The Washington Post

For one night, their battle is on the chord rather than in the court

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the year this event was first held. This version has been corrected.

Nico Laget, Jake Worth and Mike Dolan of the Richard P. Goldberg law firm play with the band Objections at the recent Battle of the Bands event, which raised more than $100,000 for the homeless. (Evy Mages/For Capital Business)

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.

Andrew McCormick, an associate at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan, and Kristen Koneczny, a human resources specialist at the firm, cheer on their colleagues. (Evy Mages/For Capital Business)

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.”

Vanessa Small covers philanthropy and nonprofits for Capital Business. She also spotlights newly appointed executives in the New at the Top column, which chronicles their journeys to the top. Small was raised in Orange County, Ca. and graduated from Howard University.
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