March 23, 2011

Entertainment Law Employment Options

I've covered what entertainment law is, but once you decide that entertainment law is the right career choice for you, where can you expect to work?  Here is a quick overview of four general types of entities that entertainment lawyers work for:

1. In-house
Working "in-house" means that you work at a company, rather than a law firm.  For entertainment lawyers, this usually means a record label, publishing company, or other related company that is large enough to employ its own lawyer rather than hire one from a firm.  Working in-house at a record label could mean negotiating recording agreements, making sure that all samples and artwork used are properly licensed, handling lawsuits for and against the label, or performing other general corporate tasks.  Most in-house jobs require at least three years of work experience at a firm, so few law school graduates go in-house right away.  In-house jobs are often desired because you don't have to worry about how many hours you are billing, but they also generally pay less as a result.

2. Large Law Firm

Large law firms are a collection of many lawyers who practice in different areas of the law.  Working for a large firm means more hours, more stress, and more money.  You have the benefit of being able to impress clients with nice offices, and when one of your potential clients has a problem outside of your expertise, you can bring in someone else who is an expert in that area to help.  Being at a large firm is all about working your way up the ladder, and as a result, associates who are straight out of law school often get stuck with less desirable work while they familiarize themselves with the actual practice of law.

3. Boutique Law Firm
A boutique law firm is a smaller law firm of at least two lawyers where all of the lawyers focus on serving a niche market.  An entertainment lawyer could work at a boutique entertainment firm with other entertainment lawyers who specialize in different industries, such as film, music, or video games.  There are also boutique intellectual property firms, where all of the attorneys specialize in either copyrights, patents, or trademarks.  These types of firms are generally more laid back than larger firms with less focus on how many hours each attorney is billing, but also do not pay as much.  Associates straight out of law school gain a lot more practical experience right away at smaller firms that they do at large ones because they are able to dive right in instead of working their way up.

4. Private Practice
Having a private practice means that the lawyer works for him or herself.  Lawyers who decide to go solo generally do so after many years at a law firm.  This is because it is hard to maintain your own business without already having a large enough client base to keep you afloat.  And while you can still call up other lawyers to ask for advice, you can't just walk across the hall whenever you have a question like you can in a firm.  It is extremely difficult and unwise to start your own practice right out of law school, although some people do it, because you have neither the clients nor the practical experience, and as result end up spending a lot more time marketing yourself and researching than making money.

- Lauren
lauren@internlikearockstar.com | Twitter: @Musicn3rd