A dozen law-related tunes to beat the training contract application blues

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By Judge John Hack on

The Judge trawls through his — and his mates’ — old vinyl collections in search of a soundtrack to ease the stress


It’s a pretty bleak vista. Lying out ahead of wannabe solicitors for as far as the eye can see are fields of training contract application forms.

You’ve set yourself a target of one a day for 10 days. It’s a marathon — and there is no guarantee of any euphoria at the end. So you need some sort of tonic to dull the pain.

Well, there’s nothing like music to raise the spirits. Legal Cheek presents The Judge’s dozen law-related tunes to get you through the training contract application blues.

The Clash I fought the law

We kick off with an obvious choice, but it’s one hell of a barnstormer. The Clash’s 1979 version is arguably the most famous — and probably best for application purposes. From the initial drum roll intro that kicks into Joe Strummer’s aggressive vocals, the rendition never slows down

But The Clash cover is by no means the only option. The song was written and recorded 20 years earlier by Sonny Curtis and The Crickets. The first significant cover came in 1966 with a version by the Bobby Fuller Four. Many others have latched onto the tune, not least cult San Francisco punk band the Dead Kennedys with a 1987 recording.

Notable lyric: “Robin’ people with a six-gun …” — which is what wannabe solicitors will be reduced to doing if those training contract applications come to nought.

Jackson Browne Lawyers in love

Written by one of the princes of 1970s middle-of-the-road California rock, Jackson Browne, this song appeared on his 1983 album of the same name.

It too kicks off with a big drumbeat, but is likely to disappoint over the remaining four minutes. Not a patch on “Running on Empty”.

Notable lyric: “Waiting for World War III while Jesus slaves, To the mating calls of lawyers in love.”

George Harrison Sue me, sue you blues

The Beatles had one of the most high profile and spectacular break-ups in pop music history (see “You Never Give me Your Money” below). Lennon and McCartney set their wives and girlfriends on each other and much blood was spilt.

And of course the lawyers got involved. For the most part Harrison and Starkey (er, isn’t that Ringo? Ed) tried to keep their heads down. But George was hardly unscathed. As a result, he penned this catchy ditty for his 1973 album “Living in the Material World”. Far from his best work, but fun, nonetheless.

Notable lyric: “Hold the block on money flow, I move it into joint escrow, Court receiver, laughs and thrills, But in the end we just pay those lawyers their bills.”

Johnny Cash On this side of the law

Part of the man in black’s myth is that he had plenty of youthful scraps with the law himself. Marketing or reality, he certainly made a career of singing about the law, and this number is from his 1964 soundtrack album for the film of the same name, starring Gregory Peck.

Notable lyric: “Who is weak? Who is strong? Who is for and who’s against the law?”

Kitty Wells Will your lawyer talk to God?

It’s a fair bet that not many Legal Cheek devotees will be overly familiar with US country singer Kitty Wells, but she had a good stretch in the fifties and sixties.

Born Ellen Muriel Deason in the home of country, Nashville in Tennessee, Wells is considered to be a trailblazer in breaking down what was a male hegemony in that genre. This short tale of woe comes from Wells’s 1964 album “Especially for You”.

Notable lyric: “Will your lawyer talk to God and plead your case up on high, And defend the way you broke my heart in two?”

Warren Zevon Lawyers, guns and money

Warren Zevon — who died 12 years ago from cancer aged only 56 — was one of the funniest rock and rollers of the 1970s.

Many will know his 1978 song “Werewolves of London”, from the “Excitable Boy” album. But perhaps even more entertaining — and with a better tune — is this track from the same album.

It relates the story of an episode in Cuba. Zevon and his manager were in a cab, when the latter announced abruptly that they needed to make a quick stop. Zevon claimed the manager rushed into a house and emerged seconds later with a woman he explained to be his sister — who had been kidnapped.

Pursued by banditos as the cab sped away, the manager is reputed to have said to Zevon: “Call my dad and tell him to send some lawyers.” Warren replied: “Yeah, and some guns and money.”

Notable lyric: “I went home with the waitress, The way I always do.”

Belle and Sebastian Legal man

“Belle and Sebastian’s jolly sing-along from the band’s 2005 compilation album “Push Barman to Open Old Wounds” is — in keeping with the Scottish outfit’s wider baroque style — one of only a few erudite satires of legal form in pop music.

It’s short — one verse and a couple of choruses — but it skips along musically, while being lyrically fairly clever in its references to contractual terms.

Notable lyric: “Get out of the city and into the sunshine, get out of the office and into the springtime.”

Fountains of Wayne California sex lawyer

Call their style “power pop” or “alternative rock”, New York band Fountains of Wayne has been around for the best part of two decades.

This number — in which the singer fantasies about heading to the west coast with his girl and a dog named Doug to join a specific branch of the legal profession — comes from the band’s 2005 album “Out of State Plates”.

Bassist Adam Schlesinger is reported to have explained the song’s origins thus: “Our attorney Josh Grier works at a big fancy law firm with a big fancy waiting room. One day we were sitting there waiting and there was a magazine called California Lawyer on the coffee table facing us. [Fellow band member Chris Collingwood] said, apropos of nothing, ‘California sex lawyer’.

“Perhaps it was only because we were sitting in a quiet office, but at the time it seemed like the funniest thing in the world. Why it needed to be turned into a song, I’m still not sure.”

Notable lyric: “I’m gunna do some damage, Gunna bust some heads, I’m gunna go the distance, Then I’m going to bed.”

Tom Paxton One million lawyers

Now 77 years old, Chicago-born Tom Paxton has been a feature on the American folk scene for more than half a century. His songs have been recorded by the great and the good, including Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Dolly Parton.

He wrote this track 30 years ago, when there was much disquiet among the US chattering classes over the fact that the number of lawyers in the country was about to hit the 1 million mark. According to the American Bar Association, as of last year, there are more than 1.28 million practising in the US. Perhaps it’s time for a rewrite, Tom.

Notable lyric: “In ten years we’re gonna have one million lawyers, How much can a poor nation stand?”

And now for three songs that don’t have that much to do with lawyers or the law, apart from a passing reference. However, they are included simply because the Judge reckons they are absolute crackers.

Elton John Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters

One of the lesser known Elton John/Bernie Taupin numbers, it appears on John’s classic 1972 album “Honky Chateau”.

Notable lyric: Sons of bankers, sons of lawyers, Turn around and say good morning to the night. For unless they see the sky, But they can’t and that is why, They know not if it’s dark outside or light.”

Bob Dylan Hurricane

Rock and roll’s greatest poet Bob Dylan released this ode to US boxer Ruben Carter as a single in 1975 before incorporating it on his seminal 1976 album “Desire”.

Notable lyric: “Now all the criminals in their coats and their ties, Are free to drink martinis and watch the sun rise. While Rubin sits like Buddha in a ten-foot cell. An innocent man in a living hell.”

The Beatles You never give me your money

As mentioned earlier, the mop-top Scousers didn’t have the highest opinion of the legal profession, not least when the band was at each other’s throats during the recording of the Abbey Road album in 1969. The Beatles restrained themselves to a fleeting reference in this tune to the legal troubles.

Notable lyric: “You never give me your money, You only give me your funny paper. And in the middle of negotiations, You break down …”

Good luck with those training contract applications.