General counsels wield increasing influence
Senior executive vp, general counsel and secretary, the Walt Disney Co.
Promoted to the top job in 2003 after climbing the ladder at ABC, this former Washington litigator at Wilmer Cutler & Pickering now oversees all aspects of Disney's worldwide legal affairs, reporting directly to CEO Bob Iger.
Executive vp and general counsel, Universal Studios
In addition to running all legal operations for the studio and its theme parks, Christensen -- a genial former litigator who took the top job in 2005 -- leads the push for anti-piracy legislation and regulation worldwide.
Executive vp, Fox Filmed Entertainment and Fox Entertainment Group
Fox is unusual in that it has no general counsel. As its top attorney in Los Angeles, Gelfan wears two hats, reporting to Peter Chernin on the corporate side and studio chiefs Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos. This 25-year studio vet -- first with Paramount, then with Fox since 1994 -- oversees litigation as well as dealmaking.
Executive vp, general counsel and secretary, MGM
Packman has an M.B.A as well as a law degree, which helps him advise MGM on how to best exploit the world's largest modern film library. Before joining the studio in 2002, he worked for a software company and cut his teeth at O'Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles and Rogers & Wells in New York.
Executive vp and general counsel, Paramount Pictures
In the top job six years, Prentice focuses more on deals than litigation, which suits her background as a partner for 10 years at the Shearman & Sterling firm, specializing in corporate finance and mergers.
Executive vp and general counsel, Warner Bros. Pictures
The longest-tenured and most powerful of the general counsels has spent nearly 25 years in the post. A former litigator -- he still shows up in court now and then -- Schulman presides over a legal department more than 125 lawyers deep.
Senior executive vp and general counsel, Sony Pictures Entertainment
Sony's general counsel practiced on her own for a few years before taking an entry-level position at the studio in 1996 and ascending to the top job only five years later. She now oversees all legal matters worldwide.