From the Stage to the Courtroom
The Opera Singing Attorney
On April 2, James Craig (JD ’07) was sworn in as Lynn County attorney. Before Craig ever entered a courtroom – or even Baylor Law – he performed center stage as an opera signer. Rocket Docket interviewed Craig about his new job and his life in music.
Which came first, the law or singing?
Singing came first, but that is mainly due to the fact that I got a scholarship and needed help paying for my undergraduate degree. I had always been told that I could go to law school on just about any degree, so I figured I might as well get a scholarship out of it. I ended up enjoying opera so much that I decided to see if I could make it as an opera singer. Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell me that you cannot stay in Texas if you want to start an opera career, and that was not a choice for me.
What led you to Baylor Law?
Several events contributed to me going to law school at Baylor. First and foremost was the fact that I had done my undergraduate work in the Baylor Music School. I love Baylor University and all it represents, and so when I had the opportunity to return to my school to get a law degree I jumped at the chance. I also knew that there were many attorneys out there already practicing and even more coming out of law school to start their practice. I felt like I needed to go to the best school in the state so that I might have a leg up on the competition in the legal field. It also helped that I had known several Baylor Law graduates who felt they absolutely got the best legal education from Baylor Law School. Each Baylor Law graduate that I knew said they were ready to hit the ground running once they graduated.
How do/did your theater skills help you in the courtroom/PC?
The most important skill is the ability to speak clearly and loudly. Enunciation is almost second nature to me because of my opera background. Once you have sung in Italian, German, French, Russian, Korean, and even Pig Latin, speaking English is a walk in the park. Also, being able to get in front of people to sing helped me prepare for having to get up in class and answer questions or get up in court and advocate for a client. There is a lot of pressure in performing, especially in the educational context, so performance anxiety was also something I had dealt with during my opera days and therefore I could translate those coping skills to the practice of law.
What do your colleagues make of your theatrical skills?
They definitely find it interesting. Many have asked that I go and sing for functions. Christmas time is really busy for me and my singing. From singing the Grinch to kids here in town to singing “O Holy Night” at the Women's Club in Lubbock, I stay very busy.
The singing has also helped me become very involved in the community. I have the opportunity to meet more people and therefore have more opportunities to serve in the community. I have been President of Rotary, current president of the Tahoka Area Chamber of Commerce, member of the Hospital Board (had to resign from this due to county attorney position being a conflict of interest), Lynn County Harvest Festival Committee, Tahoka Pioneer Museum Board, and RA leader for the kids at First Baptist Tahoka.
What does your new job entail?
I mainly prosecute A and B misdemeanors, but invariably there are other questions that come up in the daily grind of the courthouse that I usually have to tackle whether or not the issue is related to criminal law. It definitely creates interesting days.