Power Lawyers 2012
Meet Tom Cruise's protector, Ryan Seacrest's dealmaker and the woman keeping Lindsay Lohan out of jail as THR reveals the top 100 entertainment attorneys in America.
How the List is Chosen: To determine Hollywood's 100 most influential attorneys (in alphabetical order), THR canvassed the biggest deals and cases of the past year. Lawyers were broken down into four categories -- talent dealmakers, litigators, corporate dealmakers and "troubleshooters" (divorce or criminal matters) -- and evaluated against their peers based on cases won/nature of deals closed as well as their reputation within the entertainment legal community. In-house studio, network or talent agency lawyers are not eligible (it's too difficult to gauge influence within a corporate structure). Profiles written by Matthew Belloni, Alex Ben Block, Paul Bond, Tina Daunt, Stephen Galloway, Eriq Gardner, Lesley Goldberg, Shirley Halperin, Borys Kit, Pamela McClintock, Daniel Miller and Lacey Rose.
Hansen Jacobson Teller Hoberman Newsman Warren Richman Rush & Kaller
Talent dealmaker: It's been 25 years since Jacobson co-founded one of Hollywood's most prolific talent firms, and his client list remains nearly peerless. This year, the married father of three closed Ryan Seacrest's megapacts to stay with American Idol (at $15 million a year) and take an expanded role at Comcast; negotiated a new contract for NBCUniversal's Bonnie Hammer; handled producer Mark Gordon's Disney overall deal; and helped Magic Mike star Channing Tatum co-finance the surprise hit. My first client :TV producer Michael Dinner, whom he signed in 1979 or 1980. "He was at AFI filming a short based on Miss Lonelyhearts."
Litigation specialist: The veteran New York-based lawyer who once won a copyright infringement trial against George Harrison over "My Sweet Lord" now handles deals and litigation, though he's generated Hollywood news mostly on the lawsuit front lately. He won a summary judgment dismissal of a case claiming copyright infringement against Sylvester Stallone, Lionsgate and Nu-Image over the script for The Expendables and had the unenviable task of representing Courtney Love in one of her Twitter defamation lawsuits. (They no longer work together.) Worst thing ever said to me: " 'I want you to throw in the Jaguar for free.' That was Roger Corman's lawyer during negotiations to buy his company."
Talent dealmaker: Representing Tyler Perry is a full-time business. The mega-grossing multihyphenate operates his own Atlanta-based studio, requiring Johnson to be in the office each day before 7:30 a.m. to manage it all. "I find this quiet, uninterrupted time in the mornings very helpful," says the father of three (with a fourth on the way), who is active with the Los Angeles Boys and Girls Club and launched an industry-oriented fund-raising drive this year. He reps 21 Jump Street filmmakers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller as well as Sacha Baron Cohen and sports stars like Baron Davis. How I get leverage: "Before any negotiation, I spend time thinking about where the leverage points are, both on my side and on the opposing side."
Johnson & Johnson
Litigation specialist: Johnson is fearless about taking on the biggest studio players. He's representing older actors such as Richard Dreyfuss and Mike Connors (Mannix) in profit-sharing disputes. He has sued for groups like The Temptations over digital music royalties, and he's fighting rapper Drake for using recorded phone calls in a song and not sharing credit. Having represented more individuals than any other attorney in civil lawsuits emanating from the Anthony Pellicano wiretapping affair, he just became involved in a suit against Tom Cruise and lawyer Bert Fields for their own alleged roles. At L.A. nightclubs, catch him performing with his folk-rock band Trevor McShane. Most satisfying career moment: Johnson won a California Supreme Court decision against ABC's Primetime Live over covert taping by a reporter. "We fought long and hard, and the odds were difficult, but the victory really advanced the law of privacy and now is taught in law schools everywhere."
Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton
Litigation specialist: One of Hollywood's most aggressive studio litigators, Katz scored a big win in April when a judge sided with his client Dick Clark Productions in its battle with the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. over the future of the Golden Globes telecast. An appeal and a second phase of the trial still are pending, but Katz's client likely will be entitled to produce the NBC broadcast for years to come thanks to his handiwork. The ardent swimmer also reps Sony and Disney in ongoing matters, including the appeal of a $300 million-plus jury verdict over profits from Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Worst thing ever said to me: "Are you Martin Katz the jeweler?"
Debevoise & Plimpton
Litigation specialist: When the major TV network execs heard that Barry Diller's new streaming service Aereo would transmit their content digitally, Keller got a phone call. The New York-based litigator specializes in such high-profile IP fights, including repping book publishers against Google over book scanning and the NFL to protect the league's copyrights and trademarks. This year, he was hired by THR's parent company to handle an ongoing dispute with the owner of Nikki Finke's blog -- which we promise didn't influence whether he made the list. Most satisfying career moment: Keller was on vacation while repping Sony against someone who was trying to stop a Spider-Man film from being released. "I was running back and forth from the beach to work on the briefs. My son says: 'We're on vacation. Why are you working?' I said, 'Spider-Man needs my help!' "
NEW: Richard Kendall
Kendall Brill & Klieger
Litigation specialist: The rare Hollywood litigator who has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court (twice!), Kendall in October won a big defense verdict for longtime client Paramount against a financier of best picture Oscar winner No Country for Old Men that claimed it was cheated out of profits that instead went to star Tommy Lee Jones. He's also repping the studio in a closely watched case filed by the financial backer of the Melrose slate of films, including Transformers, and he's going toe-to-toe with the estate of author Mario Puzo over the future of Paramount's Godfather franchise. In May, the former Irell & Manella partner (he left in 2009 to start his current firm) settled on the eve of trial a $1 billion claim against client Electronic Arts by Activision and Call of Duty video game creators Jason West and Vince Zampella. Worst thing ever said to me: "One Christmas Eve, a disappointed bankruptcy counsel said, after I rejected his demand: 'Someday you will come to me hat in hand, and I will piss in your hat.' My hat is still dry."
King Holmes Paterno & Berliner
Litigation specialist: Dr. Dre's longtime lawyer faced a unique challenge when the rap mogul wanted to stage a hologram performance by Tupac Shakur at this year's Coachella festival. "Our job was to clear the compositions and use of the master recordings," notes King, "as well as negotiate the multiple vendor contracts required to implement Dre's vision." King also successfully voided pop star Kesha's contract with a former manager and settled a case over the failure to fund a Wesley Snipes movie that included depositions on three continents. My first client: Russian actor Alexander Godunov. "The only preparation he needed for a deposition or settlement meeting was a cold bottle of vodka."
Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert
Litigation specialist: Kinsella was roundly cheered in Hollywood when a judge in October dismissed a lawsuit against Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal for allegedly stealing an Army soldier's story to make The Hurt Locker. The veteran litigator is looking to follow up on that win in two other closely watched cases. He's representing the creators of Smallville in a suit against Warner Bros. for allegedly licensing the show to sister network CW at artificially low fees. He also brought a pending lawsuit on behalf of American Idol creator Simon Fuller that alleges his client was promised an executive producer credit and fee for the U.S. version of The X Factor. My dream client: President Obama, after he leaves office. "I'd get to take advantage of attorney-client privilege to hear what he has had to deal with."
Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris & Klein
Talent dealmaker: Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Paul Rudd, Jim Carrey: Klein boasts an all-star comic actor client list. Ferrell's August comedy The Campaign already is generating heat, while Klein sealed the deal for Ferrell to star in Anchorman 2 for Paramount. Vaughn stars in Fox's upcoming comedy The Watch as well as The Internship (based on Vaughn's original idea), and Rudd is soon in theaters with This Is 40. Samuel L. Jackson, the odd non-comedy client, is riding high with the $1.4 billion-grossing The Avengers. Resume highlight: In 2007, Carrey was one of the first top stars to significantly reduce his upfront fee on Yes Man in exchange for a big slice of profits. Today the practice is the norm.
Talent dealmaker: Lande has spent a lot of time in China in the past year representing China Branding Group, a company that helps Western artists such as Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and Justin Timberlake gain exposure in the market through social media. "There is no Facebook or Twitter there," he says. "CBG helps artists translate their Twitter and Facebook content into Chinese and push it to the local companies." He also renegotiated Linkin Park's deal with Warner Bros. Records, Shakira's relationship with Sony and a promotional arrangement between Alicia Keys and Citibank, but it's the emerging markets that seem to excite him most. "The importance of social media in China is more than in the U.S. The under-40 generation doesn't watch TV because it's so government-censored that it's not interesting." My first client: Mike Tyson. "I worked with him for five years. It was exciting, fast-paced and incredibly challenging."
Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp
Litigation specialist: A trusted studio-side employment law specialist, Levin is representing ABC in its slugfest with fired Desperate Housewives actress Nicollette Sheridan. (A jury failed to reach a verdict in March, but an appeals court put a planned retrial in jeopardy by suggesting a directed verdict should have been issued in ABC's favor on key issues.) He's also defending the network in a case alleging racial discrimination in the contestant selection process for The Bachelor, and he successfully got 20th Television dismissed from a case over who created the USA hit White Collar. The yoga nut claims he comes up with his best arguments while inverted during hourlong sessions. "It really helps clear your head and crystallize your thoughts," he says. Worst thing ever said to me: "We were able to get our hands on e-mails from a lawyer who referred to me as an arrogant prick. Which I took offense to. I'm not arrogant nor a prick."
Lichter Grossman Nichols Adler & Feldman
Talent dealmaker: The sharp-tongued indie-film mainstay has had a big year representing filmmakers behind Sundance hits Arbitrage and Beasts of the Southern Wild, the latter of which is an early Oscar contender. She represents the Beasts filmmaking collective, Court 13, and writer-director Benh Zeitlin, and she advised on the sale of the film to Fox Searchlight for $1 million plus a significant marketing commitment. "I was amazed with Beasts because … who knew?" she says. Other clients include World War Z director Marc Forster and the The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo rightsholders. Worst thing ever said to me: "Ah, there are so many."
Irell & Manella
Litigation specialist: Marenberg's year was spent preparing Activision for trial in the $1 billion profits case over Call of Duty, which settled in May. Now he's pressing Fox for Alvin and the Chipmunks owner Bagdasarian Productions, which claims its owner contributed to the script of 2009's Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel but received no compensation. He's also eyeing an October trial date for client UMG Recordings in a potential $100 million case against NBCUniversal over a 2008 fire on the Universal backlot that destroyed UMG master recordings. Resume highlight: The influential legal directory Chambers & Partners called Marenberg "reassuring and strategically excellent."
Hirsch Wallerstein Hayum Matlof & Fishman
Talent dealmaker: Matlof is building a cottage industry out of cutting-edge rights deals: He sold the sequel rights for Blade Runner to Alcon, with Ridley Scott attached to direct, and set up client Brian McGreevey's book Hemlock Grove as a Netflix series. "It's new territory," he says of the digital streaming service. "The parameters are different, and it allows us to be more creative, which is when it gets fun." Among the others keeping the father of two young boys occupied: Maya Rudolph, Aaron Eckhart and producer Mary Parent. My first client: Screenwriter Clay Tarver (Joy Ride). "He was in a band and is now again in a post-punk band called Chavez."
Aronson Mayefsky & Sloan
Troubleshooter: The New York-based family law specialist is behind the divorce of the year. Representing Katie Holmes (with Jonathan Wolfe) against Tom Cruise, Mayefsky shrewdly filed in New York, where Holmes would have a greater shot at full custody of daughter Suri, and he put Cruise's legal team on the defensive by rushing to the courthouse without notifying them first. The result: a quick settlement that gives Holmes full custody (with visitation rights for Cruise). The aggressive moves are characteristic of Mayefsky's strategy in big-ticket marriage dissolutions. This year, he repped New York architect Peter Cook in his nasty split from Christie Brinkley, which spawned a prolonged custody battle that settled in January on the eve of trial. Resume highlight: Mayefsky is president of the New York chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Loeb & Loeb
Corporate dealmaker: Mayerson has been at the forefront of a recent explosion in deals to provide funds for prints and advertising of movies, including a $150 million fund for Endgame Releasing. He also assisted Ryan Kavanaugh's Relativity Media in three transactions with Colbeck Capital and Ron Burkle. "It's an area where there was always a lot of talk and not much walk," says Mayerson, but "the world has changed dramatically over the last 18 months." Netflix hired him for finance deals after being impressed by his work for Relativity, and he reps financier Indian Paintbrush, which recently backed the Wes Anderson hit Moonrise Kingdom. My obsession: Mayerson listens to college courses, most recently one on the history of Africa, while driving to work.
McKuin Frankel Whitehead
Talent dealmaker: McKuin has repped Kristen Stewart since she was 11 -- and this year, the Twilight and Snow White and the Huntsman star was listed as the highest-paid actress by Forbes. "Lawyers can't pat themselves on the back for this," he says. "It's talented people, and they've put in hard work, and the stars have aligned." The Harvard Law grad made the whopping $3 million deal for James Vanderbilt's screenplay White House Down -- the top script sale of 2012 so far -- which will star Channing Tatum. Longtime TV client Josh Schwartz (Gossip Girl, Hart of Dixie) is about to make his feature directorial debut with October's Fun Size. Of course, McKuin's biggest accomplishment of the year was the birth of his second child, daughter Sena. Most satisfying career moment: Staring his own firm at 28, 2-1/2 years out of law school. "Doing our own thing was really when I started to enjoy my career."
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