The glitz. The glamour. The complex legal contracts and long days and the scramble to find financing for a fledgling project.
Sometimes, practicing entertainment law means that you’re spending time with big stars and defending companies like Disney and MGM in court. Sometimes, it looks a lot like other kinds of transactional law or litigation, with nary a celebrity to be found.
Many Michigan Law alumni work in entertainment law or in entertainment fields in which they use their legal expertise, while others work in its sister-industry: media law—which often crosses the thin glittery line into entertainment law. Just ask Heather Dietrick, JD/MBA ’07, about all the time she has spent at Gawker learning about the lives of Hulk Hogan and other celebrities.
We talked to several of these alumni to find out how much they really rub elbows with the stars, what it takes to be a top lawyer in Tinseltown, and even what the Kardashian sisters are really like. And lest you worry that we’ve gone too far down the tabloid path, rest assured that we only were interested in learning about their professional relationship as clients of their attorney. Whose last name does, in keeping with their affinity for the 11th letter of the alphabet, also start with a K.
Hooray for Hollywood
Some of the biggest names in the Hollywood legal universe attended Michigan Law. Many alumni routinely appear in listings such as Variety’s “Legal Impact Report” and Hollywood Reporter’s “Power Lawyers.” Two of the most well-known and well-connected are Michael Kump, ’81, who represents major stars, and Marty Katz, ’83, who represents top studios, producers, and other content providers.
So You Want to Work in Entertainment Law?
As nearly anyone who works in entertainment law will tell you, there is no such thing as entertainment law. Or, rather, many legal fields comprise entertainment law, and a diverse skillset is needed to achieve success. Some Law School alumni have pursued one of the myriad segments of entertainment law, while others use their legal training to work as talent agents or in other roles in the entertainment sphere. Here, we have asked a few of them for advice about getting into the field and what their jobs entail, as well as the question that everyone asks them: Which famous people do they work with?
Defending Gawker and the First Amendment
Whether it’s allegations of the Toronto Mayor’s crack habit or the publication of a Hulk Hogan sex tape, the legal issues that come to Heather Dietrick, JD/MBA ’07, at Gawker Media might tempt less ardent supporters of the First Amendment to toss their copies of the Constitution.
Fans of indie movies once had a difficult time getting to see the films they loved: they were shown at arthouse theaters in big cities, then released much later at some video rental stores. Today, by contrast, is a relative heyday for indies and the audiences that love them, thanks in no small part to Michigan Law alumni.
Broadway in China, and China on Broadway
The Nederlander family’s interest in China began with a famous ping-pong match decades ago. Today, their company—a prolific producer of Broadway shows—is making inroads in the most populous country in the world by taking Broadway productions there. It’s an exchange that goes in both directions, with Nederlander Worldwide Entertainment also bringing Chinese shows to Broadway.
Leonard M. Niehoff, ’84, and James E. Stewart, ’73: A 30-Year Partnership in Media Law
The blowtorch beautician. Libel by insinuendo. Justice hidden in the Motor City. With cases in their repertoire that read like mystery thrillers, suffice it to say that Leonard M. Niehoff, ’84, and James E. Stewart, ’73, have not lacked intrigue in their 30-year media law partnership.