Entertainment Lawyer

As technology has advanced over the years, it has led to exponential growth in the entertainment industry. While this growth has paved the way for new opportunities and careers, it has also opened the door to a myriad of legal issues. Entertainment lawyers are law professionals who represent the artists, employees, and companies involved in the entertainment industry. Keep reading to learn more about the entertainment lawyer.

What Does an Entertainment Lawyer Do?

Entertainment law, sometimes referred to as “media law,” provides various legal services to individuals and businesses involved in the entertainment industry. This area of law covers all different types of media including:

  • Film
  • Music
  • Publishing
  • Advertising
  • Internet
  • TV/Radio
  • Theater

Entertainment law is not considered a separate legal discipline, but rather a blend of traditional legal disciplines, such as contract law, intellectual property law, and business law. Because the industry utilizes so many different fields of practice, entertainment lawyers must have extensive knowledge about multiple legal categories. They must also be familiar with various sectors of the entertainment industry, though some choose to work in just one sector such as music or film.

Most entertainment attorneys also practice either transactional or litigation law. Transactional lawyers concentrate on contracts and agreements. They rarely see the inside of a courtroom, since their main duties involve drafting agreements for clients, negotiating business deals, and ensuring agreements are honored. For example, an entertainment lawyer who specializes in transactions may draft a contract between an actor and a television program that outlines the duties and obligations of each party.

Litigation-based lawyers on the other hand, are focused on defending clients in lawsuits and pursuing lawsuits on behalf of clients. These attorneys must be familiar with both criminal and civil laws. For instance, a litigation lawyer may represent a musician being sued by a production company for copyright infringement.

Larger law firms are likely staffed to handle a wide variety of legal specialties. They may also employ both transactional and litigation lawyers. Smaller firms or private practices generally focus on a specific area within litigation or transactional law.

Professional Requirements to Become an Entertainment Lawyer

The first step one must take to become an entertainment lawyer is earning a bachelor’s degree from a college or university. After completing the four years of undergraduate study, the student then takes the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). This standardized exam, which assess reading comprehension, logical, and verbal reasoning proficiency, is one of the major factors law schools consider during the admissions process.

After passing the LSAT, the student attends law school for three years before receiving a Juris Doctorate degree (J.D.). The first year involves courses focused on general aspects of the law and the following two years studying more specific areas of the law. Some aspiring entertainment lawyers choose to attend law schools that offer a specialization in entertainment law. The last step in the process to become an entertainment lawyer is taking and passing the bar examination.

Additional Education and Experience

While in law school, students can complete internships and clerkships to gain experience. This can prove to be very beneficial when seeking employment.

A Master of Law degree (M.L. or LL.M) is available for students wanting to take a closer look at the law after receiving their Juris Doctorate degree. The degree is internationally recognized, and it can broaden a person’s career horizons.

Where Can You Work as an Entertainment Lawyer

After graduating, many lawyers begin their careers by working as law clerks after graduation. Since it is a very specialized field, it is not uncommon for entertainment lawyers to work in a different area of law before finding a job in the entertainment industry

Entertainment lawyers can work in law firms or as in-house counsel for corporations. This type of attorney tends to practice in entertainment hubs such as New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Nashville, though some find employment across the nation.

How do Entertainment Lawyers Get Paid

How entertainment lawyers get paid varies, as some work for an hourly rate while others charge a flat-rate fee. Flat-rates are typically reserved for basic services like reviewing contracts, or for legal issues that are cut and dry. Regardless of whether the attorney charges hourly or a flat rate fee, they may also require a retainer. A retainer is a portion of the estimated total costs paid to the lawyer up front. The retainer is put into a special account and is used as the lawyer works on the case.

Lawyers in the entertainment industry may also charge a contingency fee if the client is asking the court to award compensation. In these instances, the lawyer is only paid if the client wins the case. If an attorney provides long-term representation and the client has a steady income, he may charge a percentage of earnings.

Regardless of the billing method used, an entertainment lawyer and client should discuss all rates before signing an agreement. Often, extra services such as travel expenses and filing fees are not included in the hourly or flat rate fee.

Entertainment Lawyer Salary

The median wage for attorneys in the U.S. is $119,250 as of 2018 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (“BLS”) Occupational Outlook Handbook. This accounts for all lawyers, as the BLS does not distinguish by area of practice.

Entertainment lawyers falling on the higher end of the salary spectrum are generally those with more expertise, experience, and seniority.

Employment Outlook for Entertainment Lawyer

By 2026, employment in the field of law is only projected to grow at a rate of around 8% according to the BLS. This is the average rate for all occupations in the U.S. As more students graduate law school than jobs become available, the competition is continuously increasing.

Hiring an Entertainment Lawyer

Whether you need a contract drawn up, or representation in a lawsuit, hiring an entertainment lawyer with experience and expertise can greatly impact the outcome of your situation. The attorney that you hire should have a background in the entertainment industry, as well as extensive knowledge about that area of the law.

You should also feel comfortable enough with your lawyer to share all aspects of your case. Be prepared to meet with multiple lawyers before you find the one that meets your needs. These meetings, or initial consultations, are often done free of charge.

How to Find the Right Entertainment Lawyer

Once you’re aware that you need legal assistance, the next step is knowing how to find the right entertainment lawyer. The most reliable references come from friends, family, and professionals, so it is a good choice to ask those close to you. If you know a lawyer that practices in another area of the law, you can ask them if they know an entertainment attorney they would recommend.

Another option is to use an attorney database. These databases, or “directories” allow you to search for a lawyer by location and area of practice. You can also reference the bar association website for your state to find the right entertainment lawyer.

Essential Information

Degree Level Juris Doctor (J.D.), Master of Laws (LL.M.) law is optional
Degree Field(s) Law
License/Certification Licensure in state of practice
Key Skills Creative problem-solving, critical thinking, negotiation, verbal and written communication, ability to work in a fast-paced environment, attention to detail
Number of Jobs (2016) 792,500
Job Outlook
8% growth rate (average growth rate)
Median Salary (2017) $119,250*
On the Job Training Moderate term of on-the-job training
Top Earners Top earners in the bankruptcy field are generally employed by large law firms

(*Source: the BLS)