How do I find a lawyer?
There are the standard means of yellow pages, lawyer referral services, bar association membership lists, and the like, but your best bet is to find colleagues happy with theirs.
What legal services do you provide?
I handle contract, intellectual property, and business-related matters. This includes issues in general commercial matters and specifically those in technology, multimedia, amusement, recreation, and entertainment. I also arbitrate and mediate in these areas. If you need counsel to defend or institute litigation, we may be able to help you avoid it (or refer you to appropriate litigation counsel). We can also give you career guidance and advice.
How do I retain you as my lawyer?
Contact this office by phone or email, and the office manager will schedule a brief telephone conference with me to assess your needs and whether we can help you. Among the things we will need to know is who you are currently working with so we can check for any conflicts we may have.
If after this telephone conference we decide to work together, you will be sent a retainer agreement by mail, email, or fax, as you choose. The retainer agreement sets forth the terms of representation. This agreement requires you pay a retainer fee up front and contains other details of representation. You should read and understand the agreement before signing it. Feel free to contact us with any questions about its terms. Please understand that if you are a parent, spouse, child, friend, relative, manager, agent, teacher, financer, or other party connected to the person actually needing legal advice, in most circumstances you will not be privy to attorney-client conversations as this puts the confidentiality of the discussion at risk.
How do I “get to know” you before committing to retain you?
We highly recommend you know your counsel, and this website is a first step. It includes information about my practice and experience. Take time to read through it. You will also get to ask any questions during the initial telephone conference. If you feel you have any questions still unanswered, you may enquire of the office manager at info@eMusicLaw.com.
How do I schedule a meeting with you or otherwise get legal advice?
Once we have received the signed retainer agreement and payment at the office, we will schedule an appointment. That appointment can be by phone or in person, at your convenience. To expedite matters, you may fax or email the signed retainer and pay by PayPal or credit card. For scheduling purposes, please note that I am in court most Tuesdays and Thursdays. For existing clients and for parties who want to discuss general business, contract, or intellectual property issues but do not need to have more involved legal services, we block off the afternoon of most Mondays for telephonic consultation. You may contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for details on how to schedule such time.
How do you charge for your services?
Most legal work is done on an hourly basis, but alternative structures are appropriate in certain situations. After I have been retained and thoroughly understand your needs, I will be able to assess whether a different approach is a better fit. If you have been offered a contract, reviewing it is not typically the bulk of the lawyer time; in such a case, most time is spent in advising about, explaining, and editing the agreement. The length of time this takes depends on the state of the agreement and the needs of the client. Ultimately, you are the party who determines what you wish to have done.
FAQ for Parties in the Creative Industries
Do you shop creative material or otherwise work on a contingency basis in that area?
No. The entertainment portion of this practice is almost entirely business counseling, contract, licensing, and other transactional work (such as copyright and trademark matters). If an industry person I know is looking for a particular type of work or talent, and I know a good match, I occasionally make referrals as a courtesy. You are always well-advised to register your work for copyright before distributing it to third parties, including lawyers. Although I don’t place works, I can advise you on a variety of ways you can raise the profile of your material and how you can network with industry professionals if you wish to retain me for that purpose.
How do I find someone who shops music (or shop myself)?
While there are professional deal-shoppers, the successful ones are few and far between. I suggest you work your own career as much as possible, an expectation in the current market. For example, If you are a songwriter in the U.S, join a performing rights society (i.e., ACSAP, BMI, or SESAC). These organizations collect royalties for songwriters and publishers for the public performance of their material on television, on the radio, in venues, in stores, and everywhere music is publicly performed. Whether or not your material is presently being performed publicly, a performing rights society can often be a wealth of information and services related to, among other things, honing your songwriting skills and potential co-writers or publishers in your genre. They also put on showcases and provide benefits, such as the availability of different kinds of insurance. Songwriters may also want to check out the songwriter organization Just Plain Folks.
Seek out the annual industry conferences (like Florida has in the Florida Music Festival and the Sarasota Film Festival. South by Southwest in Texas each spring is the largest cross-industry event. These conferences are extremely educational and provide unsurpassed networking opportunities. You should also consider joining industry trade organizations such as NARAS (a/k/a the Grammy people). Learn about important cutting edge legal and policy issues that affect your career through organizations like the Future of Music Coalition, which graciously provides webcasts and podcasts on its website from its conferences free of charge.
Scrutinize the liner notes and credits of those artists, authors, filmmakers, and songwriters who have had recent success in your genre and note who the recurring producers, engineers, managers, agents, publishers, and attorneys are. This will permit you to focus on those who may be best qualified to assist you (or most interested). Submissions to many independent entities remain accessible and have provided the springing board to many successful careers.
If you have recorded material which you control, there are endless opportunities these days to license your material through online services. Look for those that are short-term and non-exclusive. You may also solicit clearance companies who place music in television and film. There are also innumerable websites with valuable tools and opportunities for distribution and collaboration. We also send occasional informational emails about opportunities to network or submit material. If you wish to be included in these updates send an email to email@example.com.
If you’d like further counsel on these matters, see How Do I Retain You as My Lawyer? above.
Do I need to have email?
While we are happy to work with parties who don’t have email, it is our strong advice for your benefit that you have internet access. It will not only conserve time and expedite communication, but industry, business, and entertainment are rife with technology requirements. If you are serious about success in some field of the entertainment or intellectual property industry, or business in general, there is too much competition for the attention of the public and the “powers that be” to work under 20th century paradigms.
How do I become an entertainment lawyer?
Become a great lawyer. That’s the best precedent quality to becoming an entertainment lawyer. Your law school or post-education career should focus on business law, contracts, and intellectual property, no matter which field you enter. If you may want to practice in radio or television, you should take administrative law to learn about agencies like the FCC and FTC. If you want to do film, I’d suggest learning about entities, unions, and securities regulations. If you are interested in first amendment issues, you should take media law-related classes. If you enjoy the fine arts, learn about non-profits and grant-writing.
Most entertainment lawyers either practice transactional law or litigate, although some do both. Of the transactional lawyers, some do contract and advisory work, and some become ‘deal-makers’, shopping and placing the talent they represent. Other lawyers practice a traditional area of the law, like tax, immigration, family, or criminal, but focus on having clients in the entertainment industry. Still others open their own industry-related business or become an executive at one. Generally, you will have the triple duty of knowing the industry, technology, and the law.
If you represent talent, sole practitioning (or small firm) is a good fit. The income and the work ebbs and flows. To avoid that, you may want to do more work for companies rather than talent. Corporate work is sometimes better set in a bigger firm. As a mix, sometimes you can find a corporate client to do enough work to pay the bills while you explore other areas. Consider a government job in a tourism or cultural arts division. Teach yourself as you go. Check out common interest groups on LinkedIn. I recommend as resources the Matthew Bender Entertainment Contracts books and Nimmer on Copyright. I also recommend “Wired” magazine.
Consider interning or volunteering at a trade organization in the area you’re interested in as well as writing papers. For instance, the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has a writing competition, and some of industry employers and organizations have internships. You may also want to subscribe to the trade publications as well as entertainment-related legal treatises. Almost every industry and segment thereof has national and regional conferences – join trade associations and attend industry conferences, seminars, and showcases to meet people. Speak, write articles, and put together educational and networking programs with local industry parties and with other lawyers (maintaining high regards for the Bar’s ethics rules in this regard).
Having an extended network can be as important as having extensive knowledge. Join either (or both) the ABA’s Sports & Entertainment Committee or the Florida Bar’s Entertainment, Arts & Sports Law section. Also consider the Business Law Section, Intellectual Property Committee as well as the Media Law Committee. Along with networking with industry parties, these provide avenues to find career opportunities. Immerse yourself in the local arts scene of your interest and be sure this is a subculture in which you are comfortable.
If you start from within an industry, you begin with a potential client base; you otherwise will have to develop that through networking, marketing, and word of mouth. You may also try the more traditional methods of starting a practice, such as finding a lawyer to share space with in exchange for doing overflow work. Whether or not that work is entertainment-related, you can build a practice while you explore the field. Being in Los Angeles, New York, or Nashville obviously provides a greater field of potential work, but Florida has plenty to offer, including a large tourist industry with a variety of parks, festivals, and venues. It also has a variety of tax attractions for the industry and its talent, such as no state income tax and good film incentives.