Building On Nearly A Century Of Entertainment Law Experience

Wednesday, February 1, 2006 - 01:00

Editor: As an entertainment lawyer, you must meet many creative and capable people.

Mulrain: Yes. Primarily a talent lawyer, I represent actors, writers, producers, production companies and directors in the film and television business. In the music business, I represent recording artists, producers, lyricists, production companies and record labels.

Editor: Who are some of your entertainment clients?

Mulrain: Some of my entertainment clients are Nick Carter of the Back Street Boys; Robert Townsend, who is a veteran actor, writer, director and producer; Tichina Arnold, who is the lead actress on Chris Rock's new show Everybody Hates Chris; Hill Harper, who is a leading actor on CSI: New York; Flex Alexander, who is the creator, executive producer and lead actor on the television show One on One; LisaRaye McCoy, who is the female lead on All of Us; BeBe Winans, who is a Grammy Award winning writer, producer and recording artist; and Shanice, who currently has a single in the Top 20.

Editor: What types of issues does your representation of these talented people encompass?

Mulrain: The issues vary depending on my client's field. For example, actors require relatively sophisticated actor agreements that have to be entered into before the actor is engaged to be in a television show. The same applies to films.

Television or film writers require representation when negotiating with a studio that is financing production. When writers have created a concept for a television show or film and are asked to convey those rights to a studio, they need expert legal advice to address how they will be compensated. In the case of television, this requires consideration of several business issues including whether the writers will render writer/producer services for the series on an episodic basis, as well as royalty levels, back-end, series sales bonuses and pilot producing fees they will receive.

On the music side, there are similar issues. Music producers require legal advice on their compensation issues as well. They need a skilled attorney to negotiate their advance against royalties, whether the advance includes or excludes producer expenses, the level of royalty, whether the royalty increases based on the performance of the album or individual song, and to what extent they will share in the controlled composition.

Those are just a few examples of the issues I handle for my clients.

Editor: What is the hottest topic in entertainment law today?

Mulrain: The hottest issue in the entertainment industry today is branded entertainment. For years television networks have promoted their products during commercial breaks. Advertisers and television networks are finding that viewers do a lot of things other than watch commercials during the breaks. That has become a bigger issue with the introduction of TiVo and other digital video recording devices that allow viewers to skip commercials. The challenge for advertisers is how to get people to watch the advertisements.

Branded entertainment offers a solution by incorporating the advertising messages into the fabric of programming. The advertising must be done in a way that does not impact the integrity of the creative process. The movie cannot be only about the product. Rather, the advertising needs to be incorporated into the movie in a way that encourages people to think about the product.

Loeb & Loeb is unique because we have an advertising, marketing and promotions practice that is first-rate. Through that practice group, the firm enjoys relationships with advertising agencies, advertisers, talent studios and networks, and so, we are able to view the problem from various perspectives and help clients to discover creative ways to confront the issues around branded entertainment. There are few law firms that are similarly situated.

Editor: What attracted you to Loeb & Loeb?

Mulrain: The depth and breadth of Loeb & Loeb's practice is one of the reasons why I joined the firm. Many entertainment firms only represent talent, which in the entertainment business refers to actors in the film and television business. Other entertainment firms only represent individuals in the music business.

In contrast, Loeb & Loeb's diverse client base includes not only musicians, actors, directors, novelists, radio personalities and other talent, but also banks, motion picture studios, broadcasters, networks, production companies, distributors and agencies. In doing so, the firm works on some of the most sophisticated entertainment finance transactions domestically and internationally. We are involved in theater, sports, news media, advertising, IP, licensing, and branded entertainment. In my opinion, Loeb & Loeb has the broadest and deepest entertainment practice in the country.

Editor: What is the firm's history?

Mulrain: Unlike many law firms that started doing entertainment work sometime during the last 20 years, Loeb & Loeb has been a leader in the field for 98 years. Of the firm's approximately 200 lawyers, 50, or one quarter of the firm, work on entertainment matters every day. The fact that Loeb & Loeb has continued to be a major player in the entertainment business for almost 100 years is a tribute to the vision of the firm since its inception.

Editor: Please tell our readers about the depth of Loeb & Loeb's entertainment law expertise.

Mulrain: Our entertainment law group is comprised of talent lawyers, music lawyers, film finance lawyers, advertising and promotions lawyers, and litigators. There is little involving the entertainment business that Loeb & Loeb does not handle.

People in the entertainment business have a variety of needs. Our boutique practice is supported by the firm's general practice, which extends to such traditional areas of practice as corporate and securities, litigation, intellectual property, tax, estate planning, nonprofit and others.

Editor: How is work coordinated among Loeb & Loeb's various offices?

Mulrain: With offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Nashville, we deploy the most appropriate resources necessary to ensure that the client's matter is handled properly. I communicate with my partners in the other offices on a daily basis. That includes instant messaging and phone calls. All of our offices are set up the same way, and the systems are the same in each office. Our efficiency benefits our clients through competitive fee structures and our ability to handle all their matters seamlessly.

Editor: Please describe Loeb's diversity initiative.

Mulrain: Loeb & Loeb's diversity initiative focuses on enhancing the firm's efforts in recruiting and outreach to diverse candidates, particularly minority attorneys. Equally important is the enhancement of the firm's efforts in retaining a diverse workforce through increased emphasis on training programs and work environment. We encourage all efforts to enhance the advancement and promotion of minority attorneys.

Editor: What has contributed to the success of the firm's diversity initiative?

Mulrain: The firm has been a signatory of the Diversity Statement of Policies promulgated by the New York City and Los Angeles Bar Associations. In addition, through our Diversity Initiative Committee, the firm has promulgated a series of recruiting guidelines, which have been sent to all department and practice group leaders throughout the firm. The guidelines have also been sent to administrative and other personnel responsible for recruiting. The guidelines reiterate the economic and social benefits to the firm of having a diverse workforce and urge those involved with recruitment to make additional efforts, by specified means, to encourage diverse candidates to apply to, and to be hired by, the law firm.

Editor: What actions has the firm taken to help retain attorneys with diverse backgrounds?

Mulrain: The firm expanded its existing mentoring program, making participation in the program mandatory for all new associates. The mentoring program is intended to provide both a supportive and guided environment for associates. Based on extensive study and review, the firm believes that such a program is particularly welcomed by associates of diverse backgrounds as a means of more seamlessly incorporating all associates into the fabric of the firm.

As a matter of firm policy and practice, the firm is supportive of flex- and part-time arrangements, and we have promoted to partnership lawyers who had, at an earlier time, placed themselves outside of the traditional partnership track.

When I came to the firm, the firm assured me that diversity was important. From the highest level of management, our legal team feels that the demographics of the workforce in our firm should look more like the demographics of our clientele.

Since I joined the firm, our Los Angeles office has added an additional minority partner and four minority associates. That is a good effort over the course of one year and consistent with the firm's major commitment to diversity. The firm's actions in implementing its diversity initiative have been great for me and my practice.

Editor: Congratulations on receiving the Network Journal's Top 40-Under-Forty Achievement Award. Please tell our readers about the award.

Mulrain: Each year, The Network Journal honors 40 of the top African Americans in business under the age of 40. The award has been presented to television hosts, marketing executives, physicians, lawyers and other individuals who have enjoyed success in their chosen field. I was pleasantly surprised to receive the award in 2004. It was a really nice honor.

Editor: Do you have any advice for young lawyers who would like to pursue a career in entertainment law?

Mulrain: Anyone interested in a career in entertainment law first should build a strong foundation in traditional practice areas, such as corporate, intellectual property and employment law. In so doing, they will position themselves to competently represent clients in the entertainment business and really add value to their talented clients' careers.

I also like to encourage young attorneys to get involved in the bar associations. Bar activities can help you to establish relationships with key individuals within the business community. Consistent involvement within the bar associations is absolutely a formula for success.

Please email the interviewee at amulrain@loeb.com with questions about this interview.