A panel of distinguished experts in music law shared their experiences and offered counsel at Southwestern Law School this week to students who aim to practice in this specialty. Charles J. Biederman, author of the “Law and Business of Entertainment” (shown at right) and board member of the Biederman Entertainment Law Institute, led the discussion with a series of questions and answers with Gary Fine, a music industry contracts professor, and David Helfant, CEO and president of Arpeggio Entertainment LLC. Here’s a summary of some of their key, helpful points:
Put yourself out there. With the intense competition in music law, the best thing aspirants can do is just “get in.” Take a job — any job — that lets you meet and work with industry professionals; build relationships and network. Each introduction and each successfully executed task and encounter gets you closer to the top, advised the panelists, including Helfant (shown at right). No practitioner, and especially student-novices, can adopt the notion, especially in the present rotten economy, that “I’m too good for this job.”
Be Strategic. Cast a wide net, don’t just limit yourself to a specific area. Other areas of entertainment law, such as film, can intersect with music law.
Student Memberships. The recording academy and bar associations — notably, the panelists said, the Beverly Hills Bar Association — provide a great way to meet other legal professionals in your practice area. To get referrals, build friendships and relationships with people in these groups. Earn the credibility of colleagues.
Nightclubs. The panelists may have raised some eyebrows by suggesting that students consider what many already do: go clubbing. But they said aspiring practitioners’ approach should be serious and strategic. Hitting entertainment venues can offer a way to build relationships with emerging bands — a great way to launch a music law career. It’s a nifty way to transform Saturday night fun and pleasure-seeking into much needed business.
Writing. This is a major component of every legal practice — and music law is no exception. So work on your writing, the panelists urged. And always be open to others’ comments and coaching. Don’t react to the responses to your work as right or wrong, black and white, condemning. Don’t take critiques or criticism personally and always be willing to listen and learn.
Community Leadership. Your many extracurricular service activities in law school can provide a great way to not only meet future clients but also to help you stand out in the community. Clients want to do business with proven leaders who have earned great credibility in their community.
Define your success. Have a realistic notion of what you want so you also can keep balance with your personal life.
Know what you’re getting into. Don’t get caught up in the supposed glamor of working in the entertainment industry. Grasp and accept the realities that come with this kind of practice before you throw your life into it. It’s something you must want. And you must take its good and bad aspects, learning to navigate through its routine and sometimes its potentially sordid elements.