Handling the legal affairs of clients ranging from the Monkees to Katy Perry can leave little time for one’s own hobbies. But entertainment lawyer and part-time saxophone player Jay Cooper has found a way to syncopate his interests. When he isn’t toiling away at Greenberg Traurig’s Los Angeles office, Cooper plays alto sax with two bands, each comprised of attorneys: the Los Angeles Lawyers Philharmonic and the Big Band Barristers, both founded by Gary Greene.
Cooper had gigged his way through college and law school as a studio musician backing the likes of Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Bobby Darin. His busy attorney’s schedule had forced him to take a 30-year break, but a couple of years ago, he found himself again bitten by the music bug, and joined the LALP.
Cooper had spent six years with the Los Angeles Philharmonic before his legal representation of fellow musicians led him to focus exclusively on his practice. It happened gradually, he says. “I’d be sitting next to someone in a recording session, and they’d say, ‘Hey man, I just got busted. Can you help me out?’ While you’re waiting for your case, they say, ‘Hey, can you read this record contract? Can you read this movie contract? Can you read this songwriting contract?’ ” Among those Cooper ultimately came to represent (no, they weren’t busted first) are such acts as Buffalo Springfield, the Byrds, Jerry Seinfeld, Sheryl Crow and Nancy Wilson.
Cooper’s reinvigorated sax career has seen him perform at the Walt Disney Concert Hall with the LALP’s musically inclined lawyers, judges, law students and legal staff. Both the Lawyers Philharmonic and the Big Band Barristers also perform at events for bar associations and charities.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” Cooper says. “It’s very different than my day job. It’s energizing.”
Still, he’s concerned about the music business itself, and the lack of money from labels going toward artist development. “It took Bruce Springsteen three albums to make it,” he said. “If he had been dropped after the first album, would there ever have been a third album?”