Finding an entertainment attorney isn’t difficult to do. The challenging part is finding an attorney who is right for you.
Attorneys are necessary to the business of music, and eventually, an entertainment attorney may be integral to your music career success. A good music business attorney reviews contracts you receive with your best interests in mind, translates contract clauses and complicated legal writing into terms you can understand, and knows what issues are most important to negotiate for in recording, publishing, and merchandising agreements.
Finding an entertainment attorney isn’t difficult to do: you can ask for referrals from other bands in your city, refer to music industry source books such as the Music Business Registry, and even seek lawyer referral services in your area with a simple Google search. The challenging part is finding an attorney who is right for you. Like in any profession, there are good and bad attorneys, and you’ll need to look past the standard qualifiers like price and location to find someone who you like and trust. You might end up paying a little more, but here are five important considerations when hiring an entertainment attorney.
1. Years in practice. Consider the number of years your potential attorney has been specializing in the music business and whether they do it full time. This is important! It’s difficult, even for attorneys, to make it in music, so when you find one who has been at if for a while, you’ve found one who is doing something right. Second, the music industry is constantly changing, so it makes sense to hire someone who is nose deep in music rather than someone who is just taking on the occasional client in between divorce cases. This is not to say a young or smart attorney can’t get the job done right, but an experienced and specialized attorney may be a safer bet.
2. Client list. Be sure to consider the various artists an attorney has represented. I have personally observed that attorneys who have represented successful clients get things done faster. When first starting out in the music business, I hired an attorney in my home town of Princeton, NJ who had never represented anyone notable in the music industry. The New York heavyweights he went up against had a field day with him. They waited several weeks between correspondences and seemed to pay him zero respect. The deal dragged on for months and never got done. It was a frustrating experience.
3. How connected is he? Consider the various business relationships your potential attorney maintains and whether he or she is well-connected. When shopping deals for you, it really does matter who your attorney knows, and who knows him. One attorney recently got my friend’s small record label a great distribution deal based largely on an acquaintance he had in this area of the business. Surely there were other factors involved, but you get the point.
4. How does it feel? Your attorney’s attitude is something you want to seriously consider. When sitting in the same room or talking on the phone, does he or she make you feel comfortable and respected? Does he take time to explain things to you, or does he rush through the conversation and leave you feeling like something of an idiot? Does she take a genuine interest in your career and music, or do you feel that she is meeting with you only because you were referred by “so and so.” Bottom line, you want someone who is more than experienced, specialized, and well connected: you want someone who is attentive to you and easy to work with.
5. How does she treat people? The way your attorney treats you is important, but also consider your attorney’s attitude toward other business professionals. Does he have a reputation for being a hot head who can potentially rub people the wrong way? Does he carry himself like a soft-spoken pushover who won’t get things done? Best case, hire someone with a killer attitude and a way with people.
It takes so much more than just convenience of location or an affordable price to get an entertainment attorney who is right for you. Take your time with this important step and make sure that you feel comfortable with your choice. With decades of experience in music, I can tell you that not all attorneys are smart, bill fairly, or do a good job. Attorneys are crucial to your career, so choose wisely!
The contents of this post are © 2015 by Bobby Borg BobbyBorg.com. All rights reserved. Not to be posted, printed, or used in any other way without proper attribution to Bobby Borg and Disc Makers.
Bobby Borg Is the author of The New Book Business Basics For Musicians: The Complete Handbook From Start To Success (Hal Leonard) available at www.bobbyborg.com/store. Limited time special offer – get the book, CD, and DVD for only $21.99 (a $70 Value)!
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7 thoughts on “Five qualities to look for in an entertainment attorney”
I agree that looking at the lawyer’s client list is very good indicator on the success the client will see in the future partnership. If he has no experience or successful clients, no one higher up will respect him, like how you experienced with your Princeton attorney. Even if the cost is cheap that doesn’t mean that the outcome will be the best. If you want something to happen and improve in your career, I believe it’s worth it to make an investment.