How a law firm partner’s rock star past is allowing him to find balance in his life—and his faith

By Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP

On about two Sunday mornings each month, Larry Ingram, partner-in-charge at Tampa-area Porter Wright Morris & Arthur, can be found on stage rocking an electric guitar. He’s likely flanked by two other men: the bass player, a former legal partner of Ingram’s, and the drummer, an individual with a more challenging past.

They’re performing in a church, but they’re not playing Christian songs. Instead, they’re laying down a mix of Delta blues and rock and roll. The day starts early, around 6:30 a.m., when volunteers arrive to serve an open-door, no-questions-asked, free breakfast. Hundreds usually come – law partners, downtown professionals and the unhoused, eating side-by-side and sharing stories.

Ingram has been practicing law for more than 30 years, and these Sunday mornings are crucial to balancing his work with his life.

Ingram has always been a musician. Before law school, he traveled the country playing guitar in a rock and roll band, opening concerts for KISS, REO Speedwagon, Peter Frampton and a host of others. During law school, and afterwards, he was the leader of a local blues band, opening concerts for artists like Stevie Ray Vaughn. Johnny Winter and, briefly, touring with B.B. King. He collects guitars and other equipment, like a 1961 Gibson 335 electric guitar and a 1959 Fender Tweed amplifier, to name a couple.

“I played with all these artists, and I always got a little bit of butterflies,” he says. “I still get them when I play now. I want people to feel that connection and energy that come from a really great rock show.”

Ingram had been attending Hyde Park United Methodist Church’s main campus since about 2010. But when Justin LaRosa, a well-known advocate for the unhoused population in Tampa and pastor at Hyde Park, opened The Portico, he knew he had to get involved.

The Portico is not a typical Christian church. Hyde Park launched the Portico service in 2016 and The Portico Café, (its social enterprise,) in May 2017, after years of small groups meeting downtown. The church had not initially planned to hold church services downtown but, ultimately, those small gatherings led to something much bigger. The church is focused on relationships, feeding the hungry, meditation and supporting people fighting addiction – all stemming from Jesus’ call to love.

LaRosa knew Ingram loved music and, Ingram says, “he knew I wasn’t really engaged with the contemporary Christian band playing at the Hyde Park campus.”

LaRosa suggested Ingram try putting a different kind of band together for The Portico.

And thus, The Electric Band – named to distinguish itself from the acoustic music that accompanies most church services – was born.

A legal mind

Ingram grew up in rural Indiana and, while no one in his family practiced law, his dad let him tag along on a visit to a law office.

He noticed the books first. His home had many books as his father loved to read and encouraged Ingram to do the same. As a law student at Stetson University, he walked into the law library and marveled at all the books.

He remembers thinking: “The answer to every legal question is in here somewhere.” 

Of course, books rarely hold the perfect answer to an individual legal case. Ingram understood books might offer guidance, but people’s lives are too complicated for one solution to fit everyone. The same grew to be true with his faith. He loved being part of a worship community but thought he might fit better somewhere that celebrated the humans’ gritty complexity.

For the last two, or so, years, The Portico has been just that.

Sundays at The Portico start with a big communal breakfast organized by 20-30 volunteers. When the meal is over, the service begins at 10:01 a.m., usually with a song by The Electric Band. The songs aren’t always overtly religious. They might play “Won’t Back Down” by Tom Petty, “Come Together,” by the Beatles, or “On the Road,” by Canned Heat. LaRosa makes announcements. And then the community hall quiets for silent meditation.

Ingram believes the meals are integral to the sense of belonging The Portico fosters. At Sunday morning breakfast, Ingram has found himself seated between professors and people dealing with homelessness. He’s had to confront his own discomforts.

“You have to get around your own judgments because when you’re sitting there, talking to a person – maybe they have a drug addiction, maybe they’re homeless – but you talk with them about the things they care about and you realize, ‘wow, we have a lot more in common than we have not in common.’ They have some challenges; I have some challenges. And you find yourself changing – being less judgmental and more accepting.”

And as an added bonus, he gets to keep rocking out.

“It’s so fun,” Ingram says. “I get to play a guitar very loudly… there’s nothing like it.”

To learn more about Ingram and Porter Wright, please visit porterwright.com.

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