Why he matters: Bandlow keeps clients such as MorganSpurlock and ConanO'Brien out of trouble before they can get into any. The attorney is one of the top specialists for prepublication clearance on documentaries and TV shows, looking for anything that might provoke a libel lawsuit. When things go wrong, he applies his First Amendment knowledge in defense. But he likes to stay ahead of things. For instance, in early April, he told the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that the justices should re-examine a ruling allowing an Innocence of Muslims participant to assert a copyright interest in her performance. Bandlow wrote that giving rights to people appearing in a documentary could threaten the entire genre.
Why he matters: It took six years, but in February, Baute won his case for talent manager ScottHoward, who claimed that LisaKudrow owed him a cut of what she earned on Friends even after she fired him (Howard was awarded $1.6 million). Baute soon will return to court for Desperate Housewives actress NicolletteSheridan, who has been suing ABC for wrongful termination.
Best career moment: "I get a photo every year of a boy, sent by his grandmother. He's a teenager now, but when he was 4, he watched his mom die in a very rough way. I represented him and his grandmother in the case, and the $4 million has greatly improved their lives."
Richard S. Busch
Why he matters: He's discovered one of the last growth industries in the music business: suing for a fair share of profits from digital downloading. Among the artists he has made (slightly) richer: Peter Frampton and KennyRogers. His epic seven-year battle on behalf of Eminem against Universal Music Group, settled in 2012, is considered a landmark case of the digital age.
Best career moment: "Winning the Eminem royalty case."
Why he matters: This year, he's repping NBCUniversal in a profit participation squabble with producer GlenLarson over revenues from old shows like Six Million Dollar Man and Magnum P.I. Last year, he repped CBS when it thought ABC's The Glass House looked way too much like Big Brother.
Best career moment: "Knocking out a theft-of-idea case brought by FrancisFordCoppola against my client CarlSagan over the motion picture Contact. We found emails showing that Coppola was suing to gain leverage in an unrelated dispute he had with Warner Bros. [which produced Contact]."
Why he matters:That Aereo case being decided at the Supreme Court right now? The one that could determine the future of the entire TV industry? It might never have gone anywhere without Elkin, an expert in technology litigation who helped the digital upstart company win critical early legal rounds in lower courts.
Best career moment: "When I was asked to represent BobDylan, BillyJoel and JamesTaylor against MP3.com in a high-profile copyright case."
Why she matters: She's representing the J.R.R. Tolkien estate in a suit with Warners and Saul Zaentz over who holds gaming rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. She also reps the estate of Bob Marley.
What she wanted to be growing up: "A veterinarian."
Why he matters: At 85, Fields is slowing down a bit, but he remains the 800-pound gorilla of entertainment law. He continues to negotiate for his clients (getting Life & Style magazine to print a retraction of its story about Tom Cruise abandoning Suri), and helped Warren Beatty set up an indie movie about Howard Hughes and lobbied on behalf of Harvey Weinstein to the MPAA to get Philomena a PG-13 rating.
How he unwinds:Reads Proust. And writes books about Shakespeare.
Why he matters: He has a knack for getting involved in quirky disputes with celebs and entertainment execs, like that defamation claim against CourtneyLove over social media comments she made about a fashion designer. But nobody knows the talent agencies better, and certainly everybody in town is following his handling of Deadline.com owner Penske Media's ongoing arbitration with Nikki Finke.
Biggest Hollywood tantrum he's witnessed:"Courtney Love was being deposed at the office. She incessantly was on her iPad. She later left, and apparently left the iPad. She had a hissy fit about getting her iPad back over the weekend."
Why he matters: Since winning AlanLadd Jr.'s landmark 2007 profit participation lawsuit against Warner Bros., he's been a go-to litigator for backend brawls. In the past year, he's saddled up for CBS to prevail against claims made by JohnWayne's heirs and laced up his gloves to defend MGM over audit disputes on the Rocky films.
What he wanted to be growing up: "Shortstop for the San Francisco Giants. I am still looking for a tryout."
Why he matters:The business litigator doesn't consider himself an entertainment lawyer, but he certainly represents his share of industry notables, including KanyeWest and KimKardashian in their suit against YouTube (the case, now set for trial, alleges that YouTube wrongly distributed footage of the couple's marriage proposal on MixBit). He's also defending watch dealer RobertMaron from JohnMayer's charges that he sold him $5 million in counterfeit timepieces.
Mentor: "The greatest lawyer, finest judge I have ever known: my father [California Supreme Court's RonaldGeorge]."
Why she matters: Glaser was who PaulaDeen called when the chef got into trouble for using the N-word. She's repping DavidNeuman in the BryanSinger case. And the diehard Dodgers fan is often told she's the model for Glenn Close's character in Damages.
Biggest Hollywood tantrum she's witnessed: "I'm in a conference room with a major star. He got upset with something I said, so he stands up, pounds the table and goes to the conference room door to storm out. He's trying to open it by pulling it toward him, but it was a sliding door. I got up and said, 'Let me show you how you can storm out,' and opened the door for him."
Why he matters: The lawyer least likely to get a free subscription to satellite radio, Gradstein is bringing a class action suit against Sirius for its unlicensed use of pre-1972 recordings by artists like The Turtles. But copyright cases aren't the only battles he fights: He also reps WadeRobson in his suit against MichaelJackson's estate (Robson claims he was molested by the late pop star over a seven-year period).
What he wanted to be growing up: "A song and dance man, but I couldn't sing or dance, so I became a trial lawyer."
Why he matters: He didn't set out to be an entertainment lawyer (he's a former federal prosecutor), but since winning a famous $52 million settlement for DonJohnson in 2010 (for half the profits from Nash Bridges), his practice has taken on more and more Hollywood clients. He's now semi-specializing in repping fund investors in profit-participation disputes with studios.
Best career moment: "Freeing nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee, who was falsely accused of being a spy for China and faced 30 life-in-prison charges."
Why he matters: At the moment, he's suing not one, not two, but six studios -- Paramount, Fox, Warner Bros., Universal, MGM and Sony -- over alleged home video underpayments. But he's also being a pain in the butt to the music industry, with a class action suit against Universal Music Group over digital download royalties.
Best argument he's made: "The one I'm making now: I am counsel in six class actions asserting that the studios intentionally underpay on home video profits."
Why he matters: A knight in shining armor, from the studios' point of view. He has handled cases for MGM, Sony and Disney, and is repping Miramax in a long- gestating lawsuit brought by producer Saul Zaentz, who alleged that the studio squeezed him out of a share of profits from The English Patient (Zaentz died in January, but his lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in June).
Best argument he's made: "Oral argument on a motion to dismiss in the JerrySpringer murder case."
Why he matters: Lately, he's been doing lots of top-secret arbitrations for studios, but he has handled such high-profile cases as Paramount's battle over profits from No Country for Old Men and Paramount's breach-of-contract dispute with John Singleton. One recent win: defending BET against a discrimination suit by a transgender performer who wanted to pick her own wardrobe.
Best argument he's made: "Closing argument in a rape-murder case when I was an assistant U.S. attorney. The defendant was a highway patrolman who stopped the victim for speeding, raped her, shot her, then pretended to discover her body. He was convicted."
Why he matters: King once compared litigation to "bare-knuckle fighting." He certainly took the gloves off this year, slamming MarvinGaye's family when they complained that RobinThicke's hit "Blurred Lines" sounded a bit too much like "Got to Give it Up." He also mounted a spirited defense of client M.I.A. when the NFL complained about the artist's middle-finger salute during the Super Bowl halftime show.
Biggest Hollywood tantrum he's witnessed: King was recently in a courtroom when he got attacked -- hit square in the face by a member of the opposing party. The judge fled to chambers, the bailiffs took the guy, and King shook it off.
Why he matters:Kinsella often involves himself in contractual disputes that have a way of getting the industry's attention. He's repping The Walking Dead creator FrankDarabont as well as CAA in a suit against AMC for allegedly cheating them out of millions of dollars in profit participation. He's also repping Legendary in a fight with three producers for profits from the upcoming tentpole Godzilla. In March, he won big for GeraldoRivera when a judge threw out claims that he owed his ex-WME agents unpaid commissions.
Biggest Hollywood tantrum he's witnessed: "MikeTyson trying to punch DonKing in his deposition."
Why he matters: Levin is hired when a studio or production gets sued by an employee or actor. Perhaps his most famous case -- still ongoing -- is defending ABC against actress NicolletteSheridan, who claims she was unfairly fired from Desperate Housewives. He's also fighting pregnancy discrimination cases against Warner Bros. and DreamWorks Animation and -- proving that no part is too small for a lawsuit -- working on a case involving an extra from James Cameron's Titanic who wants residuals.
Mentor (or at least guru):His yoga instructor, who showed him "how inner happiness, spiritual awareness and mental calm is the real victory in life."
Why he matters: When Phase 4 Films changed the name of its movie The Legend of Sarila to Frozen Land (right after Frozen became the biggest animated hit of all time), it was Marenberg, repping Disney, who said, "Not so fast." He's now gearing up to rep Warner Bros. in a big dispute over how the studio paid home video royalties.
What he wanted to be growing up: "A professional tennis player."
Louis 'Skip' Miller
Why he matters: Miller isn't strictly an entertainment litigator (he's about to go to trial against Patron Tequila and reps the owner of NASCAR) but over the past 40 years has thrashed out a corner, especially in the music field, repping rockers such as AxlRose, StevenTyler and MotleyCrue. He also is starting to rep record companies such as Universal Music and EMI.
What he wanted to be growing up: "A football player, but found it tough going at 155 pounds."
Why he matters: When superheroes such as Batman, Spider-Man and Iron Man need copyright protection, he's the lawyer of steel they turn to. Ditto Lassie and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. But sometimes Moss plays for the other side: Universal just hired him to respond to allegations by MGM that its prospective spy film Section 6 is a James Bondknockoff.
Best career moment: "I'd have to say that the most fun experience I've had was going to trial with DustinHoffman [in the Tootsie photo-alteration case against Los Angeles magazine]. I remember him passing me note cards with jokes on them to try to get me to laugh in court."
Why he matters:This music industry heavyweight has repped MichaelJackson, Madonna, CliveDavis and Daft Punk along with Sony Music, BMG, Universal Music Group, EMI … the list goes on. He defended LadyGaga against claims that she stole lyrics for "Judas" and this year has been helping the Grammys shut down brokered sales of awards-show tickets.
What he wanted to be growing up: "Like all entertainment lawyers, I wanted to be a molecular biologist."
Why he matters: Petrocelli will never stop being famous for beating O.J. Simpson in that wrongful death suit brought by the Goldman family. But his résumé is filled with other impressive feats, including defending Warner Bros.' rights to Superman against the estate of co-creator JerrySiegel. Petrocelli also repped Warners in another suit by a guy who claimed he came up with the idea for TomCruise's The Last Samurai. He's now defending American Idol against discrimination allegations raised by 10 black former contestants.
What he wanted to be growing up: "A professional trumpet player."
Why he matters: Plonsker successfully defended Hank Azaria's ownership of his loopy JimBrockmire character -- the old-timey baseball announcer who goes berserk in a 2012 Funny or Die mockumentary -- against actor Craig Bierko's claims that he'd been performing the same shtick for years at Hollywood cocktail parties. In a not nearly as amusing but equally important case, Plonsker also has been defending the heirs of Hawaii Five-0 creator LeonardFreeman against financial claims by a former agent.
What he wanted to be growing up: "Veterinarian."
Why he matters:He's the lawyer J.K. Rowling hired to go after literary copycats. And the guy AEG hired to defend them against the $1 billion case brought by MichaelJackson's family. He also has worked with MGM and Sony in putting together a deal with Grupo Televisa, as well as American Idol producer FremantleMedia and HBO.
How he unwinds: Taking in a show in Las Vegas -- or at least that's what he did before clients Siegfried and Roy retired.
Why he matters:The one-time clerk to Supreme Court Justice DavidSouter won a big victory for talent managers last year — and gave JuliannaMargulies an Excedrin headache — when he convinced a judge to make Margulies go to court to resolve a lawsuit brought by her former managers claiming she cut them out of millions of dollars. He also had a big win for director KennethLonergan, settling a suit with a producer of the 2011 film Margaret.
What he wanted to be growing up: “Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. First the book and then the movie inspired me to be a lawyer.”
Why she matters:Last year, the First Amendment specialist defended PaulAnka in a defamation suit brought by MohamedAlFayed over a passage in the singer’s autobiography about loaning Al Fayed’s son, Dodi, hundreds of thousands of dollars after Dodi’s cash was confiscated by U.S. customs. But she also has defended A&E (in a case brought by a Storage Wars contestant) and DickWolf and MarkBurnett (in a suit over Stars Earn Stripes).
What she wanted to be growing up:“President of the United States. My older sisters are identical twins, and I had this idea that I could have one of them run the CIA and one could run the FBI.”
Why he matters: The man who represented Paramount in the famous 1990 ArtBuchwald case (the columnist thought Coming to America was his idea) is still involved in headline-grabbing copyright law. He’s repping MGM in a suit against Universal over a film called Section 6, which the Bond people are claiming is a 007 knockoff.
What he wanted to be growing up:“Architect.”
Why he matters: At the moment, he's busy defending director BryanSinger against accusations that he coerced a teenage boy at a sex party in Hawaii. (Singer denies the allegations.) Last year, the lawyer made several tawdry lawsuits against JohnTravolta disappear and defended JohnnyDepp against a woman who claimed his security team beat her up.
Biggest Hollywood tantrum he's witnessed:"I was representing a billionaire in his 80s in a lawsuit filed by his ex-girlfriend, who was 50 years his junior — and a Brazilian ex-soap opera actress. The plaintiff lunged at my client, hitting him in the head. She took a swing at me, [too]."
Why he matters:He’s the lawyer who helped change the way vertically integrated studios calculate payrolls, and he’s still digging into company ledgers, now reviewing confidential accounting for profit participants on major television shows that will likely (he says) lead to litigation in the coming months. Also, he’s repping producers DanLin and RoyLee, who sued Legendary for their firing from Godzilla before their Lego Movie became a monster hit.
Mentor (in absentia):“AlbertEinstein.”
Why he matters:He’s been Fox’s pit bull in the fight against Aereo and other digital upstarts threatening to end television as we know it. He’s also making waves in the music industry, defending SoundExchange from antitrust claims brought by Sirius XM.
Best career moment:“Whatever the last favorable jury verdict was.”
Gail Migdal Title
Why she matters: Title is giving up litigation to start a new gig as a mediator and arbitrator. But she’s going out with a bang, finally getting an appeals court to throw out a six-year-old suit filed by parapsychologist LarryMontz claiming that her client, NBCUniversal, stole his idea for Ghost Hunters.
Biggest Hollywood tantrum she’s witnessed: All she’ll say is it involved LynnRedgrave’s husband-slash-manager, who sued one of Title’s clients for employment discrimination — and lost.
Why he matters:He’s had his hands full this year, and not just with JustinBieber (in April, Weitzman got a Miami court to rule against a photographer claiming to have been beaten up by Bieber’s bodyguards; last month, he spoke with the L.A. district attorney about its ongoing investigation of charges that Bieber threw eggs at a neighbor’s house). Weitzman also represents the MichaelJackson estate in its continuing battles against sexual-abuse claims as well as a $10 million profit-participation lawsuit from QuincyJones.
Why he matters: The guy who defended South Park against TomCruise's threatened "Trapped in a Closet" lawsuit and singer Samwell in the infamous "What What (in the Butt)" case is still fighting for satirists' rights. He's been pioneering First Amendment case law in the gaming world, too: He helped score a victory for Electronic Arts, blocking former NFL star JimBrown's lawsuit over his likeness being used in the Madden games. (He also reps THR from time to time.)
Best argument he's made: "The ["What What"] argument was one of the most enjoyable. It was great having a panel of appellate court judges who probably weren't in South Park's target demographic [recognize it as parody]."
Why he matters: It’s pretty rare for an entertainment lawyer to argue in front of the Supreme Court. It’s happened to Zavin just once in his 41-year career. The Supremes are expected to hand down a decision any day in the copyright case pitting Zavin’s clients MGM and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment against the daughter of the guy who allegedly wrote the book on which Raging Bull was based.
What he wanted to be growing up: “History teacher.”
Who better to judge the best movies of all time than the people who make them? Studio chiefs, Oscar winners and TV royalty all were surveyed as THR publishes its first definitive entertainment-industry ranking of cinema's most superlative. View gallery