The Entertainment Lawyer is with the Band

Christiane Cargill Kinney gets creative while helping the creative

Published in 2011 Southern California Rising Stars — July 2011

“I tend to do better if I’m doing many, many things,” says LeClairRyan partner Christiane Cargill Kinney. “If I focus on just one thing I might get bored, and I never want my passion to get boring.”

Fat chance. Besides running her firm’s entertainment department, Kinney is a recording artist, founder of HeARTS Giving Hope Foundation, mother of two young children, and adventure sports enthusiast.

The diverse experiences tend to complement one another. A long history of musical performance—she began piano lessons at age 3—helps Kinney in the courtroom. “You have to adjust things on stage as a musician,” she says. “[And] you have to adjust while you’re in the courtroom for unexpected changes, I would say, almost all the time.”

Her music career, meanwhile, creates a unique bond with her independent artist clients. “I’ve found that [clients are] going to Google their attorney, and, a lot of times, my music stuff comes up before anything else,” Kinney says. “That’s a big thing for them. It’s just a comfort level of, ‘We’re on the same page and I feel like you’re going to take care of me.’”

Kinney, whose musical pursuits range from classical to Celtic, plays solo gigs and fronts the band Riddle the Sphinx, which includes fellow attorney Burgundy Morgan and percussionist Christo Pellani. “Obviously all of our contracts are very tight,” Kinney says. “We drive everybody crazy. They’re like, ‘Oh, God, don’t mess with them. They’ve got two entertainment lawyers in the band.’”

It’s clear she loves the legal arena as much as the stage. “It’s fun, it’s entertainment, you never know what’s gonna hit,” she says. “It’s fun to watch people in the early beginnings of their career: how you can help them to shape and mold their career in a certain direction, and just watch them grow as artists.”

She also knows it’s necessary. “A lot of creative people,” she says, “the last thing they want to think about, is, you know, any of the legal or logistical elements of it. They want to create and worry about that other stuff later. But sometimes later is too late.”

Just as she helps keep the creative from being abused, she also helps the abused get creative. In 2002, she and her sister founded the HeARTS Giving Hope Foundation and have since brought music and art therapy to the lives of thousands of abused or at-risk kids. “The whole thing was really grounded in being able to express yourself,” Kinney says. “If they can’t do it verbally, then allow them to do it through some creative outlet.”

Kinney and husband Sean, an independent filmmaker, have two children of their own: Ireland, 2, and Zaiden, 3. Sean is to blame for the adventure sports, Kinney says. The couple has flown helicopters, and tried hang gliding, indoor skydiving and fire-walking. “There’s not a Sean birthday that goes by that we’re not signing a death waiver,” Kinney says, laughing. “But I think it also helps me be a better performer because … just that adrenaline rush, that appreciation of life, makes you more present on stage and in anything that you do.”

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