When You Need an Entertainment Lawyer
If you are a musician, actor, writer, etc. at some point in your career you will need to hire a top entertainment lawyer Santa Monica provides (hopefully that is!). With so many entertainment lawyers out there, identifying and retaining the right one is a critical career decision for a creative; a decision that can save you money and hours of stress. Yes, hiring the right lawyer can save you money. And, a really good lawyer should be able to reduce your stress. As an attorney with over twenty years of experience in both the civil and criminal sectors, I am in a unique position to be able to tell you what to look for and what to consider in this hiring process. Let’s start with the basics:
Common Reasons to Hire an Entertainment Lawyer
There are many reasons talent and others in “the industry” need a top entertainment lawyer Santa Monica creatives turn to. Some of the most common are:
- Contract reviewing.
- Contract drafting.
- Contract negotiating.
- Filing a lawsuit on a your behalf.
- Defending a lawsuit you find yourself named in.
- Assisting with the raising of funds for a project.
Choosing an Attorney
Top entertainment lawyers in Santa Monica can be generalists or specialists. It is important that you pinpoint and understand your needs so you can hire the right attorney for your matter. Here are some tips gleaned from my years on the other side of the desk to consider when evaluating whom to hire:
- When interviewing (yes, it’s an interview. You are hiring someone and believe me, if that lawyer thinks you could become a big name –or perhaps you already are—that lawyer wants the job!) a top entertainment lawyer Santa Monica creatives recommend, ask about her about her experience in the specific area of law for which you seek assistance. If your needs are litigation based, you may prefer to hire a lawyer that only handles litigation. The skill set of litigator is quite different from that of a transactional (deals, contracts) attorney so this is a wise way to go. Or, perhaps you have a variety of legal needs and you prefer a generalist whom you can turn to for a host of legal issues. A good generalist will be honest with her limitations and will have ready access to skilled specialists, like litigators, and can connect you with those specialists as well as oversee their work and be part of your legal team. The benefit in this arrangement is that your trusted lawyer will have already vetted these lawyers from having worked with them on prior matters so you know you will be well represented. Also, having your go-to lawyer oversee the work (and perhaps share in the representation) will provide you a level of comfort that is helpful when you’re facing an unfamiliar legal dilemma.
- Be sure that you ask the attorney with whom you are meeting about her approach to legal matters. Is she more pit-bull like or more settlement oriented? Some people love the thought of having a tough talking hired gun on their side but others prefer a more low key representative. Both approaches are effective.
- This one is a biggie, and any respected lawyer will be glad to discuss this: ask the lawyer about his success rate with matters similar to yours. There may protective orders in place in certain matters that a lawyer has worked on that prohibits him from speaking specifically; and of course the attorney-client privilege applies (I like to refer to the attorney client privilege as the Vegas Rule. In that what you say to your lawyer stays with you your lawyer). But, even with these restrictions, any lawyer should be able to speak very confidently about his success rate.
- Don’t discount your own intuition. Ask yourself how you feel when you’re interacting with a lawyer you interview. Does he seem trustworthy, someone you feel could represent your best interests? Do you feel comfortable with him or are you intimidated and afraid to ask questions?
Top entertainment lawyers Santa Monica talent turn to for legal counsel are not cheap but this does not mean you can’t afford one. There are various ways attorneys charge for their services. The methods can vary depending on the client, the matter, and even the chance of recovery. All of this is fine—and perfectly legal—so don’t worry when you encounter all the variations. But attorneys fees can climb very, very quickly so be sure to clarify the fee policy prior to retaining counsel. In advance of meeting with a Santa Monica top entertainment lawyer, here is some information about common billing methods:
- Hourly rates. An experienced entertainment lawyer will charge anywhere from $250-$1500 per hour. Not cheap! If an attorney charges hourly and you are concerned about the uncertainty of that type of fee arrangement, ask him if he would be willing to cap the total amount charged. Depending on the matter and its complexity many lawyers are very willing to do this. Also, you want to be sure that you understand how the hourly billing operates. Does the attorney bill in increments of 15 minutes or are there minimums? In other words, if a task takes five minutes, are you charged for the time worked, the five minutes, or is there a minimum of fifteen minutes (or more) charged each time your case is touched? It’s important to know this at the outset as it might change your behavior, i.e. you may call less frequently with a quick question and may choose to “save up” a few questions so you get your money’s worth!
- Fixed fee. Some top entertainment lawyers Santa Monica creatives hire charge a set fee, the amount of which is based on the services performed. As with hourly rates, fixed fees vary greatly among lawyers. One top entertainment lawyer Santa Monica provides might charge differently from the next one so always do your homework when you learn the billing is based on a fixed fee.
- Retainer fee. Though not a method of billing, it is relevant to the attorney fee discussion and very important in your attorney hiring decision. A retainer is advance payment for legal services an attorney will perform on your behalf. Retainer fees vary markedly among lawyers—some will require a $1500 “up front payment” others $15,000. Therefore, your budget and access to funds may dictate whom you can afford to hire. Note that the attorney will subtract the monies you owe on work performed from the amount you paid as a retainer. It’s important to also keep in mind that many attorneys require the retainer amount to be refreshed once it is depleted.
Before agreeing to hire a top entertainment lawyer Santa Monica clients use for their entertainment industry legal needs, be sure to read the “fine print” of any agreement that the lawyer presents to you. Most lawyers try to keep their contracts easy to understand. Remember they want to be hired! They do not want to cause such deep confusion that you go elsewhere. Moreover, experienced, trustworthy lawyers are more than happy to answer any questions you have about how they work, what they charge and what terms in their contracts mean. Never be embarrassed or uncomfortable requesting clarification or asking questions. This is your career, and you need to have complete faith and trust in whomever you hire.
As I referenced at the outset, connecting with the right attorney can help you in ways you can only begin to imagine so if you do find you have a need for a top entertainment lawyer Santa Monica creatives turn to, please refer to this guide. It will definitely help with the search. Good luck!