LAW 101: Hiring An Entertainment Lawyer – Getting To Know Them (Part 2)



In PART ONE, we discussed three simple ways to begin your search for the right attorney. When you start the process, the best ways to locate a reputable attorney are to rely on referrals, business directories, and attend entertainment-related conferences/workshops. After you’ve narrowed down a few lawyers, then it’s appropriate to find out more about them. Visit their website and read up on their experience, their clients, and opinions/reviews of their clients or colleagues.


If your research doesn’t provide enough information, contact the firm and set up sometime to chat. There may be a consultation fee associated with this. Most times, an attorney will charge up to $250 a hour. A hour consultation is an ample amount of time to get straight to the point of what you need from there and find out more about them. Use this time to “interview” the attorney. This means, ask questions that will provide insight on their character, work they’ve done, cases/deals won, etc.


Here are some sample questions for an attorney who specializes in the music law:


1.  How many years have you been practicing music law?

2.  What percentage of your law practice is music law?


3.  Have you done anything else in the music business (other than being an entertainment attorney)? [All things being equal, I would always prefer to hire an attorney who has had other experience in the music business (played in bands, been a manager or producer, etc.), since they will have a broader perspective. It also shows that they have a passion for music.]


4.  Have you represented any artists with whom I would be familiar? (Be careful when attorneys, or anyone else for that matter, say they “worked with” such and such artist, especially if it’s an extremely well-known artist. It’s common in the music business for people to inflate their credentials to the Nth degree. Their claimed relationship with a major music business figure often turns out to be insignificant and tangential.)


5.  What is the attorney’s fee structure?  Do they charge at an hourly rate basis, or on some kind of flat fee basis?


6.  Are there any kinds of music business matters the attorney does not handle?


The questions you ask should give you a better picture of that attorney’s practice. Once you’ve had the chance to speak with them in-person or over the phone, you should ask yourself these questions:


  • Do you feel that the attorney is really listening to you, and really trying to understand your legal matter and your goals and needs? Or does the attorney just seem to want to hear himself or herself talk?
  • Do you feel like there’s good rapport between the attorney and you? Is the attorney’s personality compatible with yours? 
  • Are you comfortable with the attorney’s level of expertise? 
  • Are you comfortable with the attorney’s communication and people skills? (Remember, there will be times when the attorney is speaking on your behalf. It can really hurt you if your attorney does not make a good impression on people. You want an attorney who is not only looking out for your best interests, but who is also able to establish rapport and trust with people who could potentially help your career in a big way.)
  • Does the lawyer seem to be cost-sensitive and interested in handling your legal affairs as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible? (There’s often a long way or a short way to get to the same result. Because attorney fees are usually determined on an hourly basis, the more hours the attorney spends on your legal matters, the more you are paying. You want an attorney who is smart and experienced enough to realize that it’s in his or her, as well as your, long-term best interests to handle your legal work as cost-sensitively as possible, rather than just trying to maximize his/her immediate income from you.)
  • Does the attorney give you clear, concise answers to your questions? (At some point, if not now, your legal matters may involve some complicated and confusing issues. It will be very frustrating for you if the attorney cannot explain those issues to you in a clear and simple manner.)
  • Does the attorney speak to you as an equal, or does the attorney instead talk down to you? (The best attorney-client relationships are always based on mutual respect.)
  • Does the attorney have a good reputation? (If it’s not good, your own reputation may be tainted by your association with the attorney.)
  • Does the attorney have a strong understanding of how the music business really works and how artists’ careers are built today?


The key is find out as much as you can. You do not want to retain an attorney that ends up not producing what you expected. Who wants to waste money and time, right??


Stay tuned for Part 3:  Hiring An Entertainment Lawyer – Big or Small…Which Firm Is Better as we explain the benefits of picking an attorney from a large firm versus a smaller one.





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