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John McElroy, L’01

John McElroyGraduation Year: 2001

From Duquesne Lawyer
Fall/Winter 2016

Career opportunities sometimes arrive in expected fashion and follow a logical progression, such as Mike Cetra’s working his way up the ladder at Port Authority of Allegheny County. His hard work and dedication were recognized by the company, and he made the most of every opportunity. But sometimes the opportunities can come from an unexpected source. For instance, John McElroy, L’01 , had a significant door in the legal profession opened while he was pursuing another passion: music.

“A recruiting agency contacted me and said that C.F. Martin & Co., Inc. was looking for in-house legal counsel. The company wanted a lawyer who had the right legal and professional experience—and was also a guitar player. The recruiter had found me through my participation in the 2013 Allegheny County Bar Foundation ‘Pro Bono Rocks! – Battle of the Attorney Bands,’” McElroy explains, adding “I never would have imagined that playing a music gig could lead to such a dramatic change in my legal career. But that’s exactly what happened.”

Since the 1830s, C.F. Martin & Co. has been continuously producing acoustic instruments that are universally considered to be among the very finest in the world. No serious guitar player would ever pass up a chance to play a Martin guitar, and actually owning one can represent the pinnacle of success for a working musician.  As with Stradivarius violins and Steinway pianos, the craftsmanship of Martin guitars represents the standard for excellence to guitar players.

McElroy had been an avid guitar player for nearly 25 years before he received that unexpected job opportunity, so he certainly met the experienced musician requirement. “Since the late 1990s, I played with my band, The Inconsiderate Few, all over the Pittsburgh area. In fact, while I was a student at Duquesne Law School, many of my classmates would come to our shows at venues like the Bloomfield Bridge Tavern.”

In addition to actively participating in the Pittsburgh music scene, McElroy became acquainted with the intricacies of the music industry, including the luthier field and other manufacturing aspects of the business. “I learned so much about the industry generally and guitar making specifically that my background, along with my commercial law experience, was a good fit for the position with Martin Guitar.”

McElroy keeps his Duquesne education close at hand as well. “Professor Robert Taylor was one of my favorite teachers. I had several of his classes, including Philosophy of Law and Law and Religion. I always enjoyed the fact that he really pushed his students to think about things differently. He reminded us that, as lawyers, we should strive to behave like true professionals and not ‘hired guns.’”

In-house counsel must have a working knowledge of all legal and regulatory areas that might impact the company. At Martin Guitar, most of the equipment and software purchases, artist endorsements, festival and intellectual property contracts pass through McElroy’s office along the way. He also delegates and coordinates any issues sent to outside legal counsel. “At a company this size, one lawyer cannot have the sufficient expertise or time to handle every matter, so at times we rely on various outside lawyers who specialize in the specific practice areas with which we need assistance.”

Even though the door opened unexpectedly through what seemed like unrelated circumstances, McElroy knows that there is a “dream come true” element to his present position. “Being able to work for a company like Martin—which I’ve respected as a fan for many years—and being able to combine my passion for music and guitars with my profession is something I never take for granted. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity and my goal is to continue to play a role in the 182 year storied history of C.F. Martin & Co.”