Life as an entertainment lawyer! Sounds exciting right? I always told people if I was going to be stressed out as an attorney it was going to be while I was sipping champagne and walking the red carpet! Lol. But what exactly is an entertainment lawyer? What law school classes should you take? Which internships? How much does it pay compared to other legal fields? Where should one live if they want to practice entertainment law? I will do my best to answer all of these questions.
Let’s first start with my journey as a law school student. I took every contract class I could find and I also took tons of courses in intellectual property, an elective course in entertainment law and then some specialty courses focusing on niches found in entertainment law like music law, sports law etc. As a 2L, I took an internship at Classic Media (now Dreamworks) and worked with the in-house legal team and did mostly employment agreements, cease and desist letters and managed their PATTSY trademark database system. I suggest finding an internship in the exact niche of entertainment law you want to practice in. So for example, if you want to do fashion law work in-house for a fashion designer (My best friend from law school work in-house for Christian Louboutin! However, did not score not one free pair of red bottoms! lol). You can also just apply for a summer associate position for a firm that specializes in an array of entertainment law matters under their corporate law practice.
Which leads me to my next point about what people think entertainment lawyers are. Entertainment lawyers do not just practice one area of law. You can represent individual entertainers for their criminal matters (ex. Meek Mill, Chris Brown and Bill Cosby in their various legal matters) or represent them in family law matters (ex. Angelina Jolie divorce or Britney Spears in her custodial fight for her children from her ex-husband). On the corporate side, you can represent individuals or companies in their business formation and protection, contracts, intellectual property (copyright, trademark, patent etc.), licensing and employment law matters.
Post graduation, after exploring private practice in D.C. and teaching I made the move to Los Angeles to work for the business and legal affairs department for Universal Music Group (UMG). Which leads to my suggestion on where to live to best engage in this area of law. The top firms and entertainers you would work for are located in Los Angeles, New York and Atlanta. So if you really want to practice in this area, I strongly suggest you relocation. My experience at UMG outside of my experience representing individual artists, athletes and entertainers has given me the most rewarding entertainment law experience. Working at a record label you are put right in between the artist and the huge music companies and gain a valuable perspective on the rights and interests of each side.
In addition to still representing individuals and companies in various business, contractual and intellectual property matters, I have moved from just traditional law practice to being an entertainment law correspondent where I get to educate and entertain others on various aspects of the law through trending news stories. I call it "infotainment":)
Although my mom preferred me graduating from law school and settling for a corporate desk job at a firm, I knew it was never for me. She put me in the arts my whole life (singing, modeling, dancing, instruments etc.), so I'm not sure why she was shocked I would choose entertainment law (lol go figure?). Her only concern was that I would represent persons that were criminals and artists (I believe her exact words I don't want you representing Jay Z! lol). Well so far she has gotten her wish! Although I can not promise I will never represent Jay Z (he's married to Beyonce after all:)
Here's to your journey on becoming an amazing entertainment lawyer! See you on the red carpet:)
~Attorney J. Carter, Esq.