Legal Harmony: Sidley Austin

We’ve had some form of choir at Sidley Austin LLP for as long as anyone in the office can remember, although its outings have been strictly limited to the annual Christmas carolling until now.

It’s also been a few years since we’ve had a choir made up only of people from Sidley, as we have joined forces with the other businesses in the building to form a Woolgate Exchange super-choir. Over the years, a few people have tried to come up with ways to keep the singing going throughout the year but, as with most things, it helps to have a goal. So, when trainee solicitor Daire Carr spotted an article in The Lawyer about the Legal Harmony competition, he mentioned it to choirmaster David Went and co-ordinator Bethany Burrow and they jumped at the chance to enter. The only small question was….would they have a choir?

Thankfully, most of the Christmas singers were up for a challenge, but there was still room for plenty more, so an open invitation was sent out across the London office. The response was fantastic, with just about every practice area represented and people from many different roles within the firm. Those who signed up have also brought a good range different singing experience to the choir, which has presented some challenges but mainly enriched the rehearsal process.

Raashi Jain, a trainee solicitor, says: “Joining the choir has been a really fun experience, especially because I haven’t sung in years, but that was never a problem. The whole ethos of the choir has just been trying to get those who enjoy singing involved, no matter what their level. Getting involved helped to remind me just how much I missed singing. Plus it has also been a great way to meet more people from around the firm!”

The choir’s programme has been chosen on a largely democratic basis, with all the singers invited to make suggestions and then pick their favourites from a shortlist. David started out the rehearsals in sections before bringing the ladies together and then the men, and finally bringing everyone into the same rehearsal. It has been difficult to find a quiet corner to rehearse in where the choir wouldn’t be disturbing those trying to work, but we have made a home in the most far-flung meeting rooms of our conference suite, with an occasional foray into the boardroom. Shirlee Gardiner, a secretary, said that she has really appreciated returning to work refreshed after rehearsals and has enjoyed getting to know her colleagues away from the working environment.

From the outset, the choir decided that the fundraising element of the choral competition would support Small Steps SFP. Sidley has been supporting Small Steps for a number of years, having been first introduced to the charity by a (now former) colleague who had used their services with her son. Small Steps was founded in 1998 to provide specialist help and support to parents with physically disabled pre-school children. Children attending Small Steps sessions have cerebral palsy, other forms of motor impairment, syndromes or sensory impairment. Children attend a group session at Small Steps once per week with a parent or carer. There are up to 5 children per group who are all working on similar skills. A team of teachers, conductors and physiotherapists lead the parent/child team through a structured programme designed to help each child achieve the next developmental steps. Small Steps is a free service and does not receive any statutory funding, so it relies on grants and donations to keep going.

In addition to supporting Small Steps financially, Sidley has provided pro bono legal advice to the charity over the last three years. We are pleased that Small Steps is our chosen charity for 2014 and, as well as coming along to the Legal Harmony competition and supporting Small Steps through the ticket price, you can support Small Steps by donating on our page at!

The members of the Sidley Singers are: Victor Aberg, Nicola Bartholomew, Bethany Burrow, Danielle Carragher, Dorothy Cory-Wright, Hannah Crawford, Rita Fitzpatrick, Judith Flory, Shirlee Gardiner, Karl Horvath, Raashi Jain, Jade Li Tai Leong, Frances Macduff, Lyndsey McAuley, Kasia Orzolek, Vivian Root, Ranjit Saimbi, Gurminder Sanghera, Tiberio Simonelli, Geraldine Scali, Maria Wall, Luke Vassay and David Went.