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Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019

The ‘Legal’ Krewe

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Krewe of Justinian celebrating 25th anniversary

Twenty-five years ago, the Shreveport Bar Association had a problem.

Naturally, a lawyer had the answer. “The Bar Association was in the process of hiring an executive director for the first time,” recalled attorney Neil Erwin. “The question came up as to how we were ever going to be able to pay for that. I raised my hand and said, ‘Why don’t we have a Mardi Gras Krewe? There are some forming right now, and before lawyers get scattered into those other groups, why don’t we form a legal krewe and maybe we can raise enough money from that to be able to pay half the salary of the executive director?’” Thus, the Krewe of Justinian was born.

Now celebrating its silver anniversary, the 200-plus members – who come mostly, but not exclusively, from the legal community – have far exceeded paying half of the bar association’s executive director’s salary.

“We have donated, in the 25 years, hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Shreveport Bar Association and the Shreveport Bar Foundation,” said attorney and krewe member Layne Clark.

That money helps the Shreveport Bar Foundation help people who – mainly for financial reasons – can’t hire an attorney.

“For example,” Clark said, “I have volunteered in a case where a woman was seeking to get a temporary restraining order against someone who had been abusive to her. She didn’t have access to a lawyer. Being able to provide those services was invaluable to her. Those kinds of stories can be told over and over and over again. As lawyers, that’s our responsibility – to give back to the community through legal services, and that’s one of the things the krewe has helped to fund.”

However, the Krewe of Justinian – named after the emperor who was one of the first people to have a code of laws – is not all business.

“It grew from being a ‘fund’ raiser to a ‘fun’ raiser, kind of beyond all of our hopes,” Erwin said. “It did attract a large number of attorneys and people in the legal community.”

And that has led to relationships which may have never been formed.

“Through our association with the krewe, we have made many, many, many friends that we would not have had otherwise,” said Clark, whose wife, Lisa, is this year’s queen. “People think all professional athletes know each other, and that all movie stars know each other. The same is kind of true of lawyers. They think all lawyers know each other. The truth is, we all practice in different areas – we do different types of work. A lot of times, your paths don’t cross a lot of the other lawyers’ in town. This is a way we are able to get to know people that we wouldn’t know and wouldn’t practice within a normal situation on a social level. It’s also a great opportunity to get to know people that we work with and practice with on a social level, which fosters good relationships, which fosters a happy and healthy bar for this area.”

Each year, the krewe’s captain selects a theme – something the krewe incorporates into their events. This year’s theme is “Derby Days.”

“Two years ago, my wife and I attended the Kentucky Derby,” said attorney and Captain Lyn Lawrence. “It was a 50th birthday present, actually. We weren’t thinking about it as a theme, but on the way home, we said, ‘We can have some fun with this!’” Since then, the krewe has done just that. “The royalty went to Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas,” Lawrence said. “We rented a suite. We had our picture taken with the winning horse. They even named a race after the krewe – ‘The Krewe of Justinian 25’ race. We (royalty) took in Kentucky Derby Day at Louisiana Downs. The ladies wore their nice hats. The men wore their wild suits. We had a great time!” Each August, the Krewe of Justinian has a Coronation Bal, where the year’s new royalty is announced. Other events include the Midway to Mardi Gras Party, a 5K run, and the King and Queen’s Dinner. As with other krewes, the highlight of Justinian’s Mardi Gras year is the Grand Bal, followed by a Krewe Brunch.

This year’s Grand Bal is Feb. 1 at Horseshoe Casino’s Riverdome. That’s a long way from the krewe’s first Grand Bal.

“We had our first Bal in cooperation with Harrah’s Casino, which was not yet open, but which had offered us a casino night as a fundraiser,” Erwin remembered. “We would play with gambling chips, and they would use the event to train their dealers. It was held on an empty top floor of the American Tower.”

That’s just another example of how the Krewe of Justinian has grown.

“We’re kind of a billion miles past Pluto from where we began to where we are now,” Erwin said, “thanks to the dedication of a lot of volunteer time and talent by all the royalty and captains and kings and queens and other royalty members and volunteers.”

If you would like to learn more about the Krewe of Justinian, you may visit www.kreweofjustinian.com.

– Tony Taglavore

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