What Are Entertainment and Sports Lawyers?
Entertainment lawyers represent individuals and companies in the entertainment industry. This includes actors and other types of performers, producers, directors, and many other individuals in movies, television, theater, music, and publishing.
Sports lawyers represent individual athletes, usually professionals but also some amateurs, as well as entire clubs and teams. Both types of lawyers are experts in a wide range of laws that apply to these industries, including contracts, taxes, business law, intellectual property, labor and employment laws, and more.
What Do Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Do?
Lawyers who work in sports and entertainment play several roles for their clients. Exactly what they do depends on the specific client and the industry, but typical tasks and services include:
- Reviewing contracts and other legal documents
- Negotiating contracts
- Negotiating deals to option a novel or screenplay
- Securing distribution deals or rights
- Facilitating deals with sponsors
- Resolving labor or union disputes
- Resolving employment disputes
- Protecting intellectual property, such as songs or books
- Connecting clients to other professionals
- Litigating when the need arises
These lawyers can also pivot to the defense, protecting their clients against criminal charges or civil lawsuits. This can include anything from accusations of assault to breach of contract.
Who Needs an Entertainment and Sports Lawyer?
Anyone who makes a living as an athlete or in the entertainment industry can benefit from having a lawyer. An agent is also important for representation and career development, but they do not have the legal expertise to handle all issues in these industries.
It is especially important to reach out to a qualified lawyer when you have specific needs: negotiating a contract, buying an entertainment business, looking for endorsement deals, or discovering someone has misused your intellectual property, for instance.
Benefits of Working with an Entertainment and Sports Lawyer
It’s possible to work in these industries without legal representation, but there are several benefits of working with a qualified lawyer from the beginning of your career:
- Focus on your work
Whether your work is creative or athletic, what you do requires practice, time, and dedication. Athletes and entertainers benefit from having a trusted lawyer because it means they can focus on what they do best. They can leave the details of money and legal issues to an expert.
- Get the best deals
Entertainment and athletics often involve negotiations for pay, contracts, distribution rights, endorsements, and more. Without a lawyer to guide these negotiations, you may be given a bad deal. A lawyer can make sure you get what you deserve in any deal.
- Get sound business advice
As an athlete or entertainer, business may not be your strong suit. It’s important to remember that these industries are businesses. A lawyer with a broad range of legal knowledge can advise you on business matters where you don’t feel confident making important decisions alone.
- Protect your creative work
If you make music or write, your intellectual property is vulnerable to theft and misuse. The laws protecting intellectual property are complicated. An entertainment lawyer will be proactive in protecting it and getting compensation if your property is stolen.
- Protect against lawsuits
In these industries, you could be sued for anything from misusing someone else’s intellectual property to breaching a contract. Whether you are guilty or not, an experienced lawyer will be able to represent you and protect your interests, minimizing the damage to your career or finances.
Many creative workers and athletes hire agents at the start of their careers but not lawyers. An agent has an important role to play, but they cannot do everything. A lawyer has more specialized knowledge and skills and can provide more specialized services and benefits than an agent.
How to Find and Hire an Entertainment and Sports Lawyer
When it’s time to hire a lawyer, a quick search will turn up many firms and attorneys advertising services for athletes or entertainers. Choose someone who specializes in your industry and takes on clients like you.
In addition to searching online for a lawyer, consider networking within your industry. Chances are good that someone you know or work with has also hired a lawyer. They may be able to refer an individual or a firm.
Before hiring someone, reflect on your goals and what you need from a lawyer. This will help you narrow down your options to an attorney who can meet your specific needs. Line up options and ask important questions before making a decision:
- How long have you been in the industry?
- What kinds of clients do you represent?
- Who do you represent?
- Have you dealt with issues similar to mine?
- What were the outcomes?
- Will I work with your or someone else in the firm?
- Do you litigate?
- What are your fees, and do you require a retainer?
Working with Your Lawyer
Be very clear right from the beginning about what you need. Entertainment and sports lawyers have a lot of general legal expertise, but many also have subspecialties. For instance, if you are fighting a lawsuit, make sure your lawyer knows you need defense and litigation. If contracts are your main concern, your lawyer needs to know so they are prepared to provide that service.
When meeting with your lawyer, provide all the necessary information and documentation. You may need to bring contracts, communications, or your intellectual property. Be clear about what you need and expect, and answer all of your lawyer’s questions honestly and completely.
W good working relationship with a lawyer is beneficial to your career in sports or entertainment. A lawyer is an ally and an advisor who can represent you, defend you, protect your interests, and litigate on your behalf.