This week, Law Rocks USA will kick off another concert series – its 8th annual – showcasing the musical talent of the nation’s law firms while raising money for local nonprofit organizations. The first event is being held over two nights starting March 21 at the legendary Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, where Law Rocks held its first U.S. concert in 2012. Ted Scott, a managing director at the litigation support firm Secretariat International, brought Law Rocks to the U.S. after working on the original London concert with founder Nick Child, also a managing director at Secretariat. Scott says the “Battle of the Bands” concerts produce great music – no matter how busy legal professionals might be with their jobs.
“A lot of them will blow you away,” Scott says. “Lawyers don’t go into the courtroom unprepared and they aren’t about to get on a stage unrehearsed. I don’t know how and when they do it, but they do.”
Lawdragon: First off, can you discuss your role in Law Rocks, in terms of when and why you got involved?
Ted Scott: I was living in London in 2007 and 2008 when I befriended Nick Child. He worked at Keating Chambers, a London Barrister Chambers, and had come up with the idea for Law Rocks. I volunteered to help him out. The first show was in the summer of 2009 and was only intended to be a one-time event to raise money for a local charity that benefited children. However, everyone had so much fun that the next year people started asking Nick to organize another one. In fact, so many people asked that there were enough interested bands to have it over two nights. The year after that, now 2010, there were so many bands that it was done over four nights. Nick now does five shows in London alone.
LD: Can you talk about how it expanded to Los Angeles?
TS: In 2011, I moved back to Los Angeles and thought, “Why not try to do it here?” I recruited my friend Brandt Mori, who was an attorney at Venable at the time, to help me out. We thought that in order to have credibility we needed to get certified as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization first, which took a little time. We also thought that we needed to hold the show at a venue that bands would be excited to play at. The venue that immediately came to mind was the Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood. I remember being very nervous when I called the Whisky to ask them if I could rent out the venue. Little did I know that “pay-to-play” had become a common concept in the music industry. The Whisky could not have been more accommodating and when they offered for me to come and get a tour of the venue, I jumped at the chance; I had gone through a hair metal phase as a teen. It really was, and still is, the perfect venue for us. The idea of having Law Rocks at legendary venues in every city is really part of our M.O. now
We booked the venue for a March 2012 date and immediately went about trying to recruit bands. Brandt and I emailed everyone we knew and a lot more we didn’t. I basically farmed every L.A. law firm’s website for emails and then spammed them. Before we knew it, we had five bands signed up to play. Nick flew in for the show and it went off with great success with one exception. The original concept was for it to be pretty much a winner-take-all type event; I think it was 75% to the winner, 25% to second place. However, as the show was unfolding, it became clear that the band that had raised the most money, by a lot, was going to come in third and therefore that charity was not going to get anything. So on the fly, we changed it so that every charity would at least take home some donation. This concept has evolved so that now, every band’s charity gets 100% of the money raised in its name. We pay for the show solely out of ticket sales and sponsorships.
LD: What about expansion and operations since then?
TS: Because of the success of the show, word started to get out and, like London, the following year we had new bands asking to play. We also received an inquiry from an interested band in San Francisco, so we decided to expand.
In 2014, we added New York and I started to realize it was getting too much for me to do by myself. Brandt had moved up to San Francisco and I was handling day-to-day operations, along with my real job. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Omi Crawford who had a lot of non-profit experience and was looking for some part-time work. She really helped create the branding and is now our first and only employee. She handles most of the day-to-day operations now. I call her the heart and soul of Law Rocks.
Around the same time, I recruited another friend, Chuck Jarrell, to help create a board. Chuck is a partner at Allen Matkins and more importantly a guitarist for his Law Rocks band, Attractive Nuisance. Chuck also serves as the Board Chair for YMCA Ketchum in downtown L.A. I didn’t know the first thing about boards, so I really leaned on him for help. He really is the guy I bounce ideas off of and who I go to for advice. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves for Law Rocks though he does get to actually play on stage.
LD: Do you also play in a band?
TS: I love music but can’t sing or play an instrument so this lets me feel like I’m involved. It is also a great feeling when you can hand a charity a check and know that it is going to make a real impact for them. I like to say that we prove that music can change the world in a tangible way.
LD: What were some of the other challenges of expanding when it comes to a project like this?
TS: The real challenge in coming to a new city is simply getting the word out. In the initial cities we tried - L.A., San Francisco, New York - it just seemed to work. I think it made us overconfident. The next city we tried was Chicago and we received no response the first time. We tried again last year and were able to pull it off. Philadelphia has been challenging, as has Salt Lake City. I think it comes down to how effective we are at getting the word out. We don’t advertise. We are really solely word of mouth. It’s hard to know how many people we are reaching.
Outside of the law firms that sponsor their own bands, external sponsors have been a challenge. Understandably though, I think. Sponsors are about how many eyeballs are going to see their name. I think it’s only been recently that we’ve been able to be something attractive to sponsors.
LD: Can you describe the success and growth of this effort in terms of the numbers of attendees or money raised?
TS: In 2012, we raised $47,000 with our first show. In 2018, we raised $550,000 with seven shows. Our goal is raise $1M in 2020.
LD: Has Law Rocks tended to focus on certain issues in the U.S. or does it run the gamut given the diverse interests of the professionals involved?
TS: Almost half of the charities that we have donated to benefit children and youth. However, it really runs the gamut. The only thing we ask is that bands try to pick a charity that is local to the event.
At Law Rocks, our goal is to promote music education for underprivileged youth and raise funds for local nonprofit organizations by combining the power of music and the generosity of the global legal community. Law Rocks provides an opportunity for the global legal community to bring attention and funding to deserving local nonprofits – to make a real difference in cities around the world by raising funds and attention for local organizations that change local lives.
LD: For those who might buy tickets, what do attendees experience at a concert? Is it a mix of music along with some programming?
TS: Ninety-nine percent is music. The other 1% comes from the elevator speech we let the charities give for themselves before their band plays.
LD: Can you tell us a little bit about Secretariat International and what services it provides to the legal industry, and in what parts of the world.
TS: Secretariat International provides litigation support and expert witness services. We originally were focused on construction and engineering disputes but have since grown to providing services on almost any type of matter. We have offices here in the States, Canada, London, Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore.
LD: Can you discuss your engineering background, and how it led to your current role at Secretariat. Why led you into a law-related career?
TS: I went to work for an engineering firm out of college as a construction manager. One of my first projects ended up in litigation, and we hired consultants to put the claim together and testify in court. I liked the forensic process they went through in building the case, so at the end of it, I joined their firm. If you are an engineer you can work on a construction project for years before it's completed. However, as an expert, I get to know a project in extreme detail without having to live it day to day. The amount of projects I’ve been able to work on in my career must be 20 times more than I would have otherwise.
LD: What do you do outside the office to unwind? What music do you listen to?
TS: I listen to just about anything and love to go see live music. The real fun is turning my two young sons onto music.