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Sound of music bonds colleagues beyond big law

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//November 14, 2023//

Husch Blackwell band

Attorneys with the Husch Blackwell band perform a Blues Brothers themed set at a firm event in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Husch Blackwell.

Sound of music bonds colleagues beyond big law

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//November 14, 2023//

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Not all attorneys spend day and night at their desks or in a courtroom.

Meet Milwaukee attorney Catarina Colón. When Colón isn’t elbows deep in labor and employment law, you might find her on stage.

The Racine native has always had a passion for music and has previously performed in a cover band at weddings and memorial services. Colón, who has been with the firm for five years, said it seemed only natural to join the Husch Blackwell band.

“For a firm of our size to have attorneys come together from across the country to perform on a whim, we had an absolute blast,” Colón said during an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal.

The niece of Milwaukee Judge Pedro Colón, the younger Colón noted her performance at a recent attorneys-only retreat for the firm.

Catarina Colón performing with the Husch Blackwell band in Chicago. Photo courtesy of Husch Blackwell.

Colón is in good company.

“In HB’s Labor and Employment practice group, we have many musicians. It’s almost a running joke, to be a labor and employment attorney here you almost have to be a musician,” Colón said.

“It’s a funny coincidence. We’ve noticed as we add more people to our team, they all have musical talent. I think people are surprised when they learn attorneys here have a background in music,” Colón said.

Colón noted that while her voice is her primary instrument, she also plays piano, clarinet and cello. She was also a drum major in high school. As an undergraduate student, she performed in flagship choir concert tours across the Eastern Seaboard and Europe. In her free time, she volunteers by performing at Children’s Hospital and fundraisers for various charities.

Prior to going into law, “I intended to do this for a living,” Colón said.

“I had a lot of friends in undergrad who were also in musical performance world. I noticed my classmates who graduated ahead of me ended up not doing music post-graduation. Ultimately, I wanted something that would have more security supporting myself,” Colón noted.

Eric Locker, one of Colón’s HB colleagues, said his undergraduate degree was in music education, noting he has been in a rock band since middle school.

Locker noted, “the band isn’t a big part of what we do here; we actually bill.” But when the band performs, “it’s a really great time,” Locker said.

The most recent Husch Blackwell band performance took place at the Marriott Marquis in Chicago during the firm retreat.

“We did six or seven cover songs. Because we were in Chicago we did a Blues Brothers theme, performing Sweet Home Chicago,” he said.

Locker said the band had been in a COVID retreat until this year.

“We took a hiatus because of COVID. This was the first time the band made appearance in a few years,” he added.

According to Locker and Colón, nearly 1,000 attorneys were in attendance.

“It was the quite a crowd; the biggest crowd I’ve ever performed for,” Locker said.

Echoing the sentiments of Colón, Locker said it was really a positive experience on many levels.

“It made me feel more connected to this law firm. Work isn’t always work, it can be fun,” he said.

“It brought the firm together. I talked to people I normally don’t talk to who are in different areas of law. It was a good way to build comradery with those in audience,” Locker added.

According to Locker, there are 12 attorneys in the Husch Blackwell Band.

History of the band

Lydia Chartre, a partner in Husch Blackwell’s Milwaukee office, is among the dozen in the firm’s band.

According to Chartre, when her previous firm, Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek, merged with Husch Blackwell, so did the two firms’ respective bands.

“It was another merger, WHD merging with the Husch Blackwell band. The Milwaukee office (of Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek) had their own band, too,” Chartre said.

While the Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek band typically performed at firm happy hours, the Husch Blackwell band has expanded to perform in front of a much larger audience.

Like Colón and Locker, Chartre comes from a diverse musical background.

“I’ve been in music my whole life. Whether in a choir or band, I played the flute since fifth grade. I was in a number of musicals in high school and college and played piano as a kid,” Chartre said, noting as an adult, “I haven’t had many outlets to perform, except singing at church on Sundays.”

Bringing her musical talents to her current law practice has been rewarding, both personally and professionally, she said.

“Since we work at the same firm doing different things in different states, the commonality of music bringing us all together was a great experience,” Chartre said.

“The cool thing about music, there is nothing that brings people together more than music. Whether you perform it or enjoy listening to it, when you find another person who enjoys the same thing, it’s more than just a conversation starter, it’s an instant friendship. It was really cool to see this with my coworkers,” Chartre added.

Rocking music outside of big law

Attorney Bryan Kroes is a Wisconsin native and shareholder with the Wauwatosa law offices of Hurtado Zimmerman. When Kroes isn’t working in entertainment law he is often performing in a band.

Music has always played a significant role in Kroes’ life.

“I’ve played in bands since I was 14,” Kroes said. Since then, he has performed at Shank Hall in Milwaukee, High Noon Saloon in Madison, the Brower House in northern Illinois and toured around the country.

After law school, Kroes continued to work as a musician while practicing real estate and construction law.

“When I started practicing law back in 2013, most of my practice was construction and real estate and only a small portion was entertainment. Focusing more on entertainment law has always been the long-term goal. As time has gone on, entertainment law has become a prominent role. Now, a significant portion of my practice is now entertainment law. I’ve transitioned connections I had as a musician into my legal practice,” Kroes said.

High demand, short supply

“In Wisconsin, there is a lot of talent here, but not a lot of entertainment attorneys,” he noted.

According to Kroes, his clients include songwriters, record labels, venues, actors, publishers and authors.

In October, he was elected to an American Bar Association (ABA) committee on entertainment and sports.

Wisconsin lawyer lands record label

University of Wisconsin Law School alum Peter Strand has an office in Chicago and represents talent in Wisconsin, Illinois and throughout the nation.

“Song writing is a confusing business. What is a song from a legal standpoint? Who contributed? What contributions are necessary? That’s always interesting to sort out. Some musicians are not sophisticated about the legality of business, so we do a lot of client education,” said Strand.

Strand himself landed a record deal with RCA.

“I’ve been really lucky. People I knew from the music business called me as a lawyer. I also got involved in volunteer lawyers for creative arts and that was a great connection. It introduced me to lawyers established in entertainment law who gave me skillsets needed to represent creatives,” Strand said.

Presently, Strand is a partner at the entertainment, media and intellectual property law firm of Chicago-based Mandell Menkes.

When Strand isn’t in a courtroom, at his desk or on stage, he also teaches music law as an adjunct professor at Marquette University School of Law.

He assists clients with copyright protection and enforcement, trademarks and various intellectual property rights. Strand also handles licensing and creative works cases. He works with the acquisition and distribution of content, acquiring and distributing content  and selecting, securing and protecting product and service brand names.

Strand was a member of the band Yipes! when he landed an RCA record label and said the Millennium Records label he belonged to was actually sold to Johnny Carson back in the mid 1980s.

“It was a remarkable time. We were on tour with Foreigner,” Strand said.

Strand still performs, most recently in the Milwaukee-based band the Riverwest Ace. The band most recently played at Linneman’s Riverwest Inn in September for an American Heart Association fundraiser.

Strand said he recorded with Twin/Tone Records in Minneapolis, noting his next gig is slated for Nov. 18 in the Twin Cities at the Hopkins Performance Center.

Strand was a full-time musician for nearly a decade before attending law school.

“I had a fair amount of success as a full-time musician, except for financially,” Strand said.

“Six guys in a hotel with two beds is charming when you’re 22, but less charming when you’re 30,” he said, noting, “The charm of being out on the road wore off.”

After law school, Strand worked primarily in litigation, where here honed his skills of entertainment law.

He worked in a general practice for clients in entertainment industry, mostly film, television and music, Strand noted.

“It was mostly transactional work. Trademark work on behalf of creative and production clients,” he added.

Strand grew up in Wisconsin, went to high school at Brookfield East, attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison for undergrad, then went back to Madison for law school.

“I’m a double Badger as they say,” Strand said.

Strand has been licensed in Wisconsin and Illinois since 1987 and has represented dozens of Wisconsin-based talent and across the country.

“Lately more of my clients are in film and television, scattered, from Pennsylvania to New Jersey,” he said, noting how the pandemic has evolved digital technology.

“Meeting face to face became less and less necessary. Once you develop a little reputation and get referrals, now I have clients across the country,” Strand said.

“It’s sure a different practice these days,” he added.

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