Lawyers by day, rockstars by night: Legal Aid busy prepping its Jam for Justice in July

When Faith & Whiskey got involved with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland's Jam for Justice six years ago, drummer and singer Rich Wesorick admits they mainly viewed it as a great opportunity to play the House of Blues.

But for Wesorick and many others, the event has become so much more. Showcasing musical acts comprised of local lawyers and judges, the annual benefit helps provide legal services to low-income or vulnerable Northeast Ohio residents. Last year's event raised almost $100,000 with around 1,000 attendees, and planners are hoping this year's installment will follow suit. Originally scheduled for June 14, the party will now be held on 5 p.m. July 19 at Aloft Cleveland Downtown (111 W 10th St.).

The genesis of Jam for Justice started back in 2005, when the No Name Band played a 100th anniversary bash for Legal Aid. “They had such great reviews that it got us thinking about using lawyer-led entertainment in the future,” says Emily Parrino, development and communications writer at Legal Aid.

In 2008 and 2009, the nonprofit hosted summer fundraisers with bands and bowling, and the event has taken off from there—growing each year and moving to bigger venues.    

"[Each year, we're] attracting more bands, more supporters and, in 2017, raising $100,000 in support of Legal Aid’s work to help NEO families stop civil legal issues from escalating into emergencies,” says Parrino.

Though she doesn’t work directly with clients, she does hear their stories. One recent case that stuck out to her was that of a single mother who’d rented a home for 12 years for access to a school system that could provide adequate environments for her children. The problem was, she was being harassed and illegally evicted by her landlord.

“Losing your home [can have] a snowball effect,” says Parrino. Fortunately, Legal Aid stepped in and got the bogus eviction thrown out.

In addition to the nonprofit’s 44 staff attorneys, there is also a network of about 3,000 attorneys throughout the region that offer their services if needed—like the band members, who all work at local firms.

“It’s important to have an outlet or a release. Music is a wonderful thing,” says Wesorick, whose band also plays at venues like the Beachland Ballroom. Knowing he’s helping people get access to lawyers or legal guidance is the icing on the cake.

Scheduled performers include Brad Wolfe of DJ Wolfe Entertainment—a criminal defense attorney with Friedman & Nemecek by day. Also performing (in addition to Faith & Whiskey, which specializes in upbeat rock anthems) is new-wave cover band First Offenders; rock and alternative cover band Out of Order; acoustic folk rock band Luke Lindberg and the Hung Jury; bluegrass band Lost Bob and the Ozone Ramblers; and classic and alternative rock cover band SIX Sometimes SEVEN.

“Jam for Justice has become a legal event of the summer,” says Mike Donnelly, one of the 10 members of Faith & Whiskey. “And rightly so because it benefits one of Northeast Ohio’s greatest assets, the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland—dedicated men and women who fight for justice for the underprivileged every single day,”

Tickets to Jam for Justice are $50, and there are also sponsorship opportunities available.

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