Josh Keesan’s School of Rock

Interview About Law-Rock Album

By Max Baumgarten

Josh Keesan isn’t the first person to come up with an eccentric study routine, but he might be the best at it. During his first year at Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, the musically-minded Keesan (class of 2009) turned legal course notes into song lyrics for the purposes of memorization. Like many other rock-and-roll success stories begin, he recorded a few songs in his bedroom en route to churning out the EP — The Law of the Rock, Vol. 1. Think School House Rock, but with legal doctrine instead of grammatical advice. With lyrics like, “We made plans far ahead and now you say you want me dead/Well, too bad/ ‘Cause its promissory estoppels,” it is safe to say that Keesan is on the cusp of a rock-law revolution.

Max Baumgarten: On your website, you claim that your songs will boost your GPA. Do you have any concrete evidence to prove such a lofty claim?

Josh Keesan: Well, at this point, my evidence is purely anecdotal and probably in violation of federal rules against hearsay. Further empirical studies need to be done, but my evidence suggests that if you can get down on a dance floor to some legal doctrine, you probably know it well enough to recite it on a test.

MB: Have you ever caught yourself writing down your own lyrics verbatim during an exam?

JK: Oh, totally. In fact, the whole goal for me was to write melodies infectious enough that they’d burrow their way into my subconscious, in order to be quickly retrieved for exam-taking purposes.

MB: Have any of your law professors heard your music?

JK: My first-year professors all heard the tunes and really seemed to get a kick out of them. In fact, in a strange reversal of roles, my criminal law professor included a reference to my “mens rea” song on our final exam. I took that as a satisfying admission of her fan-dom.

MB: Appropriately enough, you study music copyright and criminal law. How do you feel about fans illegally downloading your music without paying for it?

JK: Unfortunately, I’m not in a high enough echelon of fame to be downloaded illegally. Should it become a problem, however, I am anxious to practice my newly developing litigation skills.

MB: It may seem obvious to a law student that the case “Sherwood v. Walker” or “Raffles v. Wichelhaus” warrants a song. But please, inform the legally unenlightened–how do you select your content?

JK: The odd and amazing thing about law school is that, by and large, the same curriculum has been taught to first-year students nationwide for literally a hundred years. Maybe more. Cases like “Sherwood” are ones that every first-year law student reads, regardless of where they’ve gone to school. We’re talking generations of lawyers and law professors that know these cases. So the beauty of turning these chestnuts into pop songs is that, well, there’s immediately a built-in audience. If you’ve been to law school, you know about Rose the cow, and the good ship Peerless. It’s the ultimate niche audience.

MB: Lastly, what do you think about one of my favorite tunes by The Clash, “I Fought the Law”? Can you actually learn anything about the law from that song?

JK: “I Fought the Law” is a forefather, nay, a blueprint for my music: instantly catchy AND doctrinally accurate. Law rock has existed, here and there, for decades. My goal is to build on what’s already done and take this fledging drama to the masses. It’s time to go mainstream.

The love child of Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Bob Dylan has big plans for summer vacation with a follow-up album in the works. According to Keesan, The Law of Rock, Vol. 2, will “fill out the remainder of the standard first-year curriculum, including songs inspired by first-year courses in Property and Civil Procedure. Also, way more of an emphasis on torts. Torts make for great pop songs.”