The road warrior: Bringing law expertise to rock 'n' roll

- May 23, 2014

Law grad Jim Cunningham, outside the Weldon building. (Ryan McNutt photo)
Law grad Jim Cunningham, outside the Weldon building. (Ryan McNutt photo)

Jim Cunningham is a shining example of how following your passion can lead to the most fulfilling kind of success.

Law students like Jim come from a variety of backgrounds. Some are fresh from an undergraduate degree, others from a Masters program or a year or two of work experience, and some come after a ‘first career.’ The latter group often hopes to use their experience to inform their legal practice, but for Jim it’s the other way around.  

Jim’s background is in the music industry. Specifically, he’s been a tour manager for acts including In-Flight Safety, Royal Wood, Jill Barber, and Dan Mangan, and has learned from some of the industry’s future leaders. Touring throughout Canada, the United States and Europe, Jim learned valuable lessons about prioritization, loyalty, and recognizing what isn’t worth worrying about.

“There are a lot of things going on and you’re responsible to a lot of people,” he explains. “I used the same logic in dealing with law school: I didn’t want to worry about its more normative elements. I did my best to refuse the idea that I should be stressed about something because everyone else was.”

Jim sees the ability to practice law as a unique value-added service which he can offer in a future artist management role, giving him the ability to create a unique in-house counsel-like position for his clients. “I want to be able to put my money where my mouth is,” as he puts it.

From touring to torts

It seems only fitting that Jim was on tour when he found out he would be attending Dal. It’s a story Jim tells with both pride and confidence, secure that both he and the Schulich School of Law made the correct decision.

Sitting in a Halifax airport terminal following a one-shot 47-hour solo drive from Texas to Halifax, he got a call from his twin brother in Moncton. “He told me there was a big envelope from the University of Ottawa at home and I was certain that was it: all the acceptances were out and I wasn’t going to get into Dal – again.”

“I was waiting to fly to Frankfurt for a new tour, and I decided Dal just had to let me in because my experience warranted it.” He wasn’t wrong. Before boarding his flight, Jim sent a final, impassioned e-mail plea to the Schulich School of Law’s Admissions Office.

“When I landed in Frankfurt, I was so drained after the drive and the plane. I turned on my phone, incurred the 40 Euros in roaming charges, and there it was: the email that said I was in after all, and that the offer package would be there when I got home. It was vindicating.”

Making a difference

Dal was Jim’s top choice for law school because of the respect he has for the Legal Aid Clinic and the staff who make it work. For Jim, working at the clinic was validating — getting to see his hard work met with some tangible success, both, academically and in the movement toward the resolution of his clients’ problems.

With all the hard work that Jim has put in to building his career, he is quick to acknowledge some guiding lights. “My brothers, mother and father have been huge,” he acknowledges.

He also credits the greatest inspiration to Paul Gourlie, one of Canada’s great musical agents who gave valuable mentorship and the fundamentals of a real professional personality.

Jim will article with a boutique corporate/ commercial firm in his hometown of Moncton, New Brunswick.


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