Attorneys Sally Helppie and Mike Farris of Vincent Lopez Serafino Jenevein, P.C., spoke to more than thirty enthusiastic law students this afternoon about Entertainment Law as a career choice. The Office of Career and Professional Development hosted the event and Professor Dylan Malagrinò moderated the discussion.
Ms. Helppie and Mr. Farris began by sharing how their entertainment law careers evolved and the kinds of clients each works with. Both agreed that some believe that practicing entertainment law must be as glamorous as the entertainment industry itself; they cautioned students to be realistic about what entertainment lawyers do on a daily basis.
“I work with a lot of other lawyers, with bankers and accountants,” said Ms. Helppie. “Contracts and negotiating are fundamental. Having a litigation background helps me negotiate and write better contracts.”
Mr. Farris added that it is important for aspiring entertainment lawyers to learn about the industry and not just the law to prepare for a future career. He encouraged students to read industry publications, to attend industry organization events locally, and to join the Sports and Entertainment Law Section in the Dallas Bar Association. “Build relationships with others in the industry while you’re in law school. You never know - someone you meet at a local writers conference or film festival could become the “next big thing” ten years from now. Start building relationships and friendships now with others interested in entertainment law or practicing law in different entertainment areas.”
Ms. Helppie asked students to look around the room. “You are not each other’s competition. You are the beginning of each other’s network,” she told them. She drove home the point by relaying that friends she made at UCLA School of Law refer work to her “because I’m the entertainment lawyer they know in Texas.”
Both attorneys agreed that doing good work for one company can lead to referrals to other companies and clients. “You can build an entertainment law practice, but it doesn’t happen overnight.”
Law school courses they suggested can help in entertainment law include contracts, negotiation, employment and labor law, copyright law, intellectual property law, business entities, tax law, and litigation.
Other discussions prompted by student questions included the advantages and disadvantages of having high concentrations of entertainment lawyers in New York and California; taking a cautious approach when relatives and friends ask for help “to break into the business;” and, the ability to build an entertainment law practice as a solo practitioner in Texas vs. practicing in a firm.
At the conclusion of the event, Student Bar Association vice-president, Amanda Salter, thanked the guest speakers and presented each with a UNT Dallas College of Law item. Assistant Dean for Career and Professional Services, Courteney Harris, also delivered closing remarks and her thanks to speakers, the moderator, and students.
Ms. Helppie has an impressive career in entertainment law and litigation which includes negotiation and contract drafting for numerous movies. She has performed legal work on such movies as Martin Scorsese's 3d feature, Hugo; the Young Victoria starring Emily Blunt; and numerous television pilots. She is an award-winning producer. See her full bio.
Mr. Farris is a seasoned entertainment attorney and award-winning screenwriter. His practice includes complex commercial litigation and entertainment law, focusing on the movie and publishing industry. See his full bio.