By Alfredo Bustamante, 1L
On April 12, 2014, the Center for Sports Law & Policy (CSLP) at Thomas Jefferson School of Law (TJSL) hosted an Entertainment Law panel that brought TJSL alums from Los Angeles in to speak about their advice and experience in the entertainment business. The purpose of the program was to highlight alternative careers in entertainment outside of traditional sports law jobs.
Moderated by CSLP Director Jeremy Evans ‘11, and introductions made by TJSL Entertainment Law Society President, Chanel Diblasi, 2L, the panel provided guests with several different perspectives on what it is like to work in entertainment law, as well as advice on how to successfully land a job in the popular legal industry.
The successful group of TJSL alumni who served as panelists included the following: Mike Pastrano, ‘11, Business & Legal Affairs, International at Lions Gate Films, Jakgeem Mays, ‘10, Legal Affairs at NBC Universal, Inc., Katie Tooma, ‘11, Associate Attorney at Levin Law Corp., Maliha Haque, ‘11, Manager at Warner Bros. Television Legal Affairs, Najmah Goldman-Brown, ’13, Business and Legal Affairs Administrator at Al Jazeera America, and Lindsey-Shannon Lee, ‘13, Business & Legal Affairs at Playboy Plus Entertainment, Inc.
To open, each panelist described how they got to where they are now with their jobs. Although each panelist’s path was different, they all would agree that it required a lot of hard work and sacrifice to attain their current positions. A few would even drive to Los Angeles to work two-three times per week while still attending school.
Despite their different jobs and experiences, there was one thing they all seemed to agree on; networking is essential. While describing how she managed to land a job in television legal affairs at Warner Bros, Maliha Haque said “Everybody knows everybody [in the entertainment industry], so people tend to feel comfortable with you if you have worked for people they know.”
Everybody on the panel agreed that networking is not something reserved for special events; it is something you should be doing at all times. “I never stop looking for opportunities to network. I’m here, I’m networking now. You never know, someone here may be the person that could hire me for my next job,” said Najmah Goldman-Brown.
Although each panelist stressed the importance of networking at every opportunity, they also warned of the dangers of excessively reaching out to others because you want something from them. “Do it in the right way,” said Jakgeem Mays. “Don’t be pushy. Respect their time, and don’t be overbearing. This is a relationship business. People are going to hire who they like.” The panel advised in general that although it is good to be persistent, it is not good to come across as an overly needy individual.
As should be expected in the entertainment business, there are constant challenges that you face that involve working with artists and goal oriented people. When the panelists were asked how they manage such situations, Katie Tooma responded by saying, “A big part of this business is knowing how to talk to people and knowing how to disarm them [with negotiation skills and language] in the best way.” Najmah Brown added: “You should have balance when dealing with everything. Have some flexibility and look at it from both sides. Don’t limit yourself.”
Besides the importance of networking and working well with others, the panel also discussed topics such as working with outside counsel, their experiences with international law, such as distribution of films in foreign countries, and the changes in the industry available through new content distribution mediums, such as Netflix, Hulu, and of course the internet.
Audience guests, such as Charles Misuraca (1L student at TJSL), were pleased with what they learned from the panel discussion. “The panel taught me a lot about the entertainment industry in general and also highlighted certain areas in the field that I would really like to get involved.” When asked what he enjoyed most about the panel, Charles said “I enjoyed hearing the stories on how they were able to acquire their current positions in the industry. Their determination and persistence was truly inspiring.”
Over sixty fellows and alums attended the panel discussion, and most headed over to the Alumni & Friends Tailgate event immediately following the panel at Petco Park for some networking and fun.