Law Firms Sponsoring Poetry

How many North American law firms would sponsor poetry readings in their offices, and have them attended by goodly numbers of practising lawyers.

I can’t think of any – but the City firms are developing quite a reputation for doing just that.

At Linklaters the Poet Laureate Andrew Motion introduced an evening devoted to Keith Douglas,

As one journalist (somewhat breathlessly) put it:

‘Suddenly poetry is running wild across City law firms as lawyers recognise that their stock in trade is also the raw material of sublime art. Next up then is [Poet in the City’s] super evening on Poetry and Identity… at the National Portrait Gallery [with] … dazzling word play from Lynton Kwesi Johnson, Billy Bragg and George Szirtes, winner of the 2004 TS Eliot prize… So at last, an alliance between the lawyers and the “unacknowledged legislators of mankind”. Long may it last.’

All of this has been covered in the German legal blogosphere, but you might have forgotten the link.


  1. Lawyers and poetry …. hmmm… Wallace Stevens aside, of course.

    Now, that’s a fertile field. Perhaps not quite as fertile as “Lawyers, Guns & Money” (Warren Zevon, 1978), but good nonetheless.

    John Keats wrote, in a 21 December 1817 letter: “I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason.” Keats believed that great people, particularly poets, had “negative capability”. Most people would concede that lawyers and judges are “capable of being in uncertainties … without any irritable reaching after fact & reason” – actually, without any irritation at all – and holding and expressing contradictory opinions. So, I guess that makes some of us great people, even on the par with poets, right?

    I’m inclined to suspect Keats wouldn’t have agreed to the ranking. Whether Shakespeare would have might depend on what he meant Dick the Butcher to mean, in the famous line to Cade, in Henry VI.

  2. Actually David we’ve explored these themes before. and
    What was novel here was the involvement of major law firms. Mishcon de Reya had a resident poet, Lavinia Greenlaw – see

    I decided to make my first approach to them by e-mail. The 200 or so staff at Mishcon get around 30 general e-mails.a day about everything from conflicts of interest to missing mugs. Like a parish magazine, these e-mails also record departures and arrivals, births, marriages and deaths. Each week, I slipped a poem among all this, starting with Wallace Stevens who, like Ovid or Donne among others, was a lawyer-cum-poet. Over the year, I gave them everything from Sappho to Paul Muldoon. They e-mailed me back to ask what something meant, to say they loved or hated it, and in one case to say they’d been out and bought the book.
    [excerpted from an article in The Observer, October 4 1998] – from

    For a good analysis of the linkages see and

  3. I’ve been known to quote from Auden’s “Law Like Love” in otherwise scintillatingly boring pieces of scholarship. I had to read *something* while waitng for my turn at the pinball machine or shuffleboard table in the OHLS cafeteria. [shrug] You didn’t expect me to read from Simon’s casebook, did you?

  4. Thanks for the lists. ” … the mating calls of lawyers in love”? Jackson Browne must have forgotten one of the better lines from Adam’s Rib when he penned that contribution.

  5. Full cup of justice

    Take this cup
    away from me
    for I don’t want
    to taste its poison

    Like it?