In April 2017, the Benjamin Franklin American Inn of Court* performed what may be the world's first rap musical patent ethics presentation, Alice in Hamilton: A Patent Ethics Musical, chosen as the 2017 National First Place Program among the many programs submitted from across the nation to the Programs Awards Committee of the American Inns of Court. The presentation included karaoke performances of the Inn's lyrics to music from the Broadway musical Hamilton. The musical used ten songs to delve into ethical issues of attorney advertising, fee splitting with non-lawyers, overpromising results, unmeritorious filings, overbilling, competence, inadequate client communications, diligence, substance abuse, and reciprocal discipline.
Lyricist and former Inn president Stewart Wiener, inspired by Hamilton's rhythms and melodies, transformed historical characters into present-day legal practitioners to create a vehicle for a tale of very real attorney ethical problems. Hungry patent attorney Alex Hamilton tries to grow his software patent boutique firm in the wake of Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank, the U.S. Supreme Court's 2014 decision that rendered many software inventions ineligible for patent protection. Hamilton partners with his daughter and the Inn's namesake, Benjamin Franklin (neither of whom is a licensed attorney). The pupillage group presenting Alice in Hamilton also included Steven Koffs (now the immediate past President of the Inn), Alex Chasen, Gerald Kita, Patrick Brady, Peter Kraybill, Kevin Dunleavy, Matthew Herd, and George Liu (student at Temple Law School).
Each song provided an entrée into discussion regarding balancing the demands of modern legal practice on attorneys against the overriding duty to protect the clients' interests. Lin-Manuel Miranda's rapid-fire phrasing proved to be a challenge for the pupillage group's members, all making their debut as rappers. The group was fortunate in having coaching assistance from several of their Hamilton-obsessed children, whose expert knowledge of the show also earned them singing roles in the Benjamin Franklin Inn's presentation.
The full program on video, along with handouts, is available at alice.franklininn.org.
* The Benjamin Franklin Inn is one of about 400 chapters of the American Inns of Court, an organization of attorneys dedicated to professionalism, ethics, civility and excellence. The Inn is formed of lawyers and law students concentrating in intellectual property (patent, trademark, copyright, and related law).