I taught the first class of entertainment transactions last week. Seems like a good class, one that really wants to learn entertainment law. Which is good, frankly, because people who don’t want to learn don’t survive my program. In fact, my extern program had a 50% fail out/quit rate for the first year, until the students coming into the program figured out what they were getting into, and how the skill set relates to their future career opportunities. Then the success rate went to 100% and they began to excel. The externs started getting extremely good at transactions, bada boom bada bing, I was able to occasionally hire a few to help me on projects, and then ta-da — the program became a formal law school class.
Please understand, my approach is not difficult and demanding to get through because I have some sort of draconian view of law school, or think students should be pushed to prove some wacky point about work ethic. The reality of learning entertainment transactional law is this — you can not kick back and skim the reading if you expect to work in entertainment law. Period. Go do something else, don’t waste your time. There is too much to learn, and you need to know what you’re doing when you get your first opportunity in entertainment law. If you don’t know what you’re doing and you screw things up, you will never get a second chance. It’s too competitive, and there are a lot of great lawyers out there.
Typically, transactional entertainment law can be a difficult skill set to acquire in law school, which by definition, has to focus on the classes required to pass a bar exam and litigation skills. Couple this with an impossible entertainment law job market that is Catch-22.
To get a job in entertainment law or entertainment clients, you need experience. To get this golden experience, you need a job or clients. And so it goes round and round for the vast majority of attorneys who want to work in entertainment law, until they give up trying to get through the door and move on to other opportunities. Item of note, with the economy in the state its in, the Catch-22 job situation in entertainment law is actually the state of the art for many if not most areas of law right now. So, I say pick the area you want to work in and go for it. But that’s just me.
Last week, my class focused on an introduction to copyright law, then the basic elements of film production agreements, and finally, the film industry in general. Then we dove into two contracts. As most entertainment lawyers know, the first time you look at a full length contract, it is a scary and intimidating experience. My theory is to get the shock and awe out of the way on Class 1, instead of waiting for a month or two to go by and everyone has learned enough theory. Last week, I went through the two contracts top to bottom, probably leaving half of the class baffled, but all of them have gotten that scary first contract experience out of the way. Now they can learn.