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What does an Entertainment Lawyer do?

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  • Written By: Jim B.
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 06 November 2016
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An entertainment lawyer provides legal assistance to individuals or companies that are involved in the entertainment industry, which includes television, film, radio, recording, theatre, publishing, and digital media. Although the different media are extremely diverse, entertainment law can be broken down into two main areas: transactions and litigation. An entertainment lawyer may specialize in any number of areas that fall under these broad categories. Some law schools cater specifically to prospective entertainment lawyers, and most people who choose this profession are located in specific media hubs.

Anyone who chooses to become an entertainment lawyer typically needs to be well-versed in many legal fields due to the wide variety of possible problems and opportunities that the entertainment world presents. For example, lawyers representing an actor or musician usually need to know the ins and outs of contracts, but they also need to know intellectual property law to protect their clients. Lawyers who represent movie producers usually need to have a grasp of the basics of distribution rights. Networks can call on lawyers to help protect themselves from expensive lawsuits. Anything tangentially connected to any media could possibly come to the attention of an entertainment lawyer on any given day.

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Of the two basic categories of entertainment law, transaction-based law generally requires a lawyer to concentrate on contracts. Lawyers in this capacity could be involved in drafting agreements for their client, negotiating better deals, or making sure the agreements are being properly honored. Litigation-based law is for those lawyers who specialize in both defending their clients from lawsuits, and filing and pursuing lawsuits on their clients' behalf.

Within these two categories there are a multitude of possible job descriptions for an entertainment lawyer. Possible duties could include talent agreements and contracts; labor negotiations with union crews on television, movie, or theatre sets; equipment and space rental for the performing arts; licensing and regulatory issues; copyright protection; and production liability concerns. The expansion of digital media has opened up a whole other realm of possible entertainment law concerns, as well.

Many entertainment lawyers choose law schools that have specialized programs devoted to the field. Lawyers who are lucky enough to get a position in this highly competitive field often begin their careers as associates in large firms that focus on entertainment law. It also might be wise for prospective entertainment lawyers to move to an area of their respective country that is highly involved in producing entertainment. In the United States, for example, most lawyers who practice entertainment law are concentrated in the areas of Los Angeles and New York City — the two cities responsible for the majority of film, television, music, theatre, and publishing output in the country.

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