GPSolo Magazine - July/August 2006
T he entertainment law field is a very sexy one for the young law student or new lawyer. Who wouldn’t want to represent movie stars, negotiate recording contracts for rock musicians, or rub elbows with television stars?
Most young lawyers probably think you can only practice in this area if you are located in Los Angeles. And it’s true that there are more lawyers practicing entertainment law in that part of the country, because that’s where many of the clients are located. But even if you are located elsewhere, you still can tinker in this area of the law. Granted, it is much harder to build such a practice in, say, Kansas City, Missouri, where I am located, but it is possible through hard work to develop a part of your practice in this field.
You will need to begin with an understanding of what goes into an industry contract in the field. Obviously, you’ll need resources. One of the most prominent is Lindey on the Entertainment, Publishing and the Arts, published by Thomson West. It’s a virtual gold mine of contract language for beginners or for unique situations.
If you are indeed a student seeking an opportunity to get into this field, one excellent way to do this is to look for employment with one of the insurance companies that insure performers and companies in the field. Media/Professional Insurance and First Media Insurance Specialists are two such companies, although there are others. Both of these companies are located in the greater Kansas City area, which explains why there are probably more media and entertainment attorneys in this area than in most other cities across the United States, outside of the coasts. Working in such a company, you will have the chance to review dozens of contracts as you assist the underwriters in evaluating risks as they write insurance coverage for film producers, entertainment companies, entertainers, publishers, television production companies, and many others in this field. You’ll have a chance to develop a reputation among those in the industry as someone familiar with the risks and the language. And you’ll have a chance to assist in litigation, learning what happens when things go wrong.
Then, when you are in private practice, you should simply place an ad in the entertainment law category in the telephone listings for attorneys. Odds are, you will be the only person in the phone book advertising in that category. You must weigh the annual cost of the ad against the amount of business it brings in, but if you have a solid background in this area, you’ll be surprised at the number of persons in your area who are seeking well-grounded legal counsel.
Since I have gone into private practice (after leaving one of those insurance companies more than 16 years ago), I have represented an IMAX film producer in negotiating his contract with his publisher; reviewed for libel a number of independent productions that aired on WGBH, the Boston public television company; worked with a number of young kids seeking to break into the recording industry in negotiating their contracts with their musicians or their recording studios; negotiated artist contracts with local entertainment venues; negotiated (and litigated) numerous book publishing contracts on both sides of the equation; drafted contracts for community events being sponsored by organizations; and assisted a cable television producer in creating a new production for a special-interest cable channel, which is about to premiere.
It’s an incredibly fun area of the law in which to practice. Unless you are on one of the coasts, it’s probably unlikely you’ll make it a full-time practice, but it helps break up the day when you get a call from someone in the entertainment business needing your help on a fun project.
Jean Maneke, of the Maneke Law Group, L.C., in Kansas City, Missouri, has practiced in the area of media and entertainment law for 20 years and counsels authors, newspaper and book publishers, film producers, recording artists, advertising and marketing agencies, photographers, and broadcasters. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.