Entertainment Law Firms

Entertainment Law Firms

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Entertainment Law Firms


A Short Introduction to Entertainment Law Firms

What is an entertainment law firm?

An entertainment law firm deals with legal issues resulting from the creation and distribution of media content. It is a loose category not recognized in any official law, but most entertainment law firms practice in civil law with an emphasis on business matters.

What can an entertainment law firm do?

There are many different reasons to hire an entertainment law firm, much too many to write down in a single list. However, one can summarize their most popular matters of business, including:

• Negotiating and drafting of entertainment contracts, such as contracts recruiting artists or producers to work for a major studio;

• Collecting past-due royalties;

• Appealing a royalties judgment;

• Negotiating licensing fees, such as payments for the use of media in another piece of media (such as the use of song in a film) or payments related to the use of one’s owned images or artwork in a commercial product;

• Renewing all copyrighted material;

• Filing suit against alleged infringers of material copyrights;

• Seeking compensation for products illegally pirated or copied;

• Organize contracts for the distribution of entertainment media, including its distribution overseas.

Where will I find an entertainment law firm?

There are many excellent resources for finding legal help, but one of the best is just asking friends and co-workers if they have any to recommend. If they work in the entertainment industry, there are high odds that they’ve had a positive experience with an entertainment law firm in the past. Even if the firm’s area of practice isn’t entirely related to your case, you may be able to get a referral from them for a great lawyer you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to find.

You can also use a legal referral service. A trained professional will have a conversation with you about your legal needs and you’ll be referred to an entertainment law firm that they think will be able to assist you. There is a small cost for the use of a service, but the first consultation is free. 

It is also a good idea to conduct some research on an entertainment law firm before you hire them. See if they’ve appeared in the news recently, check for reviews, and see if there are any records of disciplinary actions against one of their lawyers. These records are usually available at either a state bar website or the state supreme court.

How will I pay an entertainment law firm?

What and how you pay an entertainment law firm depends quite a bit on what you are asking them to do. For instance, simple legal matters such as the drafting of a contract not requiring negotiation might require a flat fee at the beginning, somewhere in the range of $500 to $2,000 depending on the firm’s reputation and the exact particulars of the situation.

More complex negotiations, or the enforcement of a copyright or trademark, will usually require an hourly fee. Be careful because these fees will quickly add up.

In some cases, your entertainment law firm may even agree to be paid on contingency, meaning only if they win a case for you or get you a cash settlement. These situations are usually a party claiming to be the original creator of a piece of media but who has had their intellectual property infringed upon. If an award ultimately results from the case, the entertainment law firm will be entitled to a large portion of it, usually from 15% to 40%. 

Many entertainment law firms also charge for what is referred to as auxiliary fees. These might be per-document costs for drafting contracts and other legal documents, or they may be hourly rates for a paralegal or legal researcher’s contributions to your case. Be sure to ask about any such costs before you sign a contract hiring an entertainment law firm.

What should I ask at an entertainment law firm consultation?

Entertainment law firms are always extremely busy, so you have to be sure to prepare ahead of time before you meet with a firm for your first consultation. Here are a few questions that you should never leave without knowing the answers to:

1. What experience does the firm have with cases like mine?—The “like mine” is essential; you might have found the best entertainment law firm in the whole world for negotiating contracts, but if you want to enforce a copyright that won’t do you a great deal of good. 

2. Which lawyers will be working my case?—The lawyer that you are meeting with won’t necessarily be the primary actor on your case. Some entertainment law firms assign smaller cases to less experienced attorneys and then have older lawyers meet with clients. Some also delegate different subsets of a case to different lawyers, so the writer writes petitions and contracts while the good-talker negotiates in person, etc. This doesn’t have to be bad for your case, but you should meet every lawyer you’ll be working with so that you know you feel comfortable with them.

3. What are your expected fees?—Any entertainment law firm that is cagey about their fees is not one that you should trust to help you.

4. Have any lawyers at this entertainment law firm ever had disciplinary action taken against them?—There could be a perfectly reasonable explanation behind the action, but you won’t know unless you discuss it with the lawyers themselves.

5. How do you anticipate you proceed with my case?—Of course, the lawyers won’t necessarily be able to describe the full intricacies of their legal strategy, but this can be a good question to find out what their understanding of your situation is and whether it fits in with your own expectations. If you’re visiting more than one entertainment law firm on consultations, be sure to ask them each this. You are not just choosing entertainment law firms, you are choosing which legal strategy will win your case.

 

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