Up Front: January 2007

Precedents and what ifs

A picture, so goes the Chinese proverb, is worth more than a thousand words. As part of our annual Legal Elite package, we had always written short profiles of the lawyers that received the most votes in each category, but this year decided to let photographs do most of the talking. In a nod to the new category for best young lawyers, we assigned Steve Exum to shoot the other winners in settings evoking early jobs that had influenced their later legal careers.

We sent each of the top vote getters a questionnaire, asking them to elaborate on that topic and other subjects, one of which was: What would you be if you weren’t a lawyer? A lot of what they had to say got boiled down to fit into the boxes accompanying the pictures. But I thought I’d share in toto the answer of Doug Kenyon, the Hunton & Williams partner who heads this year’s list of best antitrust lawyers. Whether just daydreaming or not, the man definitely has given the matter some thought.

“I’d own and manage the best music club in NYC, and I’d expand it to Raleigh. The clubs would be open Tuesday-Saturday night and would attract the best upcoming singer/songwriter talent in the country. Once a week, I’d have a ‘songwriters in the round’ session, kind of like the Bluebird Café in Nashville, where established songwriters would get together ‘in the round’ and play in turn. And one night a week I’d have a ‘struggling artists’ night, where artists who needed a break could give it a go. Once in a while, I’d sing a few tunes myself, with passion and connection, about America, working men’s dreams, lost loves and the abject loneliness of Edward Hopper’s painting Nighthawks.

“Some of the tourists would be bored, as they often are in such venues, but somewhere in the audience my eyes would meet the eyes of someone taking it all in — probably the woman in the white dress sitting alone at the table under the red neon sign flashing OPEN. After the last song, she would smile softly and, before walking out into the rain, would whisper, ‘Thank you, I kind of know what you mean.’”