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Class of 2017: Law student follows successful music career with Juris Doctor degree

Janna Crown hopes to work with artists and musicians as part of her legal career
May 11, 2017
Law will be a second career for Janna Crown, who graduates from the University of Calgary on June 5. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Law will be a second career for Janna Crown, who graduates from the University of Calgary on June 5. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Janna Crown celebrates her first degree with Lady Marmalade, a certified therapy animal. Photo courtesy Janna Crown

Janna Crown celebrates her first degree with Lady Marmalade, a certified therapy animal. Photo courtesy Janna Crown

Janna Crown has always wanted to practise law. When she was 10, accompanying her father to his workplace one day, she met a female lawyer who was on staff, and realized for the first time that law was something she could do as a future career.

“I thought it was so neat. It was such a badass job,” smiles Crown, who convocates with a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Law on June 5.

Law will be a second career for Crown, 37, who was born in Vancouver, and holds a Bachelor of Music degree in voice from Queen’s University.

Successful first career focused on music and arts

Her first career was in music, as a singer, arts journalist, producer and manager. As a classical artist, Crown sang professionally across Canada and in the U.S., and later worked in production and arts management. Highlights of her 12-year arts career include working as an arts and culture writer for the Vancouver Observer; in production on a recording by Jann Arden and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra; and as an associate producer with CBC Vancouver on the History of Canada (CBC records, 2006) featuring Stuart McLean.

And for five years, Crown was general manager of musica intima, a Vancouver-based collaborative vocal chamber ensemble, whose album into light, on the ATMA label, won a 2010 Western Canadian Music Award and earned a Juno nomination the following year.

During her time in the music business, Crown always loved the work she did with lawyers. “They were working at a level I wanted to work at,” she explains. “Whether we were negotiating contracts for recording agreements or artists’ agreements, or drafting policy, I liked the strategic elements — I liked that type of thinking.”

Crown chooses law years after brief conversation with law dean

Crown ended up studying law at the University of Calgary thanks to a brief conversation she had in 2004 with University of Calgary professor and Dean of Law Ian Holloway, who was Dean of Law at the University of Western Ontario at the time.

Crown had stepped in as a last-minute moot trial "witness" at Western Law to help out her best friend, then a first-year law student, who was a participant in the moot. “I told her I could do it — I was used to memorizing music and I didn’t think it would be a big deal,” Crown recalls, describing her impromptu performance as a witness.

After the moot, Holloway asked Crown where she was attending law school. When she responded that she wasn’t a law student, but rather a singer, he told her, “When you change your mind, call me.”

Years later, when Crown was ready for a career in law, she took Holloway up on his offer.

Volunteer activities coexist with law studies

Crown has made the most of her time at the University of Calgary, where she is the senior managing editor with UCalgary’s Faculty of Law student newspaper, The Moot Times. And during all three years of her law degree studies she has volunteered with Pro Bono Students Canada’s Emergency Protection Order Project, which helps victims of extreme domestic violence. Crown has served as the project’s leader for the past two years. 

“One of the things I like most about Janna is the maturity of outlook, and the poise, that she brings to her studies,” Holloway says. “She has a calmness and dignity about her that make her stand out. And for a lawyer, there are few things as important as being able to maintain a cool head in a stressful situation.”

Leigh Taylor, dean emeritus and professor of law at Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, who was president of musica intima’s board of directors during the time Crown was general manager there, was another person who encouraged Crown to consider a law career.

“Janna is extremely analytic in her approach to problem solving and an incredibly hard worker,” Taylor says. “And with her expertise in music and the music business, I thought it would really be a nice combination of talents, with law and music. She is also outgoing and personable, and people just genuinely like Janna. She is a lovely young lady.”

While Crown is looking forward to embarking on her legal career, music will remain an important part of her life on many levels. She would like to work with artists and musicians as part of her legal career. “Because I understand it as a performer, as well as from a management and legal perspective, I think I am uniquely suited to it,” she says.

After graduation, Crown will go to work for the Health Sciences Association — the union delivering modern health care — in B.C., in member services, labour relations.

Giving back to the community a constant in Crown's life

In addition to volunteering as a law student, Crown has given back in other ways. When she was working at musica intima, she and her cat, a laid-back, affectionate orange tabby named Lady Marmalade — a therapy cat certified as a visitation animal — went to seniors’ centres to visit people with dementia.

“People with Alzheimer’s who haven’t spoken in years all of a sudden start talking when they are petting the cat. It’s amazing to see how great it can be for them,” Crown says.