Entertainment Lawyers: Who? What? When? Where? How Much?
A good lawyer will navigate you safely through the minefield that is the entertainment industry. Entertainment contracts can be extremely complicated. Proper negotiating and drafting requires superior legal skills as well as knowledge of entertainment business and intellectual property practice. Your lawyer can explain the concepts of copyright and trademark to you and assist you in securing proper protection for your work. In addition to structuring and documenting a deal to maximize the benefits to you, some lawyers also actively solicit deals for their clients. Moreover, if you are not properly compensated in accordance with your contract, you may look to your lawyer to commence a lawsuit to enforce the terms of your contract.
When looking for a lawyer, you should not be afraid to speak with a few before retaining one. Some lawyers are with large firms but many are solo practitioners. Lawyers have various personalities and legal skills and you should seek out a situation where the "vibe" is right. Although your first contact may be on the telephone or online, most likely you will have an initial consultation for which there may be a modest charge, although some lawyers may not charge for that first meeting depending on the circumstances. Remember, your lawyer's time is money, so be prepared and be on time for your appointment.
It is not necessary that your lawyer like or even understand your creative endeavors be it an app, a book, music, your film or TV pilot idea. It is more important that you feel he or she is a trustworthy and competent advisor. The lawyer/client relationship is known as a "fiduciary" relationship which means that a lawyer must always act in your best interest and not his own or that of anyone else. Your lawyer is also under a duty to keep your conversations with him confidential. It is often in your best interest that it stay that way.
Keep in mind that a lawyer with other big name clients is not necessarily the best lawyer for you; if it comes down to taking your calls or those of a superstar, which do you think will get preference?
You should consult a lawyer if you are asked to sign anything. Too many aspiring creative artists want to get a deal so badly they will sign almost anything that promises them a chance to do it. Even successful careers have a relatively short life span, especially when it comes to careers in music, movie and television. Therefore, it is important for you to get maximum returns in the good years and not sign away rights to valuable income.
Do not rely on anyone else (or even their lawyer) to tell you what your contract says. Your lawyer will "translate" the deal for you and explain to you exactly what you are getting into. Do not let anyone rush you or pressure you into signing any agreement. There is really no such thing as a standard "form" contract. Any such contract was drafted by that party's attorney to protect that party's interests; your lawyer can help negotiate more favorable terms for you. Everyone needs someone to look out for his or her interests. That is why you need a lawyer. If you believe in yourself and your talents, give yourself the benefit of the doubt, invest in legal representation and do not sign anything without consulting your lawyer and making sure it is the right deal for you.