sang along and flailed their arms.

“It’s an opportunity to break out of what is a very tough discipline and let loose,” Lohmann said. “It’s all very joyful.”

Lohmann hadn’t always been the philanthropic type until the early 1990s, when a co-worker left and gave him the responsibility for coordinating relations between the firm and Gifts for the Homeless, which is operated by volunteers in the legal community.

“You walk into the sorting location for our clothing drive . . . it’s the biggest pile you’ve seen,” he said. “To see lawyers and legal staffers work through that pile in 24 hours inspired me.”

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