Power Lawyers 2012

8:30 AM 7/18/2012

by THR staff

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.

Meiselas on Houston
Austin Hargrave

“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. He now reps the Houston estate.

This story first appeared in the July 27 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

To mix things up for this year’s Power Lawyers issue — THR’s list of the top U.S. entertainment attorneys — the honorees were asked to answer a short questionaire.

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One query consistently provoked the most interesting responses: “What’s the worst thing someone has said to you?” From the funny (Barry Hirsch: “You mean, besides ‘F—you?’ ”) to the heartfelt (litigator Patty Glaser noted the “unprintable” insults “from the mouths of really insecure men”), Hollywood lawyers put up with a lot of negativity.

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In fact, if there’s one quality each attorney in this issue shares, it’s the ability to solve high-profile problems against great odds, whether it’s settling a major divorce in less than a week (as Bert Fields and Allan Mayefsky did in July for Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, respectively), saving a deal that’s about to fall apart (as Jeanne Newman did for Mad Men’s Matthew Weiner) or being first on the scene when a client dies (as Kenny Meiselas was with Whitney Houston).

In its sixth year, the Power Lawyers issue has become a de facto guide- book to Hollywood’s biggest problems. But after reading about these intelligent, aggressive advocates, it’s hard not to be optimistic about the industry’s ability to solve them.

STORY: Diary of Tom Cruise's Lawyer: 10 Days, 200 Phone Calls and 30 Letters

How the List Was 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).

  • Karl Austen

    Austen is like a parent who takes great pride in his kids. Jonah Hill scored an Oscar nom for Moneyball and an unlikely blockbuster in 21 Jump Street (he next co-stars with Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street); Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane proved he’s a movie director with Ted; and Joseph Gordon-Levitt co-stars in The Dark Knight Rises and is making his directorial debut. Says Austen, “It’s fun to represent creative, cool, relevant and expanding clients.”

    ? My first client Cloverfield director Matt Reeves, whom Austen signed out of film school.

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  • John Branca

    Branca reps an astounding 29 members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, including The Rolling Stones, Carlos Santana, The Beach Boys, Fleetwood Mac, The Bee Gees and The Doors. The onetime musician, who collects Ferraris, also consulted for Sony on the $2.2 billion purchase of EMI Music Publishing and serves as the co-executor of the Michael Jackson estate, for which he has helped generate hundreds of millions of dollars via innovative deals for ventures like the Michael Jackson Immortal world tour, the No. 1 touring show in North American history.


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  • Skip Brittenham

    THR gets the first look in the upcoming graphic novel Anomaly, an ex-soldier from Earth becomes stranded on a distant planet filled with aliens and other dangers in the year 2717. It might be a familiar setup to sci-fi fans, but what’s unusual is the book’s co-author: Skip Brittenham, the legendary Hollywood deal lawyer whose clients include Ridley and Tony Scott, Eddie Murphy and more. Brittenham, a lifelong comic book collector, says he decided to tackle the project at the urging of his wife, be released in October in hardcover as well as an interactive tablet app version. And Brittenham being Brittenham, he’s got a fresh business plan for his creation. He and Haberlin plan to release the book via their own publishing company, Anomaly Productions, and retain all rights, with producer client Joe Roth (Alice in Wonderland) developing the property as a movie before taking it to studios. Says Brittenham, “We’re trying to rethink part of the publishing business.”


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  • Harold Brown

    Brown entered Steven Spielberg's life when the filmmaker was negotiating with Universal to make E.T. The lawyer, whose mother also practiced with his firm, has worked there since 1976 and admits to sometimes living vicariously through his clients. "There are a few times where I can honestly say to myself in the mirror, 'I really changed that person's life,' " he says. This year, Brown helped Robert Zemeckis make his return to live-action movies with December's Denzel Washington drama Flight, inked a bunch of deals for Dwayne Johnson, extended Craig Ferguson's deal with CBS and helped director George Miller set up Fury Road, the fourth installment of the Mad Max franchise.

    ? Worst thing ever said to me "I had a guy who, after lying to me three times, said to me, 'You can't blame me for trying.' Well, actually, I can!"

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  • Melanie Cook

    Catching up with Cook isn't easy: She took THR's call in Shanghai, shortly after visiting longtime client Keanu Reeves on the Hong Kong set of his directorial debut, Man of Tai Chi. The daughter of a Southern California judge also works overtime for Frankenweenie filmmaker Tim Burton, MiB 3 director Barry Sonnenfeld and producer Scott Rudin, who this year won another Tony (for Death of a Salesman) and launched HBO's The Newsroom. She inked new client Carey Mulligan's deal to star in the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, negotiated for Nancy Meyers to write and direct The Intern with Tina Fey and planned trips to Chile (to ski) and Costa Rica (to surf). She's also a big booster of THR's Big Brother/Big Sister mentorship program, with a scholarship set up in her mother's name.

    ? Worst thing ever said to me "Not the worst thing, but the most hilarious was when [music lawyer] David Braun told me when I was just starting to practice that I had balls!"


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  • Craig Emanuel

    Emanuel's longtime client Ryan Murphy can't stop pumping out hit shows -- Fox's Glee, Oxygen's reality spinoff The Glee Project, FX's anthology drama American Horror Story and NBC's upcoming comedy The New Normal, the first three of which earned additional season orders. "You anticipate one to two shows; you don't expect four different projects on the air at once," says the Australia native and avid biker, backpacker and photographer. He reps Cirque du Soleil in its expansion into TV as well as filmmakers Robert Rodriguez and Tony Gilroy and Transformers producer Don Murphy.

    ? My first client "One of my first clients was Paul Hogan, whom I started representing before he went into production on Crocodile Dundee. To this day, he's still a client and a friend."


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  • Patti Felker

    Felker calls this the “year of crossover success,” citing film and TV producer clients Dan Fogelman, Greg Berlanti and Kevin Williamson. “They’re literally doing everything simultaneously,” she boasts. So is longtime client Jeremy Renner, who she  half-jokingly suggests is “in everything,” including August’s The Bourne Legacy. The dresseddown New York native — she was spotted at the June Ted premiere wearing her trademark sweat pants — often gets together with friends to play games like Rummikub and Quiddler. To her dismay, she’s had to scale back on her other hobby, bowling, but her average is an impressive 167.

    ? Most satisfying career moment “When I told writer-producer Phil Rosenthal he could live with me. We had grown up together in New City, New York, and I saw him on the street one day. He told me he was leaving L.A. because he hadn’t found work. I just believed in him, and I told him he could move in. He lived with me for a year [then went on to create Everybody Loves Raymond].”


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  • Sam Fischer

    Fischer reps Simon Cowell and his Syco joint venture with Sony Music, so he must have a great Cowell story, right? "There are too many," he says, "and none of them I can tell." In addition to bringing The X Factor to the U.S., Fischer reps The Office maestro Greg Daniels, who is developing an animation block for NBC; The Avengers director Joss Whedon ("Marvel has an option for Avengers 2, and hopefully he'll direct that," he says); and publishing house Conde Nast, which is looking to increase its Hollywood footprint. In a sign of how respected Fischer's skills are, CBS CEO Les Moonves asked him to negotiate a post-term production deal for when the mogul eventually leaves his current job. "It was actually a pretty easy negotiation," Fischer says.

    ? My first client Director Phillip Noyce, "right after he did Dead Calm."


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  • Howard Fishman

    In summer 2011, Fishman found himself face to face with a wolf. "We bought a lakeside cottage in Wisconsin, where I'm from, and this wolf was 15 yards away from me," he recalls. So the USC Law grad drove 50 miles to the nearest Wal-Mart to buy "bear spray," only to find "it was the size of a fire extinguisher." So he instead decided to carry a whistle, which might come in handy when Fishman deals with the two-legged wolves in Hollywood ("much more dangerous," he jokes). The laid-back surfer closed such high-profile deals as Rachel McAdams' for The Vow, Noomi Rapace's for Prometheus and Hailee Steinfeld's for Ender's Game, while also repping Clive Owen and Rachel Weisz.

    ? My legal philosophy "Stay calm and try not to get emotional."


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  • David Fox

    Fox's work for Jon Cryer resulted in the Two and a Half Men stalwart returning for the upcoming 10th season for just under $700,000 an episode -- or about $15 million. A die-hard surfer and Los Angeles Dodgers fan, he also closed deals for filmmakers Gavin Hood (Wolverine) to write and direct Summit's Ender's Game and Christopher McQuarrie to tackle Tom Cruise's Jack Reacher.

    ? Most satisfying career moment Fox repped Saw filmmakers James Wan and Leigh Whannell when they arrived from Australia with a hot script. "We had a lot of traditional offers from traditional buyers, and we had one crazy offer from an independent. I convinced these kids to bet on themselves, and instead of taking upfront fees, they took a significant piece of the gross backend, and Saw went on to become one of the most successful independent films in history."


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  • Michael Gendler

    At the Emmys in September, Gendler will be rooting for Showtime's Homeland a little louder than most: He reps co-creators Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa, part of a stellar roster of showrunners (Sons of Anarchy's Kurt Sutter, David E. Kelley), acting icons (Meryl Streep, Steve Martin) and filmmakers (Rob Marshall, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci). The father of two, who recently added actor Chris Pine as a client, cites loyalty as his guiding mantra. "The most satisfying part of the practice is being with people for the evolution of their careers, the ups and the downs." ? My first client Gendler signed Kelley back when he was a staff writer on L.A. Law.


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  • Cliff Gilbert-Lurie

    Dick Wolf's longtime lawyer shepherded the superproducer's upcoming Chicago Fire and his reality series Stars Earn Stripes, both for NBC. And he's become a go-to negotiator for TV creators. Gilbert-Lurie handled Bruce Helford's pact to executive produce Charlie Sheen's FX sitcom Anger Management, he helped move John Walsh's America's Most Wanted from Fox to Lifetime, and client Claire Danes is earning Emmy buzz for her Showtime series Homeland (Gilbert-Lurie is about to start renegotiating her contract). He and partner Sam Fischer recently branched out to rep tech giant Microsoft.

    ? My first client Wolf, whom he signed about 25 years ago. "Our first meeting was at Universal, where Dick watched me negotiate against Shel Mittleman and his team. Dick called me later and said he loved my 'iron hand in the velvet glove' approach, and we've been together ever since."

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  • Ira Schreck

    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."


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  • Eric Greenspan

    With two longtime clients inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year (Red Hot Chili Peppers and Slash), Greenspan proves that three-plus decades of experience bridging old-school strategy with future-forward reinvention is the path to longevity. His firm also reps hot young pop star Justin Bieber and multihyphenate Jennifer Lopez.

    ? Most satisfying career moment “Moving the Chili Peppers from Sony’s EMI to Warner Bros. in 1990.” They have since sold 65 million records.


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  • Tom Hansen

    Hansen and the firm he co-founded 25 years ago long have been at the center of Hollywood's biggest successes. This year, his longtime client Robert Downey Jr. reportedly will make more than $50 million from the $1.4 billion success of The Avengers, a testament to Hansen's loyalty to Downey when he was struggling (Hansen also reps Mel Gibson). When he's not fishing in Jackson Hole, Wyo., he has been instrumental in his firm's increasing role as a type of Hollywood boutique investment bank, guiding some of the town's most intricate deals from conception to completion.

    ? My legal philosophy "You just have to believe in someone's talent. You have to be willing to hang with them and understand the process and be supportive and not judgmental."


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  • Alan Hergott

    Brad Pitt, Russell Crowe, Jake Gyllenhaal: Hergott has handled perhaps more leading-men actor deals than anyone in town. The avid art collector brokered Crowe's pacts for the forthcoming Les Miserables, Noah and Winter's Tale while also hammering out Shane Black's deal to write and direct Iron Man 3 and shepherding producer Kathleen Kennedy's move into the co-chair slot at Lucasfilm. On the TV side, Hergott represents True Blood showrunner Alan Ball, who will leave the show after season five. "That's another big valedictory thing," says Hergott. "It has been a huge thing in Alan's creative and professional life for years."

    ? My first client "When I started doing this, [then-boss] Tom Pollock was so generous with me -- throwing clients at me and expecting me to sink or swim."


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  • Barry Hirsch

    After 50-plus years in practice (his first client was Raquel Welch), Hirsch still got excited about finding a U.S. distributor for producer Thomas Langmann's little film The Artist. "We had a black-and-white silent movie that we all knew was great, but we had to make sure the buyer knew that," he notes of the eventual best picture Oscar winner. "We chose Harvey [Weinstein] because we knew he would put it across to the Academy and get it noticed." The fierce negotiator and licensed therapist (he married client Julia Roberts to Danny Moder in 2004) says the two careers complement each other. "I understand human behavior through my studies in psychology," he says, helping secure innovative deals for such clients as Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer and Sofia Coppola.

    ? Worst thing ever said to me "You mean, aside from 'F-- you'?"


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  • Jim Jackoway

    Jackoway switched from Wall Street to Hollywood in 1979 but didn't leave his cold-blooded negotiation style behind. The avid fisherman, who orchestrated client David Letterman's 1993 move from NBC to CBS, this year closed the host's two-year contract extension that will allow him to surpass Johnny Carson as TV's longest-tenured late-night host. With partner Karl Austen, he also helped move client Seth MacFarlane from TV to movies with Ted, negotiated for Sex and the City's Michael Patrick King to launch 2 Broke Girls on CBS and secured a fall NBC pickup for J.J. Abrams' upcoming Revolution.

    ? Most satisfying career moment The Aug. 30, 1993, debut of Late Show With David Letterman. "I wrote the first three words of that premiere, delivered by the actor formerly known as Larry 'Bud' Melman: 'THIS IS CBS!' "


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  • Craig Jacobson

    George Washington University Law School

    Why he matters: Jacobson is the man behind some of the industry’s most powerful women, having negotiated hefty new deals for A&E Networks’ incoming CEO Nancy Dubuc, NBCUniversal’s cable chairman Bonnie Hammer and Warner Bros. marketing chief Sue Kroll. Other clients include ever-busy Ryan Seacrest, rising star Channing Tatum and Ben Silverman’s Electus.

    Big deal: Earlier this year, he joined the board of media conglomerate Tribune Co., which emerged from bankruptcy in late 2012. He says he was lured by the opportunity to be part of a corporate makeover under CEO Peter Liguori and to be able to make pivotal decisions about the future of such challenged businesses as newspapers and local TV stations. “It’s fun to be at the table thinking about that,” he says. “They are big questions with big answers and big ramifications.”

  • Matthew Johnson

    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 think- ing about where the leverage points are, both on my side and on the opposing side.”


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  • Joel Katz

    Representing music legends (James Brown and Willie Nelson, among them) and two of music’s biggest awards shows — the Grammys and the CMAs — Atlanta-based Katz leads an army of 78 entertainment lawyers at one of the industry’s biggest firms. The goal, says Katz, who sold his practice to Greenberg Traurig more than a decade ago, is to “have a global entertainment firm.” At this year’s Grammys, Katz was tasked with clearing rights for songs used during a last-minute tribute for Whitney Houston, who had died the night before. “It’s Saturday night in L.A., how do you get the licenses? Who do you talk to? But we got all the licenses done.”

    ? Best perk Recording Academy work means Katz gets prime seats at the Grammys, but he rarely takes advantage. “Unfortunately, most of my time is spent backstage handling problems.”


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  • Deborah Klein

    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.

    ? Résumé 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.


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  • David Lande

    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.”


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  • Linda Lichter

    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.”


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  • David Matlof

    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.”


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  • Kenny Meiselas

    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.


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  • Joel McKuin

    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 ½ years out of law school. "Doing our own thing was really when I started to enjoy my career."


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  • Jon Moonves

    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."


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  • Kevin Morris

    "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."


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  • Marcy Morris

    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."


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  • Bob Myman

    "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.' "


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  • Peter Nelson

    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."


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  • Jeanne Newman

    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."


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  • Robert Offer

    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."


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  • Don Passman

    Passman wrote the book on the music industry. His All You Need to Know About the Music Business, now in its seventh edition, draws on his years of experience. During the ’90s, Passman negotiated two of the largest signings ever — R.E.M. with Warner Bros. and Janet Jackson with Virgin/EMI.

    ? How I get leverage “It comes from relationships and from sophistication — knowing what to ask and how to ask for it and presenting what you want in a way that’s compelling.”


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  • Lee Phillips

    Phillips’ track record goes back to Sonny and Cher in the 1960s and Bill Cosby in the 1970s. He’s still representing the multihyphenates, recently renegotiating Barbra Streisand’s Columbia Records contract that will keep Babs at the same label for an amazing 50 years.

    ? Most satisfying moment Phillips has repped American Idol judge Randy Jackson since 1984, when he was the bass player in Journey. “It’s satisfying because I just adore the guy.”


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  • Bruce Ramer

    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."


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  • Ken Richman

    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."


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  • Lawrence Rose

    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."

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  • P.J. Shapiro

    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!' "


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  • Nina Shaw

    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!"


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  • Jason Sloane

    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."


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  • Gary Stiffelman

    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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  • Steve Warren

    Warren's client list is as starry as they come. He closed Leo DiCaprio's deals for The Great Gatsby and The Wolf of Wall Street, helped put Charlize Theron in Prometheus and Snow White & the Huntsman, shepherded Colin Farrell's Total Recall deal and reps not one but two Hunger Games stars (Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson).

    ? My first client Warren handled talent deals for Comic Relief fund-raisers in the mid-'80s. "I had to get signatures before they performed. Paul Shaffer left his release at the Universal Hilton so I had to drive him. It was my first time with a celebrity."


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  • Alan Wertheimer

    “Werth,” as he’s known on his softball team, found himself at the center of one of the year’s most-talked-about negotiations, as client Gary Ross decided not to direct the follow-up to his $800 million-grossing The Hunger Games and instead will pursue other projects, including a planned Houdini biopic. The veteran dealmaker also handles superproducer J.J. Abrams, and he negotiated for Frank Darabont to exit The Walking Dead and launch his new TNT series L.A. Noir.

    ? Worst thing ever said to me “On several occasions by the same well-known producer: ‘I’m going to call your client right now and tell him/her to fire you.’ ”


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  • Bryan Wolf

    Wolf is particularly proud of his work this year for Girls creator Lena Dunham. "She had never done television," he notes of the HBO star, "yet we could get a deal where she's in control of her own series. It's highly unusual." Wolf helped Girls executive producer Judd Apatow ink a deal to write, direct and produce December's Knocked Up semi-sequel, This Is 40, as well as a new development deal with Universal. A finance expert, he also assisted David Ellison's Skydance Pictures in securing a new line of credit.

    ? My legal philosophy "We try to tell it like it is!"


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  • Lincoln Bandlow

    Bandlow makes this list for going the extra mile: He not only defends clients, he stars in movies about them. Consider Big Boys Gone Bananas!, a documentary about Dole Food's lawsuit against Swedish filmmakers who chronicled the plight of Nicaraguan farmworkers. When Dole claimed the film defamed the company, Bandlow persuaded it to back off, prompting a follow-up movie about the legal drama. "I've been traveling around the globe speaking about the film," says Bandlow. "In Sweden, corporations can't sue for defamation, so they were simply amazed that there could be a lawsuit against these little Swedish filmmakers, and it caused a massive boycott of Dole." The free-speech advocate is now defending filmmaker Lauren Greenfield and her husband, Frank Evers, whose doc The Queen of Versailles, about difficulties facing the owners of the biggest private home in America, prompted a defamation suit on the eve of its Sundance premiere. He's also defending director Robert Rodriguez against a woman who claims she conceived the idea for Machete.

    ? My legal philosophy "To paraphrase Abraham Lincoln: 'Discourage litigation and be a peacemaker if you can. If you can't, go kick ass.' "


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  • Richard Busch

    As lead lawyer in the Eminem case that will decide whether a digital download is viewed as a license rather than a sale, the Nashville-based Busch, who devotes 30 percent of his time to the nasty legal battle against Universal Music Group, stands to alter royalty rates and payouts for hundreds of successful artists. In a recent appeal, the judge ruled in Busch's client's favor, which the veteran litigator calls "an incredible moment." Other music clients include Peter Frampton, Kenny Rogers, Michael McDonald and Weird Al Yankovic.

    ? My legal philosophy "Take it all very personally. Some might disagree, but I find the only way to be successful in litigation is to make it feel like it's your life."


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  • Richard Charnley

    In one of the year's biggest profit-participation cases, Charnley successfully represented Crash director Paul Haggis, writer Bobby Moresco, producer Mark Harris and actor Brendan Fraser against Bob Yari, producer and financier of the 2006 best picture Oscar winner. The plaintiffs were seeking about $5 million in unpaid revenue, but in July 2011, an L.A. judge awarded a $12 million judgment. Charnley, who heads his firm's entertainment practice group, has repped ABC, Fox and Disney and is defending Chris Rock against a claim by a Hungarian model who was allegedly wiretapped by Anthony Pellicano at Rock's request.

    ? Résumé highlight In a "former life," Charnley was an aspiring screenwriter.


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  • Scott Edelman

    "It's been the year of television," says Edelman. He filed the high- profile CBS case alleging ABC's Glass House is a ripoff of Big Brother (a judge denied a temporary restraining order, but the case is still pending), and he successfully defended a stolen-idea case brought against FX and Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter by biker Chuck Zito. "He's actually very charming," says Edelman of Zito. "There's a reason they call him Charming Chuck." He's repping CBS against NCIS creator Don Bellisario over profits from NCIS: Los Angeles and Fox in a case brought by American Idol creator Simon Fuller over his claim on profits from The X Factor. And he's got an October trial date in a profits case for Warner Bros. against the creators of Smallville.

    ? Most satisfying career moment "I had to cross-examine a witness who doubled-crossed me. He led me to believe he was on our side prior to the trial, but when he was called to the stand by the other side, it became clear within 30 seconds that he was out to nail us. I had to ditch my direct exam outline and cross him on the spot. He had completely betrayed me, and by the end of my cross, the jury understood that. They came back in our favor for $120 million."


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  • Michael Elkin

    Elkin rocked the industry by winning a July 11 ruling denying an injunction against Barry Diller's TV-streaming service Aereo that had been sought by the major TV broadcasters. And it's not the first time he has stuck it to the entertainment industry: He defeated the RIAA in a 2010 suit brought against Launch Media over whether the Internet radio service needed licenses from labels and repped video-sharing site Veoh in its 2011 win over Universal Music Group on charges of copyright infringement. "We seem to be in the vanguard of the court's decisions between Hollywood and digital media companies," says the married father of three daughters, who splits his time between Manhattan and Hermosa Beach.

    ? My legal philosophy After 20 years representing studios, record labels and artists, 10 years ago he switched sides. "I thought I could be useful to Silicon Valley, educating them about the needs of the content community. Each side needs each other."


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  • Bonnie Eskenazi

    Eskenazi handles high-stakes cases like the ongoing battle among the J.R.R. Tolkien estate, Warner Bros. and producer Saul Zaentz over The Lord of the Rings revenue. But she’s also representing Itzhak Perlman and other giants of classical music, a passion of hers. “They have the same issues as rock stars; the dollars just aren’t quite as enormous,” she notes. Eskenazi negotiated a more favorable deal for the estate of Bob Marley. The reggae legend was getting 20 percent of revenue from a CD sale but 60 percent from a licensing deal, and Eskenazi, in a case with wide-ranging implications, argued that deals Universal Music has with iTunes are more similar to the latter. She won’t say what the new arrangement calls for, but “20 percent compared to 60 percent is a big swing,” she says. “There are many cases like this now, and we were among the first.”

    ? My first client “I was a firstyear lawyer assigned to Marlon Brando. He figured out I was the young kid on the block who knew everything about the documents, so he’d call every day at lunchtime. One time I was sick, so he calls me at home and tells me to have my people get me some Lysine. I was 25; I didn’t have people. Several hours later, my husband walks out the front door, and on the step is a portly gentleman, and he’s thinking, ‘Looks familiar. …’ There I am in my sweats, no makeup, I have a fever, and Marlon Brando walks in.”


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  • Steven Fabrizio

    Since stepping down from the RIAA in 2000, Fabrizio has been involved in big content-protection lawsuits. From Napster to the ongoing wars against Hotfile and Aereo, Fabrizio argues for the major studios and record companies in an effort to shape copyright law. He also has visited third-world nations to discuss content protection. After seeking an injunction against Barry Diller's Aereo, he took off to give a lecture in the Arctic.

    ? My dream client National Geographic. "Not because of any legal issue, but because of my love of photography. I want to meet their photo editor."


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  • Bert Fields

    While most Americans spent July 4 surrounded by BBQs and beers, Bert Fields was jetting to New York to negotiate Tom Cruise’s divorce settlement with Katie Holmes. The trip would kick off a 10-day period that saw the 83-year-old seamlessly handle business for clients James Cameron and The Weinstein Co. while also managing to catch a movie with Dustin Hoffman, cook dinners at home, read poetry to his wife and put out dozens of media fires that erupted from the Cruise divorce.

    STORY: Diary of Tom Cruise's Lawyer 10 Days, 200 Phone Calls and 30 Letters

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  • Russell Frackman

    Thanks to Frackman, your kids can't buy "Motown Metal" Hot Wheels from Mattel. He successfully represented the storied record label against the toymaker and earned a rare precedential opinion from the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. "They've stopped using it," he says, pending an appeal. The affable music litigator -- who was on the front lines of the Napster/Grokster cases -- this year repped The Black Keys in their claim that Pizza Hut and Home Depot used copycat songs in ads. And he's repping Capitol Records against artists attempting to get higher royalties from digital downloads.

    ? Most satisfying career moment Arguing the Napster appeal at the Ninth Circuit, which was telecast live. "The really satisfying part was that my two kids, then high school age, attended and saw me argue in court for the first time. It may have had unintended consequences: My son is now a lawyer, and my daughter works in the music business."

  • Bryan Freedman

    The ultra-aggressive litigator has developed a unique specialty: representing talent agencies and managers when clients don't pay commissions. This year, he sued Chris Pine on behalf of the actor's former agency SDB Partners, which settled. He also settled a manager's claim against Melissa Joan Hart and a $100 million case against reality star Bethenny Frankel over her former management company's share of the Skinnygirl franchise. He won a ruling that Men in Black 3 director Barry Sonnenfeld owes commissions to UTA and he brought a similar case for ICM against Jersey Shore star Pauly D.

    ? How I get leverage "By unearthing the key document that tells my client's story and utilizing that as a case mantra. People lie, documents do not. Juries and judges know that."


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  • Gary Gans

    In April, Gans won a big victory for producers Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick over screenwriter brothers who claimed their ideas were used in the Tom Cruise hit The Last Samurai. (Gans proved the producers never saw the script.) Another victory that didn't generate as much press concerned the box-office bomb Tekken (less than $1 million worldwide). Newbridge Film Capital sued Gans' client cineFinance Insurance and Houston Casualty for $15.8 million when the film was delivered 13 months late. Gans, though, argued that the film did meet the deadline but the producer added enhancements that Newbridge agreed to. After a 10-day arbitration, cine­Finance and Houston Casualty won costs and fees of $3.9 million. "It wasn't expected that we'd win," he boasts.

    ? Worst thing ever said to me After a federal judge castigated Gans' opponent for his lack of ethics and professionalism, the lawyer "said he was just doing the same kinds of things I had done."


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  • John Gatti

    Profits disputes have become a specialty of Gatti's since winning Alan Ladd's case against Warner Bros. over revenue from 1980s hits such as Blade Runner and Police Academy. He's representing Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne in pre-litigation negotiations concerning The Matrix money; handling several matters for producer Jon Peters; and in summer 2011, he helped CBS settle with John Wayne's heirs over profits generated through the TV licensing of the 1971 film Big Jake. "There are always new ways to monetize film product," says Gatti. "The pie is getting bigger, even though the DVD market has become less valuable, so people are highly sensitive to the issue of profit participation."

    ? Worst thing ever said to me "Well, the funniest attempt at an insult: 'You are shorter in person than on the phone.' "


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  • Patricia Glaser

    Don't let the West Virginia accent and ultrapolite demeanor fool you. Glaser is one of Hollywood's savviest operators, a relentless litigator with a no-nonsense attitude and an impeccable record of success. "I get leverage by doing exactly what I tell opposing counsel I will do," she says flatly. This year, she settled William Morris Endeavor's nasty battle with ousted agent John Ferriter and the high-stakes copyright infringement case against client Endemol for allegedly copying Japanese game shows to create the ABC hit Wipeout. The married mother of two boys also filed fired Current host Keith Olbermann's $70 million lawsuit against his former employer, a case certain to general legal fireworks if it makes it to trial.

    ? Worst thing ever said to me "Unprintable," she says. "In the few instances when that has occurred, it has come from the mouths of really insecure men."


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  • Charles Harder

    Harder often reps celebrities when their names and likenesses are being used to sell products they haven't agreed to endorse. He recently sued on behalf of George Clooney and Julia Roberts against a home entertainment system company and brought a claim for Sandra Bullock against a watchmaker. "A lot of folks I represent don't do ads, period, or do ads if there's a lot of money involved and they have control over what the ad looks like," says Harder. He sued a furniture company for Clint Eastwood that was selling two lines called "Clint" and "Eastwood." And in addition to co-writing the recent Entertainment Litigation treatise, Harder defended Cecchi Gori Pictures against a suit brought by former exec Gianni Nunnari. "A judge awarded us $18 million and dismissed all his claims," he boasts. "That's the irony: He brought a lawsuit first for $3.5 million, and we counterclaimed and the judge gave us basically everything we asked for."

    ? Worst thing ever said to me "During a deposition about six years ago, my opposing counsel leapt to his feet, cocked his fist back and said he was going to hit me. I remained composed and told him to sit down and stop shouting. Four months later, an arbitrator ruled entirely against his client. It was very satisfying to beat the pants off that particular attorney."


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  • James Janowitz

    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.”


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  • Neville Johnson

    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.”

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  • Martin Katz

    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?”


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  • Bruce Keller

    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!’ ”


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  • Richard Kendall

    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 disap- pointed 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.”

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  • Howard King

    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  epositions 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.”


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  • Dale Kinsella

    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.”


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  • Adam Levin

    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.”


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  • Steve Marenberg

    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.

    ? Résumé highlight The influential legal directory Chambers & Partners called Marenberg “reassuring and strategically excellent.”


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  • Skip Miller

    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."


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  • Mark Passin

    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.' "


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  • Daniel Petrocelli

    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."


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  • Michael Plonsker

    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."


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  • Glenn Pomerantz

    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.


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  • Kelli Sager

    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.


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  • Robert Schwartz

    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."

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  • Marty Singer

    In May , litigator Marty Singer got one of his typical phone calls. Client Charlie Sheen had heard about a New York gentlemen’s club where patrons could pay $250 to slurp sushi off the naked bodies of strippers. The problem? The club had named its VIP venue the “Charlie Sheen Room.” So Singer sprang into action. Within hours, he had fired off one of his famous cease-and-desist letters and offered the club a choice: Rename the room or face an immediate multimillion-dollar lawsuit. The name was quickly changed. In the cutthroat world of Hollywood law, the pen can be mightier than the sword. With litigation costs skyrocketing and court dockets clogged, a forceful cease-and-desist letter is increasingly a much quicker and more effective weapon than the sharp blade of litigation. But it is not without risks. Singer, who charges clients about $750 an hour to suppress things like Scarlett Johansson nude photos and John Travolta gay rumors, is one of the masters of the science of the nasty letter. He and his firm, L.A.’s Lavely & Singer, send hundreds of threatening communications each year, many of them to media outlets. “Excellent cease-and-desist letters don’t pull any punches. Make them think twice: Pull the plug or be sued,” says Singer of his letters, which can total 10 pages and often contain detailed legal analysis as well as ominous phrases like “govern  yourselves accordingly.”

    These days, Singer is hardly the only lawyer in Hollywood sending more threatening letters. “There has definitely been a rise in takedown and cease-and-desist letters in recent years, and for the most part it’s because information travels so much more rapidly than even five years ago,” says Tim Gorry, a partner at L.A.’s Eisner, Kahan & Gorry. Google recently reported that it had received 2.5 million written demands last year from the likes of NBCUniversal and the RIAA to remove links to copyright- infringing moviesand songs. An MPAA lawyer said that one studio alone was cease responsible for 41 million takedown notices in 2011. Now the letters themselves often become viral objects of curiosity online, prompting attorneys to debate whether the publicity that follows a takedown request is worth pursuing the goal of sending the letter.

    For example, few people probably would have been aware of an allegation that actor Chris Evans had a sexually transmitted disease before his lawyer sent a C&D letter to an obscure blog and mainstream outlets reported on the threat. Two minor music producers put Kim Kardashian’s breasts on the cover of their album, prompting a cease-and-desist letter that generated far more publicity. Johansson and Taylor Swift may have persuaded sites to pull nude photos, but perceptions of overaggressiveness also have consequences. Travolta and Singer were sued in June by an author whose book claiming the actor visited gay bathhouses prompted a Gawker story that Singer denied in a particularly nasty letter. The author alleged the Singer missive, which claimed he had brain damage, was defamatory. Mike Masnick, who runs the popular website TechDirt,
    coined the phrase “The Streisand Effect” to describe the phenomenon of trying to shelter information only to see it travel in unintended ways. Barbra Streisand in 2003 attempted to remove pictures of her Malibu home from a collection of 12,000 images taken by an aerial photographer of the California shoreline. Before her lawyer cried foul, the photos were largely anonymous. Afterward, they spread online.

    “The wider masses on the Internet tend to think poorly of any attempt at censorship,” says Masnick. “Lawyers who don’t recognize this and still think they’re entering into a negotiation solely against a single opponent don’t seem to do well when they realize that the court of public opinion also can weigh in … and take action.”

    For that reason, Singer says he tries to talk his clients out of sending letters “95 percent of the time.” And he drafts demands with one eye on the public. “I write letters and hope they publish it,” he says. “Let people know how bad they are.” Last year, for instance, a Swedish woman claimed she was Elvis Presley’s daughter and began making legal claims and showing up unannounced at Graceland. So the Presley estate hired Singer, who wrote a letter threatening that the “malicious false claims” no longer would be tolerated and included all sorts of sordid details about the woman’s past that Singer’s colleagues found on Facebook, Twitter and other websites. Singer then made the letter public, after which the prominent law firm representing the woman was scared off.

    Because overburdened courts and laws like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act are making formal pre-litigation notices a fundamental feature of the judicial process, probably only one in every 10,000 takedown notices gets attention. Most of the time, a remedy is rendered without fuss, and only occasionally do demand letters incite countermoves. But when that occurs, a dispute can provoke strong emotions. For example, in March, after an artist received a takedown notice from Summit on one of her paintings labeled on Zazzle.com as“11-20-09” — the same date as when the studio’s Twilight was released — the artist threw up a scorching letter on Facebook that began, “Need a reason to hate Twilight? Or Summit Entertainment?” Soon, the studio faced a fan backlash over why it tried to claim a copyright on a calendar date.

    In 2007, at the supposed behest of Prince, Universal Music Group fired off a letter demanding that YouTube remove a 29-second clip of a Pennsylvania woman’s son dancing to a Prince song. After the video-sharing site complied, the woman sued UMG and got a judge to decree that copyright owners must first consider “fair use” before sending takedown notices. The five-year-old case is pending over damages. Despite the increase in nasty correspondence, attorneys say staying cool-headed is usually the best strategy in response.

    “I think it’s really funny when I get cease-and-desist letters that use italics, bold and underlining all at once,” says litigator Aaron Moss, whose book publisher client recently was threatened by a notorious reality TV star who wanted $1 million to walk away. “On several occasions, a well-reasoned responsive letter has caused the other side to just drop its case, with no lawsuit being filed.”


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  • Orin Snyder

    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."


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  • Larry Stein

    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."


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  • Rick Stone

    Fifteen years ago, Stone was at the right place at the right time when Fox Broadcasting, in a dispute with Charter  Communications, frantically needed a lawyer to work through the weekend. Since then, News Corp. has kept him busy in such fights as Fox's battle with Dish over the ad-skipping AutoHopper and its litigation with former L.A. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt over TV rights.

    ? Worst thing ever said to me Stone was in a deposition when opposing counsel learned he lost another case. He "started calling me every name in the book. Then he challenged me into the hall to end it right there. I agreed to the fight. Then he calmed down."


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  • Gail Title

    Title recently stepped down as managing partner of Katten's Los Angeles office, but she's still as active as ever with complex IP and profit-sharing cases. Last year, she represented NBCUniversal in a dispute over who conceived the Syfy hit Ghost Hunters. At issue was whether federal copyright law pre-empted the easier-to-prove allegation that NBCU breached an implied contract. Even though the appellate circuit disagreed with her position, Title has been front and center on this issue and likely will shape the "idea theft" domain.

    ? My first client Representing MCA executives in depositions in a big antitrust case against TV networks. "My client was asked about conversations he had with Paramount over future licensing, and being fresh from the public defenders' office, I advised my client to take the Fifth. Next day, the head of the firm calls and says, 'You did what? We don't tell clients to take the Fifth!' "

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  • Marc Toberoff

    Toberoff continues to fight over rights to Superman. He persuaded a court to hand over certain rights to the heirs of Man of Steel co-creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, but he keeps pushing for more terminations. (Warner Bros. has hit back with a lawsuit that accuses him of conspiring to breach contracts.) He also is appealing a ruling dismissing comic book legend Jack Kirby's effort to win back such characters as Thor and Iron Man, and he's gearing up for his next big war: representing Ray Charles' children in an attempt to terminate song rights granted to a foundation run by Charles' ex-manager.

    ? My legal philosophy "My father would always say, 'Preparation, preparation, preparation.' He was extremely tenacious as a trial lawyer, and I remember as a little kid going to bed and then waking up and seeing him still working."


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  • Howard Weitzman

    Soon after finalizing Chuck Lorre's September settlement of the legal battle over Charlie Sheen's departure from Two and a Half Men, Weitzman was retained by Justin Bieber to fight a woman who claimed to have given birth to the singer's love child. (The paternity suit was soon dropped.) The venerable attorney, who still reps the Kardashian clan based on his friendship with their late patriarch Robert Kardashian, is spending much of his time representing the Michael Jackson estate in many, many legal claims. (See story on page 64.)

    ? How I get leverage "Part of it is my willingness to try a case. Many lawyers don't want to take the time to prepare for a trial."


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  • Alonzo Wickers

    As the First Amendment specialist for such boundary-pushing TV networks as Comedy Central, Showtime and HBO, Wickers can't be prudish about what he watches. This year he successfully defended South Park from a copyright claim arising from the show's parody of the viral web video "What What in the Butt," prompting what is certainly the first use of that phrase in a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeal ruling. He's also representing Lionsgate in a case brought by actor Jesse Eisenberg over the use of his name and image on the DVD cover of a horror film called Camp Hell, in which Eisenberg plays only a tiny role.

    ? Résumé highlight He vetted the famous 2005 South Park episode "Trapped in the Closet," featuring a parody of Tom Cruise.


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  • Jonathan Zavin

    Zavin is a copyright and idea-submission expert, most recently defending DreamWorks Animation in a dispute over who came up with the idea for Kung Fu Panda and argued on behalf of Showtime over the idea for The Big C. The rare New York litigator on Hollywood studio speed-dial lists, Zavin has been the architect of a recent strategy not only to get lawsuits tossed early but also to send a message by pushing for court fees and sanctions penalties. He also travels around the world giving IP seminars in developing nations.

    ? My legal philosophy "I will litigate hard, but there are certain lines I won't cross that may be within the rules but are not part of my ethics. For instance, I won't overpaper opposition. It's time-consuming, expensive and just plain ineffective."

  • Shawn Holley

    Holley spent years working as a Los Angeles County public defender and served on the O.J. Simpson criminal defense team with Johnnie Cochran, so she was uniquely prepared for the media circus surrounding client Lindsay Lohan. This year, she successfully got Lohan’s felony charge relating to the alleged theft of a necklace from an L.A. jewelry store reduced to a misdemeanor, and Lohan is back working on the Lifetime movie Liz & Dick while on probation. Holley also has repped Mike Tyson and the Kardashian sisters in various cases. How does she get leverage? “Using charm, humor and friendliness to mask the vicious, snarling tactician hiding just beneath the surface.”

    ? My dream clientSnooki.”


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  • Allan Mayefsky

    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.

    ? Résumé highlight Mayefsky is president of the New York chapter of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.


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  • Laura Wasser

    High-profile figures -- particularly women -- trust Wasser when their relationships are heading toward divorce. The "queen of disso" (as in "marriage dissolution") since she signed her first client at age 25, Wasser has negotiated divorces and prenups for clients including Maria Shriver, Angelina Jolie, Kim Kardashian, Ashlee Simpson and Kobe Bryant's wife, Vanessa. And no, she's not married, having shed the husband she wed while attending Loyola Law School.

    ? My legal philosophy "Be compassionate, protect the children, be a voice of reason, be cost-effective, be settlement-oriented, be discreet, be considerate. And if all else fails and you end up in court? Win."


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  • Dan Black

    Black has become a specialist in helping clients get the most out of properties on multiple platforms. He helped bring BBC's Dancing With the Stars to the live stage in Las Vegas and is advising Microsoft on the October rollout of Halo 4, which will include a five-episode web series. The hardcore tennis fan also took time this spring to follow his son's college baseball team around from game to game.

    ? My first client When Black was starting out during the late 1970s, he read that Billie Jean King had bought a World TeamTennis franchise. "I picked up the phone, called information and said, 'This is Dan Black, and I would like to be part of the backroom team.' The next day, I met her and was hired. You can't do that anymore."


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  • John Burke

    In addition to co-hosting his annual croquet tournament at Cannes, Burke brokered some of the biggest movie finance deals of the year. He represented New York-based hedge fund Fortress in its acquisition of shares in a slate-financing deal with Sony Pictures. "That was a very smart transaction that was brilliantly executed by the hedge fund," says Burke. He also repped Hemisphere Capital Management -- which financed 2011's surprise hit The Smurfs -- in its credit facility with JPMorgan that will allow the company to finance the Smurfs sequel and more.

    ? My first client The former president of Mattel Electronics. "He started a new company to create what could have been e-mail or texting -- but he was at least 15 years too early."


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  • Joseph Calabrese

    The dealmaker has continued his efforts in the digital space, representing exhibitor Cinemark's Latin American digital-cinema rollout. And he negotiated the $4.4 billion rights deal for the Summer Olympics in London with NBC on behalf of the International Olympic Committee in June 2011. He also represents Legendary Pictures and has worked on the company's Chinese venture, Legendary East. When he isn't working, Calabrese is tending to his Aston Martins -- a 1964 DB5 and a modern convertible -- and is on the hunt for a Ferrari 550 or 575 Maranello.

    ? Worst thing ever said to me "Some guy called me once -- a business manager -- to represent somebody. I told him about what I could do. And he said, 'Give me some other recommendations for my client; he might not want to have an Italian lawyer.' I said: 'Well, I can understand that. It has been downhill in my country since the 15th century and the Renaissance.' "

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  • Robert Darwell

    Darwell represents Blueprint Pictures, the U.K.-based producer behind one of the biggest surprise global hits of the year, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (released in the U.S. by Fox Searchlight). "Just the way the deal was structured, they are doing really, really well out of it," he boasts. The globe-trotting Darwell (he has a house in Argentina and just bought in Nashville) repped Chanel in its deal to make Brad Pitt the face of Chanel No. 5 and handled The Grey producer LD Entertainment's pact with Liam Neeson and distribution deal with Open Road. A passionate supporter of the arts, Darwell helped the Broad Stage in Santa Monica launch its first original production, Our Town starring Helen Hunt.

    ? My first client "Cynthia Garrett, who formed a record label called Bitch Records. Lenny Kravitz was producing the record for her first artist. It was kind of neat going to the studio and seeing Lenny at work."


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  • Ruth Fisher

    A rare female power player in corporate entertainment transactions, Fisher recently helped Madison Square Garden with its $24 million purchase of L.A.'s Forum. She represented Technicolor when it acquired assets from Cinedigm and advised on Cumulus Media's $2.4 billion purchase of Citadel Broadcasting, working on behalf of its financial adviser, Macquarie Capital. And she advised Universal when it acquired French animator Mac Guff Ligne (Despicable Me). ? Worst thing ever said to me "When I was a young lawyer, I flew to New York on a deal I had been working on for months. My client greeted me in the hotel lobby, and when another man joined us, he turned and said, 'You're never going to believe it, but this little girl is our lawyer.' "


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  • John Frankenheimer

    The veteran has become obsessed with how technology is changing music. So in addition to repping established stars such as Diana Ross and Glee music producer Adam Andrews, he focuses on tech companies like Rednote, which offers the first legal system to send snippets of music along with text. He's working with Haim Saban's Saban Capital, which he predicts will be "very active in the music space" beginning later this year.

    ? My first client In 1972, Frankenheimer helped find a label for the Superfly soundtrack, which went on to top the charts.


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  • Josh Grode

    Grode is credited with engineering one of the year's biggest Hollywood deals, the $425 million purchase of Summit by Lionsgate. The transaction had been floated for four years, but "this time the parties were close enough that it actually got done," notes Grode. He helped Miramax do an unusual refinancing tied to the securitization of its film library, raising $500 million that paid off loans used to buy the assets from Disney. The avid watch collector and coach for his sons' sports teams says he has closed more than $300 million in digital deals in the past year, including $20 million for Hulu.

    ? Most satisfying career moment "The day we closed the financing for Marvel [in 2005], which transformed them from a licensing company into a production studio. No one thought we could do it. No one understood it. But after six months of explaining, people slowly came to understand it."


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  • Justin Hamill

    Hamill took the lead on William Morris Endeavor's recent partnership with tech-centric private-equity firm Silver Lake, which acquired a 31 percent noncontrolling interest in the agency. "These are two of the most dynamic participants in their industries -- I think they are going to do great things," says Hamill, who, with partner Robert Schumer, has advised WME in more than a dozen of its investments. He also represents Warner Music Group and handled the $3.3 billion sale of the company to billionaire Len Blavatnik's Access Industries in May 2011.

    ? Most satisfying career moment The WME/Silver Lake transaction is "a transformative deal."


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  • Andrew Hurwitz

    The Sundance insider represents indie actor-director Josh Radnor, whose dramedy Liberal Arts went to IFC. Hurwitz put together the deal for Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner's first feature, You Were Here, for producer client Gilbert Films. "What I enjoy doing is finding ways to help put the pieces together," he says. Hurwitz also handled Homeland executive producer Michael Cuesta's overall deal at CBS.

    ? My legal philosophy "Base knowledge on fact and analysis rather than on what 'everyone knows.' "


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  • Mickey Mayerson

    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.

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  • Schuyler Moore

    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.”


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  • Stephen Saltzman

    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."


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  • Stephen Scharf

    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."


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  • Matthew Thompson

    Thompson repeatedly saw the sun rise from a conference room in May when he helped finalize a $350 million financing deal for Relativity Media -- a deal many in Hollywood didn't think the studio could close. Thompson also represented Comerica Bank in financing work on several films and handles transactions for Mark Burnett related to his joint venture with Hearst.

    ? My first client When he joined his firm in 1991, he was invited to pitch for Paramount work. "The business affairs guy asked me some questions and I had no idea, so I faked it best I could."


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  • Larry Ulman

    It's not easy for a lawyer representing Hollywood studios in large film-slate deals since the Wall Street financing bubble popped a few years ago. Despite the obstacles, Ulman was involved in two of the biggest transactions of the past year, helping arrange hundreds of millions of dollars for Sony and Paramount from Hemisphere Capital and David Ellison's Skydance Pictures, respectively. After work each day, Ulman relaxes for a few hours with crossword puzzles.

    ? How I get leverage "There are only six film studios. Part of what we try to do is be user-friendly and pitch getting the deal done and being good to work with."


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  • Ken Ziffren

    Often called the dean of Hollywood lawyers, Ziffren and his namesake law firm are credited with inventing the boutique entertainment law firm in the 1980s, as well as pioneering the way TV talent is paid and successfully mediating the 1988 WGA strike. These days, the wine aficionado and UCLA law professor often acts as a behind-the-scenes deal adviser to such corporate clients as Starz and the Television Academy, for which he closed a new TV deal to rotate the Emmys broadcast among the Big 4 networks. He presides proudly over what even his rivals agree is the most influential and profitable law firm in Hollywood. His secret? "Preparation and experience," he says.

    ? First client: Steve McQueen. "Steve's agent, Freddie Fields, introduced us. He was quiet, perceptive and charismatic."


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