If you're a musician or an actor, you probably didn't think about the importance of having an entertainment lawyer until you had a contract to sign. Once you signed, you'd be bound by the contract's terms. Suddenly, looking at those terms, you knew you needed a lawyer to look it over and make sure everything worked as much to your advantage as possible. Perhaps your agent could offer an opinion, but a lawyer would have more expertise.
In looking for the right entertainment lawyer to meet your needs, you'll want to consider the following about the lawyer or firm:
- Expertise -- Look for someone who has the specific background you need, in this case, handling contracts within the music industry.
- Experience -- Focus on finding a lawyer or firm that has years of experience in the area you need.
- Cost -- Decide which form and level of billing suits your needs best. Entertainment lawyers may bill on an hourly basis for work completed, as a percentage of the income from a contract, as a flat rate per contract or as a retainer (set fee per month). They also may use value billing to set a fee based on the size of the deal and the lawyer's contribution to it. Make sure you know about any hidden costs beyond fees, likes charges for long-distance phone calls, messenger service and photocopies.
- Conflicts of Interest -- Check to make sure the lawyer does not represent anyone who would be on the opposing side of the contract or have a close relationship with them.
- References -- Request and check references for clients similar to yourself in terms of needs and years in the business. You'll want to know how responsive the lawyer is about returning phone calls or e-mails and how quickly he can get your job done.
Here are some suggestions on finding an entertainment lawyer:
- Network! The entertainment industry runs on contacts, and a colleague or someone further along in his career may have used a lawyer that would work well for you.
- Use an industry database. In the music industry, for example, StarPolish offers a database of lawyers offering services related to music publishing and copyrights.
- Check ads in industry publications like Billboard.
- Contact the ABA's Forum on the Entertainment and Sports Industries or a law school's entertainment law association or publication, such as the UCLA Entertainment Law Review.
Regardless of the entertainment industry you call home, an entertainment lawyer can help you to protect your interests and move ahead in your career.
For lots more information about entertainment lawyers and related topics, check out the links on the next page.