Solo Law Practice Right Out Of Law School

Barry Seidel is a New York solo practitioner, and , like me has been a solo for 30 years.  Also like me, while still a law student Barry read “How To Go Directly Into Solo Law Practice Without Missing A Meal” by Gerald Singer.  Unlike me, Barry began his solo practice 30 years ago right out of law school.  While not an entertainment attorney Barry’s story should be an inspiration and a bit of a “how-to” for those readers who are thinking of beginning a solo practice early in their careers.  To read Barry’s story click on the title “Evolutions of a Solo Practice – Part 1”. Thanks to Solo Practice University for re-posting Barry’s story.

How I Became An Entertainment Lawyer

           I knew when I applied to law school that my dream would be to become an entertainment attorney.  I had no real plan on how to get there so I just decided that while I was a student I would be the best student I possibly could be.  I also sought out any lawyers in my home town of Memphis who practiced entertainment law at any level.  I clerked for one of those attorneys – the late Harold Streibich (a character if there ever was one).

Harold had a strong interest in education and shortly before my graduation Harold made arrangements for me to apply for the position of Director of the Commercial Music and Recording Program at Georgia State University in Atlanta.  This program offered a two year associates degree in the business aspects of the recording industry.  I was offered the job and my wife and I moved to Atlanta in time for the Fall Semester.

Over the course of the next three years I continued to apply the philosophy that had served me so well in law school – be the very best you can at what you are doing whether or not it is your ultimate goal.  So I set out to be the very best Director of the Commercial Music and Recording program that I could be.

A major part of my job as Director of the Program was to foster relationships with the Atlanta music community.  In fulfilling that directive I eventually became a two term president of the Atlanta Chapter of the Recording Academy (NARAS), a founder of the Atlanta Songwriters Association (now GMIA), and one of the Governor’s appointees to the Georgia Recording Commission.  I networked and I got noticed.

At that time, Atlanta based entertainment attorney Joel A. Katz was making his mark in the music industry in a big way.  I knew that someday I would like to work for Joel but did nothing other than be the best Director of the Commercial Music and Recording Program that I could be. Sometime during my third year at Georgia State Joel and I both attended a Recording Academy Trustee’s Meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico.  While there Joel offered me a job and I ultimately accepted the offer.

Thus I entered the career that I am still in today.  I worked for Joel for two years and in 1982 began my career as a solo entertainment lawyer.  Writing this I can see what I believe to be spiritual forces at work (although I doubt I saw it that way at the time).  In my case I call that force “God”.  Some might call it the forces of the universe or just plain old “luck”.  Regardless of your take on it, upon reflection it appears to me that a master plan took place so that my dream would be fulfilled – only I never wrote that plan.  I just did the best I could at what was in front of me.

I wrote this post because I have been asked by many young attorneys and law students how to get into entertainment law.  There are a lot of ways, some of the more common of which I mentioned in my last post.  This was my path.

Solo Entertainment Lawyer – Why This Blog?

In 2007 Susan Cartier Liebel, teacher, blogger, entrepreneur and attorney,  suggested that I might want to blog about being and becoming an entertainment attorney.  I thought it was a great idea so I jumped on the idea — 5 years later.  No one ever accused attorneys of being on the leading edge of anything – except perhaps making law. But in all fairness to me – I do have a busy law practice and have completed writing a book in the last few years.

My observations about entertainment attorneys is that most, but certainly not all, have some other connection with entertainment and/or the creative arts.  Since I practice primarily in the music industry many of the entertainment lawyers that I know were musicians before they were attorneys.  I have read or listened to podcasts by entertainment lawyers that were (and are) screen writers, authors, and other entertainment industry creatives.  Many were drawn to an entertainment law practice simply because they were lovers of music and the arts or fascinated by the entertainment industry.  And there are those who became entertainment attorneys the same way many attorneys found their specific specialties – by unplanned circumstances.  They may have been associates at Big Law firms and a position came available in the Entertainment and Intellectual Property Division.  Or they were able to procure an internship at an entertainment law firm while getting their undergraduate degree in entertainment industry studies.  Or maybe they clerked for an entertainment attorney while in law school.  And then there are the attorneys who for whatever reason ended up with a client in the entertainment industry, co-counseled with an established entertainment attorney, and continued to build an entertainment practice based on their experience with the first client.  These just happen to be examples that come to mind based on my personal knowledge of the backgrounds of entertainment attorney friends and colleagues.

A good example of one who got into entertainment law by unplanned circumstances is my first boss in full-time law practice, Joel A. Katz, currently Chair, Global Media and Entertainment Practice of Greenberg Traurig.  Joel would be considered by most as in the top tier of entertainment attorneys.  He told me when I was an associate at his firm how he got into entertainment law.  He was teaching a night class at Georgia State University in Environmental Law.  It so happened that the CPA for a highly successful recording artist was taking the course.  The CPA approached Joel after class and asked him if he would be interested in representing the artist.  Joel said “yes” and from that accidental meeting Joel launched a world-wide entertainment law practice.

My journey into entertainment law was vastly different than Joel’s – more planned if you will but spiced with a lot of luck.  I am in the group of entertainment attorneys that were musicians before they were entertainment attorneys.  I was also fascinated by the idea of becoming an attorney.  In addition to performing I was usually the business person for the bands I was in.  While in college and law school I also worked at an entertainment agency and managed an artist or two. I used to tell my fellow musicians that someday I wanted to be a “hippie musician attorney”.  Ha.  I never was really a true hippie but I was definitely a musician who became an attorney.  I’ll share more of my personal entry into entertainment law in the next blog.