Entertainers may love what they do and feel it’s more about artistic expression than financial gain. But there’s no doubt that where there’s money, there’s potential for disputes.
Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams faced a copyright infringement claim amounting to $5 million that put the issue of copyright law into the news. Having a good entertainment attorney as well as talent seems to be essential for success in the industry.
Finding success as an entertainer means understanding the business. You need the best legal advice and protection. Read on to learn about 7 factors entertainers should consider before picking attorneys.
- Do You Need an Attorney?
Just because you read about the top entertainment stars being involved in litigation, does that mean you need to have an attorney too? Surely big shot lawyers are just for the big-shot entertainers?
Even if you are just starting in the entertainment industry you may need legal advice. Even if you don’t earn much from your entertainment work, you may still benefit from the protection of an attorney. You don’t have to be earning big bucks or paying a lot of money for your attorney’s services for it still to make sense to have an attorney.
The first indication that an attorney might be a good idea is if you are presented with any kind of contract for your services as an entertainer. This legal document sets out the agreement between you and another party. It commits you and them to obligations that you should fully understand before signing.
An attorney can quickly check whether the contract is in your interest to sign. They may suggest changes and even negotiate them for you.
- Entertainment Is a Specialist Field
You may have used the services of a lawyer before. Perhaps you’ve bought or sold a home. You may have used a lawyer in a personal injury claim.
These lawyers are specialists in their field. An entertainment law lawyer is also a specialist. Don’t think that because a friend of yours recommends the lawyer that helped them in a personal injury claim that theirs is the right one for you.
You need an attorney with entertainment law expertise. If your need is with music contracts or film contracts, then look for a lawyer with expertise in that specific field. This is not an area of the law where general knowledge is enough.
- What Type of Lawyer Do You Need?
Even within the specialist field of entertainment law, there are different types of lawyers. It’s important to understand what kind of service you require.
Contract lawyers in the entertainment field can handle contract negotiation and protect you from unfair contracts. They help you anticipate future needs. They can work with you and even with your manager and agent to provide legal support.
Some entertainment lawyers are primarily concerned with litigation. They are experts in handling lawsuits.
A lawsuit may be brought on your behalf against individuals or corporations against whom you have a claim. They may also be brought against you by others claiming against you. In this case, your attorney will seek to defend you against a claim.
- Do You Have Rapport?
Working with a lawyer is a very personal matter. They may be representing you in matters that affect your career and livelihood. They operate in a world where the language and process are alien to most people.
It’s important for you to feel comfortable and confident with them. Having a rapport with your attorney can help take out much of the stress involved in the legal side of your chosen career.
An attorney who can explain things to you in terms that you understand is important. They should not make you feel patronized simply because you don’t understand a specialized area of knowledge. Instead, they should make things clearer and demystify things for you.
In short, you need a lawyer you get on with.
- Check Their Reputation
Make inquiries in the entertainment industry about the reputation of any lawyer you are considering. Are they well known and do they have a good reputation? Check references and reviews.
An attractive website and glossy literature do not mean that any particular lawyer is good at what they do. It may indicate that they are professional and that is important to you and also when they are representing you to others. You may get a feel for their expertise and areas of experience if they publish articles and news about their clients on their website.
Check if they have a good record as an attorney on the State Bar website. It will record any disciplinary action taken against them. Search the web for any reports of litigation they have been involved in.
- Check Their Clients
Ask for references and research their other clients. Do you have anything in common with their other clients?
For example, if you are a musician with a new record deal, are other clients in the same position? Better still, do they have clients whose career is blossoming but who signed their first record deal with this attorney?
Talk to the clients if you can. What does their attorney do for them? Would they recommend their attorney?
- Can You Afford Them?
Attorneys can bill you for their work in several ways.
Some charge for their work on an hourly basis. Some charge a retainer. Others will charge a set fee and some link themselves to your success by billing you for a percentage of your earnings.
Check the fee structure carefully. The rates vary hugely too, so comparing attorney fees is crucial.
Legal advice can make a huge difference to your career and financial success but it comes at a price.
Evaluate all these factors and do your research when picking attorneys. The entertainment world can be fun, but it can also be a minefield of hazards. It may be worth having a good attorney on your team.
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