I knew as early as the tenth grade that I wanted to be a lawyer! My father was a labor lawyer. He worked for the National Labor Relations Board in Washington, D.C. and later in his career he had his own law practice. I remember typing some of his legal briefs and letters on my little word processor.
However, my decision to go to law school had little to do with Dad – it was based on my best friend’s mother. She was a high-ranking executive at the Environmental Protection Agency and was a champion for environmental justice-i.e., advocating against big companies dumping waste in minority communities.
Bright-eyed and bushy tailed, I headed off to Indiana University School of Law-Bloomington (the former home of Coach Bobby Knight) to become an environmental lawyer.
Yes, I was going to save the planet and the trees!
During my first year, I eagerly secured a summer internship at the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. and signed up for an environmental law class in my second year.
Remember: I was going to save the planet, plants, animals and the trees!
The environmental law class was not what I had envisioned. I thought it was going to be fun and exciting, but instead I had to read these painfully dull and dry statutes called the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. I was bored to tears. I knew immediately that environmental law was not for me.
During my second year in law school, I had an opportunity to do a legal internship at the National Football League (“NFL”) in New York City. I worked with the labor management council team, which represented the team owners against the football players. I had one big case that summer where we represented the Indianapolis Colts against a former football player who had been cut from the team. That summer, I worked days, nights and on weekends on that case. The arbitration (which is like a mini-trial) was slated to take place in Indianapolis in front of an arbitrator. I was elated because the NFL flew me to Indianapolis for the arbitration with the lead attorney on the case (as a law student that was big). From that experience, I was hooked! I knew from that point on that I wanted to be a labor lawyer—yes, just like Dad! Who knew?
I also was so inspired from the experience at the NFL that I signed up for labor and employment law classes during my third year in law school and wrote a note for the Indiana Law Journal entitled Professional AthletesóHeld to a Higher Standard and Above the Law: A Comment on High-Profile Criminal Defendants and the Need for States to Establish High-Profile Courts.
After law school, I worked at two New York City law firms, where I practiced labor and employment law representing corporations. After serving at the law firms, I joined CBS in 2002, where I have been happy ever since.
If you are interested in pursuing a career as a lawyer in the entertainment business, here are three key suggestions I share:
- SUMMER LAW INTERNSHIPS: If you are currently in law school, apply for a summer law internship with sports, internet, and entertainment companies. This experience will provide you with a great opportunity to learn the entertainment business and will provide you with exposure to different practice areas.
- PRACTICE AREAS: To be a lawyer in the entertainment business, you will need to learn and specialize in a core practice area. Attorneys working in entertainment-related legal departments have backgrounds in the following practice areas: corporate, mergers and acquisitions, communications, media, copyright, trademarks, real estate, labor and employment, litigation, compliance, contracts, and first amendment law. With the boom of the internet, privacy law will continue to be a hot and needed practice area to specialize in and to learn.
- GET OUT & NETWORK: Networking is key. Jobs in the entertainment business often are found through word of mouth. Get out and join various sports and entertainment law bar associations such as the UCLA Sports Law Society, the Beverly Hills Bar Association, the American Bar Association (Sports and Entertainment), and the Black Entertainment Lawyers Sports Association. Consequently, almost any practice area in the law will qualify you to work in the entertainment industry. Add a strong legal foundation with the above three suggestions, and you are ready to go and be an asset in any entertainment field.