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The Mel Torme of Lawyers

Daniel Klau croons over billable hours

Published in 2007 New England Super Lawyers magazine

It happened early on a Saturday morning in April. Sitting at his grand piano with a pencil in one hand and a spiral notebook beside him, Daniel Klau wrote the verses and tapped out the tune that had haunted him for years: My life is a time sheet Filled with six-minute slots I know I make good money But my stomach’s tied in knots.

 
A few hours later, he had finished the song. It was a music-making moment that sparked a sixmonth songwriting obsession. “Words and songs kept popping into my head. I couldn’t turn it off,” says Klau, 45, an accomplished appellate and media lawyer at Pepe & Hazard in Hartford. “I’d wake up and just write stuff down. It was a bizarrely creative, cathartic period in my life.”
 
In November 2003, he performed his original works for the first time at a Connecticut Law Tribune dinner event. “My songs were well received,” he says. “I guess I know my audience.”
 
A few months later, he recorded his CD, The Billable Hour Blues, at the urging of the event producer, Vince Valvo, who was then editor and publisher of Law Tribune Newspapers. “Cross Mel Tormé with The Capitol Steps, add a dash of Atticus Finch, and you come up with Dan Klau,” Valvo wrote in the CD’s liner notes.
 
Klau says he’s confident enough in his law practice to poke fun at his surroundings. Since music played a central role in his upbringing (he studied piano for nine years, beginning at age 7), songwriting seemed a good way to have fun and shed light on the emotional burden that accompanies life as a lawyer.
 
Despite all his self-deprecating crooning, Klau turns serious when discussing his day job. In addition to business litigation, he handles plenty of media cases. He is currently representing the Connecticut Law Tribune in a lawsuit challenging a longstanding, but previously unknown, judicial practice of sealing entire cases so that they do not even appear on the docket.
 
“The reason my clients wanted to try this is because it’s an abomination in a democratic society,” he says.
 
Klau also handles cases for the state government. He recently was hired to serve as counsel for the state’s retirement commission. “It’s a big case from a dollars perspective. If we lose, over the next 25 years the state’s unfunded pension liability would be increased by a billion dollars.”
 
With such a sobering workload, it’s no wonder Klau leaps at the chance to pen new material. One work in progress is a song about the Bill of Rights. “I’ve got a vision of the Bill of Rights being written by men in tights, and I’m taking that where I can take it,” he says, laughing.
 
Despite the rave reviews, Klau, who is married and has three children, has no plans to adjourn his law career to record music full time. He enjoys both. And besides, one career pays distinctly better than the other.
 
“Sales from my CD amount to just enough to buy my kids ice cream,” he says.
 
— To buy Klau’s CD, go to www.billablehourblues.com.

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