Negotiating Exclusive Songwriting Agreements is Live!

It is now out!  “Entertainment Law Mentor : Negotiating Exclusive Songwriting Agreements” is live at amazon.com and will soon be available elsewhere, including on this site.  If you are serious about becoming an entertainment lawyer and want to learn more about the nuances and specifics of negotiating an Exclusive Songwriting Agreement then my hope is that this book will be a helpful resource to you and your clients.  You can check the book here.

Learn the Business – Not Just the Law

I know there are a lot of lawyers, solo and big law attorneys alike, who would like to add entertainment law to their existing practice areas.  I know this because they call and email me.  The first thing I now tell them is “Entertainment attorneys should learn about the business of entertainment.”

A few years ago a member of an entertainment law listserv to which I subscribed asked me to mentor him.  At the time he was a new solo, having spent a number of years in-house at technology firms.  He had aspirations of becoming an entertainment attorney.  While willing to help when I could I did not feel that I had the time to formally train someone in entertainment law.  Refusing to accept “no” for an answer the new solo finally offered to pay me my attorney hourly rate for some mentoring sessions.  I decided to give it a try.  Doing some consulting/coaching might fit in nicely with my goal of publishing “how-to” entertainment law books and articles

I enjoyed my sessions with this attorney and we have become friends.  And I hope the consulting was of some benefit to him.  However, it quickly became apparent that the attorney lacked more than entertainment law knowledge.  He lacked a basic understanding of how the entertainment industry works.  I found that I spent at least as much teaching the basics of the business, such as what a music publisher does, how the money flows in record deals, the difference in a personal manager and a business manager, etc., as I did teaching entertainment law.

If you want to be an entertainment attorney then I recommend that you learn something about how the entertainment industry works.  There are a lot of good books on the subject and even entire degree programs at universities around the country.  When I was a law student and young lawyer the book to read for over-all industry knowledge of the music business was This Business of Music.  At the time the book was authored by Krasilovsky and Shemel.  The latest edition is Krasilovsky, Shemel, Gross and Feinstein, all of whom are (or at one time were) entertainment and intellectual property attorneys.

A more recent and very popular overview of the music industry book is All You Need To Know About The Music Business by Donald S. Passman, also an entertainment attorney.  Based on my personal experience, the Passman book is probably an easier read for someone hoping to get a broad overview of the music industry.  I am sure there are likely equally good resources for types of entertainment other than music (film, TV, etc.).  You just need to search them out.

However you learn about the workings of the entertainment industry, it will greatly benefit your ability to understand entertainment agreements and deals if you first learn something about the business you are serving.

Lawyer Perfectionism – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

            I am a perfectionist.  Many people consider this a positive characteristic for transactional attorneys.  I am one of those people.  However left unchecked, being a perfectionist can cause stress, wasted time and loss of income.

The Good My productivity coach, Tara Rodden Robinson, uses the term “Good Enoughism” to describe the desirable personality and work style for maximization of productivity.  I make the argument that attorneys, surgeons and others should be perfectionists.  She on the other hand argues, from her own career as a former OR nurse and more, that with experience the optimal style for those type tasks is being a perfectionist when the critical need is there but knowing when what has been done is truly “good enough” and to keep moving and close.   Perfectionism is good when needed in order for me to protect my clients but I begin to hurt myself and perhaps my clients if I don’t close the deal and move on to the next matter that is awaiting my attention.

The Bad At times perfectionism has been bad for me when it blocks me from moving forward on a matter – or even blocking me from making a good and aggressive beginning.  Several years ago I complained to an attorney friend that I was procrastinating on beginning to draft an agreement requested by a client.  That was a bad thing for my client who wanted their contract – and for me who was trying to build a new law practice.  My friend asked the question: “Are you sure it is ‘procrastination’ and not ‘perfectionism’?  Are you stalling because you fear you cannot draft the contract perfectly?”  He was dead right – the contract was a case of first impression for me.  I have never forgotten this lesson.  Sometimes perfectionism is really the underlying cause of my procrastination.

The Ugly Unchecked perfectionism can lead to some really stupid work behaviors in my experience – the “ugly”!  I have written a book which is almost ready for publication.  I have been stubbornly fooling around with formatting issues.  It is a legal book so I want it to be “perfect”.  But – does the format really have to be perfect?  Yesterday morning I spent 3 hours fooling around with the headers of the pages!  The book is formatted in sections so it was not easy to get it perfect (and I never did).  When you read my book how much will it really matter to you that my name is at the top every left-side page flush with the right margin and the book title is at the top of the every right-side page flush with the left margin?   Would you still read the book if that varied occasionally?  Would you even notice? Bringing the ugly point back to the subject of law practice, this morning I found an email I sent to my coach a couple of years ago.  In it I said “ I just drafted a simple, short agreement for a client that should have taken 20-30 minutes because I have a well developed form for what he requested.  In fact, if I had stopped when it was good enough It would have taken just about that long.  However, because I am obsessed with making it perfect and “pretty” it took an hour and 15 minutes.  I decided that it should be on one page and spent the rest of the time scaling it down and reformatting the document to achieve that objective.”  The client got the agreement and a bill for a half hour of my time.  And I lost 45 minutes of billable time.  The plus side of experiences like this is I get a good reminder that I need to be mindful to not let my tendency toward perfectionism get out of control.

In summary, perfectionism can be good and I believe has a place in law practice.  But left unchecked it can be harmful – both to the attorney and the client.  Am I alone or have any readers experienced this problem?