Grateful Dead and The Practice of Law

After having the most amazing experience of watching three nights of Dead and Company at the Sphere in Vegas, it got me thinking about how this amazing band and their unique talents are not that different from that of a lawyer, or at least a lawyer like me. Grateful Dead music and practicing law might seem like vastly different skills, but there are many parallels. At least, that is what I am going to believe:

Improvisation and Adaptation

If you have ever had the chance to listen to the Grateful Dead, Dead and Company, or any similar jam band, you know how fluid and creative their improvisational jams can be.  While the Dead always have a set list, what sets them apart from most bands is their ability to adapt, jam, and enjoy the boundaries of each song. Similarly, a good lawyer must adjust their arguments or strategies based on unexpected developments in cases or new legal precedents. Preparing for a deposition can only go so far. An experienced attorney can read the room, the witness, and even the court reporter and pivot and swerve where the facts take them and go with the story.  A breach of contract case is just that, but getting to the facts and the story to ensure your client a win can take creativity and a keen sense of curiosity.

Attention to Detail and Experience

Those of us who live and breathe Grateful Dead music understand that their intricate musical compositions are not done by chance but by practice and meticulous attention to detail combined with creativity. Similarly, legal practice involves careful attention to legal statutes, case law, and procedural rules. Using those details is the real trick. A fantastic guitarist can know all the A cords, but that doesn’t translate into good music; knowing when and how to use the right facts at the right time for a specific purpose makes for a great song and lawsuit.

Community and Culture

The Grateful Dead cultivated an amazing community known as Deadheads. For those of you who have had the joy of attending a live show,  you know how much fun it is to meet new random friends who have one thing in common: they love great music. Similarly, lawyers often work within a community of colleagues, clients, and legal professionals, building relationships and networks that support their practice.  Once you find an attorney you trust, rely on them for referrals to other lawyers. Like the Dead, once you find a lawyer you trust and depend on, use them as a sounding board for all your legal needs.

Longevity and Legacy

The Grateful Dead and its new incarnations have had an amazing run focusing primarily on live concerts.  Unlike many bands, they never tried to pump out CDs and get rich quickly; instead, for decades, they created an amazing business that is 100% referral and experience-based with live shows.  Firms like 1818 similarly look for long-term relationships and referrals.  A lawyer should never be looking at each case as a quick dollar; instead, creating a firm that serves as a trusted advisor will ensure that the law firm has clients for years to come.  

Creativity and Interpretation

The Grateful Dead’s music allows for multiple interpretations and personal connections. Lawyers also need to be creative in their approach. Having one go-to weapon, like filing a lawsuit, will not always serve your client well. Whether it is the use of media, government complaints, grass-roots support, or other tactics, no two cases should always be treated the same.  

While Grateful Dead music and legal practice may seem like polar opposites on the surface, both involve creativity, curiosity, attention to detail, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. 


To learn more about what proper representation can do for you, call us today at (312) 584-5444 or fill out our online contact form.  Let 1818’s team of experienced attorneys fight for your rights.

Jordan Matyas - 1818 Founder

Jordan Matyas

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Jordan Matyas is a lawyer, lobbyist, and Founder of 1818 Legal, an Illinois professional licensing defense law firm he created in 2014. With more than 18 years of experience practicing law, he represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, including professional license defense, administrative law, land use and zoning, and state, local, and municipal law.

Jordan received his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois — Chicago School of Law and is a member of the Illinois Bar Association.