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Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan

Vivia Chen

May 24, 2011


Can you believe that Bob Dylan, the original renegade, just turned 70?

For some Baby Boomer lawyers, Dylan is an inspiration, maybe even an obsession. As Peter Lattman noted in The New York Times last month, Dylan occupies a special space in the legal profession, where he's often the subject of serious academic discourse (Fordham Law School recently hosted a two-day conference on Dylan's influence on the law). "Dylan’s song lyrics are the most frequently cited by judicial opinions and law review articles," added Lattman, noting the research of Alex Long, a law professor at the University of Tennessee.

What's the allure of Dylan for lawyers? Is it because he railed against injustice in his songs? Or does he speak to the inner rebel lurking in all lawyers?

Dylan appeals to a wide range of lawyers. For New York personal injury lawyer Carol Schlitt, Dylan represents the call to justice. On her site, she's pretty passionate about what Dylan means to her:

Dylan does more than simply spin stories about the persecuted. He writes with a nuanced sense of injustice in a system that often oppresses and punishes individuals. As a personal injury attorney, much of what Dylan sings resonates with my personal mission. I stand by clients who are often ignored or dismissed by a judicial system that too often tilts toward the establishment, the powerful, and those with money. (As Dylan put it, “Money doesn’t talk, it swears.”)

Skad:Dylan But Dylan also appeals to corporate defenders like David Zornow (left), the global head of litigation at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. A late blooming Dylan fan (Zornow became smitten with the troubadour just five years ago), Zornow says he finds "depth and complexity" in Dylan's work. "He operates in the gray areas of human life," explains Zornow, "and lawyers always operate in that area too."

 Zornow is an unabashed Dylan groupie. Besides collecting Dylan posters and photos, reading books about the music legend, going to his concerts (Zornow has been to 20 in the last five years), the Skadden partner has also set up a "shrine" of Dylan memorabilia in the conference room adjoining his office. The only thing he hasn't done is make offerings. "I haven't burned incense yet," he adds.

Readers, is there anything about Dylan's songs that you find inspiring? Which song?


Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.

Follow The Careerist on Twitter: twitter.com/lawcareerist


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Favorite Bob Dylan song: I'll be with you when the deal goes down.
Dylan is not a great singer, but his music and lyrics are powerful and rise to the level of art, without question.
Last heard Dylan at concert in Gainesville, FL

Maybe it's just more of a generational thing? Maybe it's that the music was more about what Dylan wanted to say and less about new artistic growth in the composition?

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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