The seventh annual "Banding Together: The Battle of the Law Firm Bands" contest rocked the Black Cat last night, and it seems this year’s event was all about setting records.
The contest pitted 12 bands composed of Washington lawyers against one another to raise money for Gifts for the Homeless, which provides clothing and blankets to more than 30 homeless shelters in the Washington area.
The winner of the contest is decided by who can raise the most money for the charity. In what event promoters dubbed "Chicago-style" voting, each vote cost a dollar, and everyone was encouraged to vote early and often.
According to Walter Lohmann, a Kirkland & Ellis partner and one of the Banding Together organizers, this year’s contest raised $131,251, a new record for the event. Another record was the amount donated by sponsors. This year, sponsors contributed over $60,000. The rest of the money raised came from ticket sales and “votes.” (Full disclosure: The National Law Journal was a sponsor.) And finally, this year’s audience of 1,200 marked the largest number of attendees in its history.
This year’s contest winner, the slyly named Sutherland Comfort, an assemblage of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan lawyers and employees, stunned the heavy favorites, Dangerous Communication Device, whose members all hail from Williams & Connolly. DCD had won the past two years.
Daniel Buchner, a Sutherland tax associate and guitarist for Sutherland Comfort, said this year the firm pulled out all the stops in an effort to take down the reigning champs. Buchner, who had played the past several years as the unofficial leader of Waterson, changed the band's strategy to give it an edge in fundraising. Buchner said that everything had to be rethought, including the band’s name.
Instead of inviting some of his musically inclined buddies to join him as he has in the past, Buchner sent out an office-wide call to Sutherland employees in Washington to see whether he could assemble a band that was Sutherland, through and through. That call garnered responses from financial services partner W. Thomas Connor, who plays lead guitar, litigation associate Wilson Barmeyer, a bassist; and staff member Christopher Lewis, a drummer.
But the real find, Buchner said was first-year associate Naseem Nixon, a classically trained singer who took over on vocals for the band.
Buchner also hosted an office-wide contest to rename Waterson as a way to help rally support for the firm’s entry in the contest. “Sutherland Comfort was the overwhelming favorite,” Buchner said.
Buchner’s strategy evolved into a contest among partners and later counsel and associates to donate money to the cause. In the end, Sutherland Comfort raised $29,023, beating DCD by $5,500.
On stage, Sutherland Comfort played classic rock standards like The Who’s “My Generation” and Led-Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” But it also threw in quirky takes on such recent hits as Jet’s “Cold Hard Bitch” and Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love,” which brought to the stage back-up singers Rachel Saltzman, a Sutherland recruiter; and Amanda Hubert, a paralegal at the firm.
Other bands that played included The Unnamed Party, assembled by Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker and Hunton & Williams; The Precedents, composed of lawyers from McDermott Will & Emery and Constantine Cannon; Beats Workin, created by Hogan Lovells and Alston & Bird; One For The Governor, which includes lawyers from Crowell & Moring and Paul Hastings; and Latham & Watkins’ WMD & the Bad Ass Brass Band.
Banding Together president Bart Epstein, general counsel and vice president of corporate development for Tutor.com, called the event an “incredible success” and said that the money raised is enough to buy “hundreds of thousands” of articles of clothing for the homeless. “
“These bands really rocked the house, and had a great time. But more importantly, they all raised an impressive amount of money, which goes to a great cause,” Epstein said.