Power Lawyers 2012

Austin Hargrave

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.

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NEW: Kenny Meiselas
Grubman Indursky Shire & Meiselas

Talent dealmaker: You'd think signing Lady Gaga would make a lawyer very happy. But music vet Meiselas was floored in February by another client's sudden death: Whitney Houston. "I was the primary point lawyer and interfaced with the police and dealt with the issues at the scene," recalls the married father of four, who also handles deals for Usher, Mary J. Blige and Nicki Minaj. He now reps the Houston estate. Most challenging moment: Meiselas attended court every day in 2000 when client Sean Combs was on trial for allegedly bribing his driver to claim ownership of a weapon, following gunfire in a club. Combs was acquitted.

Skip Miller
Miller Barondess

Litigation specialist: The veteran litigator for Rod Stewart, Lionel Richie, Axl Rose and others is repping Motley Crue in two trademark infringement cases and another for breach of contract brought by graphic designers. He is awaiting a trial date in a $20 million suit brought by Rose against Activision, which licensed two songs for the video game Guitar Hero and allegedly promised not to involve Rose's estranged former bandmate Slash. (It did.) In January, he settled a $10 million suit against Britney Spears, who had stopped paying royalties on her perfume Radiance to Winstar, a licensing and branding company that had hooked her up with Elizabeth Arden. Miller's sons Dan and Jim now practice at his firm. "It's especially rewarding when you can do it with your own sons," he says. Most satisfying career moment: Miller prevailed in two cases against Michael Jackson for concert promoters. "I won a jury verdict of $7 million and collected every penny," he says. "Then we did an arbitration a couple years later and won $2 million."

Jon Moonves
Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano

Talent dealmaker: The other Moonves does plenty of business with CBS, including repping Leslie's wife, Julie Chen, in her pact for The Talk and Big Brother and handling a big new overall deal for The Good Wife showrunners Robert and Michelle King. The avid poker player spent the spring prepping client Marc Cherry for the wrongful termination trial against Desperate Housewives star Nicollette Sheridan (Cherry was dismissed as a defendant) and moving Cherry's Devious Maids project from ABC to Lifetime. Most satisfying career moment: Ray Romano's roughly $45 million-a-season deal to remain on Everybody Loves Raymond for its eighth and ninth seasons. "It set the record -- and the record still holds -- for the highest episodic salary in the history of television."

Schuyler Moore
Stroock

Corporarte dealmaker: One of the town's top financial minds, Moore estimates he has closed deals worth $1.4 billion during the past year, despite spending a month in the hospital after a motorcycle accident -- his 25th. (He still rides one of his nine bikes to work each day, including an MV Agusta F4, which can hit 200 mph.) He advised Summit Entertainment executives on the sale to Lionsgate and has worked with Exclusive Media as it considers acquiring Millennium Films from Avi Lerner and raises $100 million in film financing. He's also repping Digiboo, an L.A. tech startup that counts Morgan Freeman among its investors. Worst thing ever said to me: "I once rode a motorcycle through the hall of my law firm. I've had that thrown back in my face."

Kevin Morris
Morris Yorn Barnes & Levine

Talent dealmaker: "I got in fights a couple of times," admits Morris. "But as I get older, sometimes I regret being so violent." The rebellious lawyer reps the ultimate anti-establishmentarians, South Park's Trey Parker and Matt Stone. (He just did deals to extend their show through its 20th season and for their national tour of The Book of Mormon.) Growing up with a dad who worked in waste management, the NYU law school grad -- who also reps Mike Judge and Matthew McConaughey -- says he went into law "because I wanted to know what the rules were, so I could break them." How I get leverage: "Deals are like staring contests: Wait it out, then know when to strike."

Marcy Morris
Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austin Mandelbaum Morris & Klein

Talent dealmaker: Morris has a thing for blondes: Cameron Diaz, Kate Hudson and January Jones are clients. This year, she closed deals for Diaz, hot off Bad Teacher, to star opposite Colin Firth in Gambit and join Michael Fassbender and Brad Pitt in Ridley Scott's The Counselor. She also reps breakout stars Chloe Grace Moretz (MGM's Carrie remake) and Victoria Justice (October's Fun Size) and helps hot writer Scott Z. Burns (Contagion). Most satisfying career moment: "Goldie Hawn trusting me to represent her daughter -- and Kate Hudson's great success starting with Almost Famous."

Bob Myman
Myman Greenspan Fineman Fox & Light

Talent dealmaker: "There's this wave of writers and directors now that are going back and forth from television to film," says Myman. He should know: He repped former Lost showrunner Damon Lindelof in pacts to co-write Fox's Prometheus and Disney's supersecret 1952 and join Warner Bros. Television in a three-year overall deal. The former water polo player, who left litigation during the early '80s to rep buddy John Ritter, this year helped Lost director Jack Bender set up genre project Devolution at Legendary; inked new deals for NCIS co-creator Don McGill to run CSI and for Simon Helberg to continue on The Big Bang Theory; and packaged Billy Bob Thornton's Jayne Mansfield's Car. Worst thing ever said to me: "Some guy started screaming at me once, and I said, 'Wait, you're confusing me with your wife.' "

Peter Nelson
Nelson Davis Wetzstein

Talent dealmaker: Peter Jackson's longtime lawyer remains a fierce advocate for directors. Following the success of Mark Wahlberg's Contraband, he sealed a deal for Baltasar Kormakur to direct Denzel Washington and Wahlberg in Two Guns for Universal. Client Andrew Adamson has two films out this year: the James Cameron-produced Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away from Paramount and Mister Pip from Focus. Nelson engineered Jackson's complex Hobbit pacts and a deal for Sony to distribute his West of Memphis doc, and Drive's Nicolas Winding Refn will direct a remake of Logan's Run for Warner Bros. Nelson also finalized a deal for Edgar Wright to direct Ant-Man for Marvel. Worst thing ever said to me: "I was trying to close a deal with [then-president of 20th TV] Peter Roth, and I thought he was going to punch me. Now we send each other end-of-the-year gifts."

Jeanne Newman
Hansen Jacobson Teller Hoberman Newman Warren Richman Rush & Kaller

Talent dealmaker: Matthew Weiner's $30 million Mad Men renegotiation required TV's top female dealmaker to work overtime, but the unique three-season deal with Lionsgate and AMC gave her client everything he wanted. "For the first time, Matt was able to project what's going to happen over three years on the show, which gave him a huge creative opportunity," she notes. "And he got paid." Also getting paid are Newman clients Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz, whose Magical Elves graduated from making reality series like Top Chef to directing the feature Katy Perry: Part of Me. How I get leverage: "Have a bidding war, or pretend you're having a bidding war."

Robert Offer
Sloane Offer Weber & Dern

Talent dealmaker: Angelina Jolie's lawyer must be well-versed in deals for acting roles (Disney's Maleficent), director projects (In the Land of Blood and Honey) and the endorsements in between. The graduate of Santa Monica's Crossroads (classmate Michael Bay is a client) reps an enviable collection of stars including Ryan Gosling, Ashton Kutcher (Offer brokered the pact to bring Kutcher back to Two and a Half Men for about $700,000 an episode) and new Spider-Man Andrew Garfield. Worst thing ever said to me: " 'That seems very reasonable.' It means I'm not doing my job."

Mark Passin
Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi

Litigation specialist: Three years after Passin client Cher filed suit against Universal claiming she and Sonny Bono are owed $5 million in royalties, the case heads to trial in August. Passin, a rare-music litigation specialist, says he'll use the case to challenge record company practices. He's also repping Poison in a copyright action over the song "Talk Dirty to Me." Worst thing ever said to me: Passin recently was in the hospital for surgery, "exchanging e-mails with an executive at a major record label and taking very tough positions. He wrote back, 'Mark, I'm sure it's the drugs you're taking that are making you talk this way.' "

Daniel Petrocelli
O'Melveny & Myers

Litigation specialist: In one month, Petrocelli represented the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. in a trial over broadcast rights to the Golden Globes, appeared on behalf of Warner Bros. at a hearing over who conceived the Tom Cruise hit The Last Samurai and flew to New York for a trial defending Guess against trademark infringement claims from Gucci. He got mixed results (the HFPA lost the first round of its trial, and Gucci beat Guess, but Warners was dismissed from the Samurai case). Now, after settling a major case against Activision over its Call of Duty games, he's focusing on Warners' long-running lawsuit against the heirs of Superman's co-creators and their lawyer, Marc Toberoff. Worst career moment: When a jury pronounced his client, former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, guilty. "That still rings in my ears. You don't want to feel like you've let your client down."

Michael Plonsker
Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi

Litigation specialist: The feisty litigator -- he once had a glass of water thrown in his face at a deposition -- is nearing the end of a years-long legal battle over the Matt Damon movie Margaret, which director Kenneth Lonergan could never complete. The trial is scheduled for October before a private referee after a bond company finished the movie, which was released in October to little notice. He's also representing the family trust that holds Hawaii 5-0 rights against producer George Litto, who claims he should share in profits from the new version. Son Matt has joined the business as an assistant at UTA. My first client: Actress Heather Thomas (married to Skip Brittenham), who was hit by a car. "We tried it in 1989, and I got about a $2.5 million judgment for her. My first jury trial. Great result, great client."

Glenn Pomerantz
Munger Tolles & Olson

Litigation specialist: When CBS sued ABC in June to block the reality show Glass House days before its premiere, the network's owner Disney turned to Pomerantz, who successfully argued against a temporary restraining order by showing the ABC program is different from Big Brother. It's the first high-profile Hollywood spat since Pomerantz returned to his firm from a short stint with the U.S. Department of Justice handling its antitrust case against AT&T's union with T-Mobile. (Their planned merger was dropped.) In August, Pomerantz was successful in stopping Zediva, which bought DVDs and rented them online, on copyright grounds. Hot case: Pomerantz is defending Warner Music in a case that could set how artists are paid for downloads by iTunes.

Bruce Ramer
Gang Tyre Ramer & Brown

Talent dealmaker: Ramer has become one of Hollywood's most respected elder statesmen thanks to a client list that includes Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood, Robert Zemeckis, David O. Russell and Gordon Ramsay. "I can't think of a career more satisfying than entertainment law," he says. "You have more opportunities to solve unique problems." A proud conservative, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and he's a trustee of USC and spearheads its annual entertainment law and business symposium. My legal philosophy: "Honor, integrity and protecting the client's interests."

Ken Richman
Hansen Jacobson Teller Hoberman Newman Warren Richman Rush & Kaller

Talent dealmaker: Throw a dart at a TV schedule and chances are Richman represents a producer, writer or actor on the series. The Harvard Law grad handled The Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons' move to Broadway in Harvey and closed a big two-year deal for Grey's Anatomy co-star Sandra Oh. He helped 30 Rock's Tracy Morgan and exec producer Robert Carlock return for the NBC comedy's final season. His kids, ages 8 and 11, had a recent client tip. "Their favorite show is Disney Channel's Phineas and Ferb, and at their urging, I wound up signing [co-creator] Dan Povenmire," he says. "It was really fun to immerse myself in their world." My first clients: The Dictator co-writers Alec Berg and Jeff Schaffer, who at the time were working on Seinfeld. "They're friends from college."

Lawrence Rose
Gang Tyre Ramer & Brown

Talent dealmaker: Rose has a call-it-as-he-sees-it attitude, whether it comes to his animal-rights work -- he runs his own rescue operation -- or such clients as Ben Stiller, Cameron Crowe, writer Steven Zaillian and The X-Files creator Chris Carter. "The balance of power seems to have momentarily shifted to the side of the corporate powers-to-be," he notes. "The strategic mandate is to figure out a way to change the perception back in the favor of the artist." This year, he closed Stiller's deals for The Watch, a Walter Mitty remake and Night at the Museum 3. Most satisfying career moment: "When something takes off. That happened in the second year of The X-Files. It was a cult show, and all of a sudden it became catastrophically successful."

Kelli Sager
Davis Wright Tremaine

Litigation specialist: The best-known First Amendment advocate on the West Coast won a victory on behalf of The Los Angeles Times and other papers in December, forcing the California State Assembly to disclose secret records about how it spends taxpayer money. She reps Conde Nast, Discovery Communications, Comcast, Turner Broadcasting and A&E Television, which she is defending in a case filed by a man who was filmed in a bar for a reality show featuring Bristol Palin. Most satisfying career moment: Sager repped NBC in a 1999 case in which the California Supreme Court ruled there is a First Amendment right for the media to be present during civil trials.

Stephen Saltzman
Loeb & Loeb

Corporate dealmaker: Saltzman is perhaps the most successful Hollywood deal lawyer in China, representing the Chinese side in Galloping Horse Film Co.'s $50 million investment in a co-production joint venture with the Digital Domain Media Group. He also did much of the legal work behind New Pictures' $90 million-budgeted The Flowers of War, including the deal for star Christian Bale. My dream client: His 14-year-old son, Joss, an aspiring singer-composer. "To be able to bring my professional skills to bear would be icing on the cake, though he would be a demanding client."

Stephen Scharf
O'Melveny & Myers

Corporate dealmaker: One of Hollywood's top "big deal" dealmakers, Scharf represented Legendary Pictures in setting up Legendary East, a joint venture with China's Huayi Bros. that will produce English-language films. He also worked on the slate financing deal between StudioCanal and Anton Capital Entertainment and helped finance the upcoming Hobbit. My first client: All in the Family, where he got court approval for child actors. "For a beginning lawyer, it was very exciting."

Ira Schreck
Schreck Rose Dapello &Adams

Corporate dealmaker: Schreck, name partner at his film-focused New York firm, likes to say that he represents both Hollywood clients and their dreams. It's an approach that has helped him lure NYC-centric talent including Sarah Jessica Parker, Jim Sheridan, Ang Lee and Kevin James. Most satisfying career moment: When Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was screened for the first time in 2000 at Cannes: "The reaction of the audience was tingling, it was goosebumps. … There was an extended standing ovation."

Robert Schwartz
O'Melveny & Myers

Litigation specialist: Schwartz has become a go-to video game litigator. In May, at the start of a trial against Activision over $1 billion in Call of Duty revenue, he settled on terms favorable to clients Jason West and Vince Zampella, the property's creators. He also forced Atari last fall to settle with Hasbro over Dungeons & Dragons rights. Worst thing ever said to me: In 1989, Charlie Sheen called "screaming" from Tokyo when studio lawyer Schwartz rejected his demand for a $5,000 bonus to promote Major League: "He said, 'Listen, you motherf--ing ass, I'm going to come over there and beat the shit out of you.' I just laughed, and he got more pissed off."

NEW: P.J. Shapiro
Ziffren Brittenham

Talent dealmaker: Ziffren's youngest capital partner knows about being part of a team -- a "skunk" team. That's a term he learned from his dad, a tough Israeli immigrant. "He was involved with the Skunk Works project, a top-secret group that handled airplanes at Lockheed Martin," recalls the married father of three. Shapiro's dad wanted him to go into medicine, but he picked dentistry, then switched to law and business at USC. As a result, he's the only lawyer in town who has passed the MCAT, the DAT, the LSAT and the GMAT. Hot clients include Justin Timberlake, Emma Stone, Selena Gomez and actress-writer Mindy Kaling. Most satisfying career moment: Selling Sacha Baron Cohen's Bruno to Universal for producer client Media Rights Capital. "I was just a few years out of school, and the heads of the studios were calling and yelling at me, trying to convince me why their studios were right for the film. I remember pacing in my office, late on a Friday, and achieving what at the time was a cutting-edge deal. I finished and thought, 'Wow!' "

Nina Shaw
Del Shaw Moonves Tanaka Finkelstein & Lezcano

Talent dealmaker: Arguably the most prominent African-American talent lawyer in Hollywood, Shaw is especially proud this year of client Ava DuVernay, who became the first black woman to win the best directing prize at Sundance for Middle of Nowhere. Shaw also closed the complex deal for Arsenio Hall to return to late-night TV in 2013. And Jamie Foxx, star of Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained, could enjoy a busy awards season. Shaw's other clients include Laurence Fishburne, Nick Cannon, James Earl Jones and Cedric the Entertainer. My first client: Benson writer/producer Bill Boulware. "I was set up with Bill on a blind date but we decided we're better off as attorney and client!"

Jason Sloane
Sloane Offer Weber & Dern

Talent dealmaker: Sloane's partnership with Robert Offer, David Weber and Warren Dern is often referred clients directly from the major talent agencies. He'll be first in line to see The Dark Knight Rises July 20 since clients Tom Hardy, Morgan Freeman and Anne Hathaway co-star, and he recently inked deals for Amy Adams and Hugh Jackman, among others. Worst thing ever said to me: "No."

Orin Snyder
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

Litigation specialist: The former federal prosecutor says his recent victory on behalf of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg over a man who claimed to be half owner of the social-networking site is "a good example of what happens when a company refuses to give in to a shakedown." The New York-based litigator and political junkie (he raises money for Democrats) in March got a claim dismissed on First Amendment grounds against Barbara Walters over her reference in a 2008 biography to her daughter's friend getting kicked out of school for "bad behavior." He's repping Nancy Grace in a $15 million contract dispute with a former colleague and recently resolved a dispute between ESPN and his client, Conference USA, after it moved broadcast rights to Fox. Worst thing ever said to me: In the Facebook case, lawyers for the plaintiff sought to prevent Snyder from participating in calls with them. "They said I was too aggressive. The judge denied their request."

Larry Stein
Liner Grode Stein Yankelevitz Sunshine Regenstreif & Taylor

Litigation specialist: Stein could be considered a trendsetter: He brought some of the earliest cases for actors to renegotiate long-term contracts (The Dukes of Hazzard cast, Gary Coleman), TV talent challenging vertical integration between studios and networks (Home Improvement, The X-Files) and the protection of formats in reality television (Wipeout). So what's next? He's been auditing on behalf of TV showrunners over licensing income on digital channels such as Hulu and Netflix. My legal philosophy: "I look at areas where change is necessary and instigate litigation to effectuate the change. When I started out, I wanted to do civil liberties and felt guilty for representing wealthy clients. I now try to protect creative people because I feel there's justice there."

Gary Stiffelman
Ziffren Brittenham

Litigation specialist: Stiffelman's clients are among the biggest and most profitable gamblers. From his early days representing Prince ("He was game for anything"), The Rolling Stones and Beach Boys to more recent achievements with Trent Reznor, the lawyer who once was called "an intellectual bully" by former Columbia Records chief Donnie Ienner relishes the role of radical thinker. Worst thing ever said to me: "When a client says, 'I signed this, is it OK?' That's when I tell them, 'I have obviously not done my job' -- because my job is to make sure they never sign anything that I haven't approved."

 

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