Top Entertainment Law Schools: 11 Colleges and Universities Where Hollywood Reporter's Power Lawyers Got Started

7:00 AM 4/2/2020

by Ashley Cullins

Where did the lawyers on this THR's 2020 list of top attorneys learn their skills? The most went to Harvard (19 in all), but UCLA isn't far behind (15), and even Michigan boasts some big Hollywood alums (four).

Top Entertainment Law Schools_10fea_lawyersschool_W - THR - H 2020
Illustration by: Zohar Lazar

  • Harvard Law School

    Despite being 3,000 miles from Hollywood, Harvard’s impact on the industry is undeniable. The Cambridge school’s Entertainment Law Clinic and Recording Artists Project offer hands-on experience with trademarks, copyrights and rights acquisition for companies and talent across film and music. Harvard’s classes across intellectual property, cyberlaw and technology, and arts and entertainment include everything from artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles to fashion and sports law.

    Advice from alums:

    "Inoculate your career against AI. Pick a path that capitalizes on uniquely human characteristics." — Kenneth Deutsch

    “Don’t take for granted that great lawyers come from many different places, many different schools. Don’t rest on laurels.” — Mitch Kamin

    "Think beyond the next rung on the ladder. Look inward to determine what you would like to do for a lifetime and look around you to find your cohort to help you do so." — John Meigs Jr.

  • UCLA School of Law

    The Westwood campus, which celebrated its centennial in 2019, is home to the Ziffren Institute for Media, Entertainment, Technology and Sports Law, which prides itself on building strong connections between students and alumni. UCLA also launched a tech, law and policy institute with its engineering school and a Master of Legal Studies program to teach non-attorneys basic skills and to “think like a lawyer” — one of the eight specialities available is entertainment and media law.

    Advice from an alum:

    “Intern, intern, intern and network. Get to know people. I broke in because I got three names of people in the business, called them up for lunch and asked them each to give me three names. That’s how I got my first job.” — Marcy Morris

  • USC Gould School of Law

    USC’s newest class of future lawyers is more than half female and includes a record number of first-generation and economically disadvantaged students — who also raised the bar with the highest median GPA in the school’s history. The school fosters relationships with Hollywood and Silicon Beach through its externship program and offers specializations including media and entertainment law, technology and entrepreneurship law and business law.

    Advice from an alum:

    “Focus on the journey rather than the destination. There are an infinite numbers of paths to take, regardless of where you want to land. Pursue the best opportunity in front of you at each turn, focus on being the best practitioner you can be and enjoy each chapter. You will ultimately land where you want, and are supposed, to be. And, you’ll have so many great memories along the way.” — PJ Shapiro

  • UC Berkeley School of Law

    Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan recently visited the Berkeley campus, where the country’s top-ranked IP program has six new technology law courses to keep ahead of the curve. Those classes include Antitrust and Innovation, Reproductive and Genetic Technologies, and Encryption Workarounds. Berkeley also offers a Sports and Entertainment Law Society.

    Advice from an alum:

    "Don’t let professors determine your future. My first-year law professor told me I’d never be successful because I was too passionate. I responded, 'I’m hoping I find clients who want a passionate representative.'" — Patti Felker

  • Columbia Law School

    Its focus on experiential learning includes a Lawyering in the Digital Age clinic and an externship in coordination with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. Columbia's Kernochan Center for Law, Media and the Arts helps students understand the legal issues surrounding the authorship of creative works and offers special seminars on topics ranging from theater to sports.

    Advice from an alum:

    "Learn everything you can learn and take every class that can prepare you. If you want to do [entertainment law], take advantage of all of the resources that are available to you while you’re at law school: film law, music law, sports law, volunteering with lawyers on arts law. Read about it. All the resources are online now. Subscribe to the trades and get to know the players." — Gordon Bobb

  • George Washington University Law School

    Known for its legendary patent law program, D.C.’s oldest law school boasts more than 24,000 living alumni. GW's intellectual property law concentration spans traditional courses like copyright and trademark to more modern legal topics like genetics and e-commerce. 

    Advice from an alum:

    "Read Angela Duckworth's Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Two of her enduring thoughts are: 'As much as talent counts, effort counts twice' and 'Don’t just have a job, have a calling.'" — Nancy Rose

  • Georgetown Law

    The D.C.-based school is launching two tech programs: an LLM in Technology Law and Policy for attorneys and a Master of Law and Technology for non-lawyers. Georgetown continues to offer a diverse slate of courses — more than 500 in total — including entertainment law, hot topics in antitrust and a cultural appropriation seminar.

    Advice from an alum:

    “Your career path will, and should, be ever-evolving. You should take the leading role in charting the course for those changes and setting new goals for yourself.” — Robert Darwell

  • Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

    The Greenwich Village-based school features the FAME Center for fashion, art, media and entertainment, a tech startup clinic and an indie film clinic — the latter of which provides free legal services to both student and professional filmmakers making independent and documentary films.

    Advice from an alum:

    "Intern at as many different entertainment companies as you can to build relationships and see the different areas in which you can practice." — Jodi Peikoff

  • Loyola Law School

    Loyola in 2019 launched a Transactional Lawyering Institute and hosts an annual TechTainment symposium. The L.A. school, which celebrates its centennial this year, offers concentrations in intellectual property, entrepreneurship and entertainment and new media law. 

    Advice from an alum:

    "If you’re not passionate about being a lawyer, nor about being in the representation business, then consider alternatives. Client service is 24/7, being accessible full-time through email, text and cell. It affects everything." — Mitch Smelkinson

  • NYU School of Law

    NYU’s student-run Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law society fosters networking and skills across fashion, tech, entertainment and patent law. The school's intellectual property and innovation specialization includes courses in entertainment law, branding, information privacy and intellectual property crimes.  

    Advice from an alum:

    "Go into politics. Your country needs you!" — Jamie Mandelbaum

  • University of Michigan Law School

    The Ann Arbor school highlights skills across IP, labor and employment, and litigation through its Entertainment, Media and Arts Law Students Association. Michigan offers 16 law clinics to help students get real-world experience handling cases ranging from transactional law to federal appellate litigation to entrepreneurship, as well as 18 dual degree programs that include economics, world politics and social work.

    Advice from an alum:

    "Take a survey course for everything, because even if you're not interested in that area of law, having a basic understanding of different areas is helpful. Don’t sub-specialize too early. Remember, it's law school, not lawyer school. You will learn to be a lawyer; while you're there, learn the law." — Jill Basinger

  • A Power Lawyer's Advice to Students

    Harold Brown, a graduate of UC Berkeley School of Law (’76), offers a few pieces of advice to current law students and recent graduates — regardless of their alma matter.

    "As long as there is enough money to live comfortably, your career should be about the satisfaction rather than the money. You go to work every day. You only get paid every two weeks.

    Lawyers think inside the box because it is safe. Lawyers are paid to give safe answers. Good lawyers don’t try to think outside the box (because most of the right answers are in it) but they know there is no box. It is just an illusion. 

    My clients are invariably smarter than I am. I have learned I don’t have to be (and can’t be) smarter than they are. The more I learn from them the smarter I am, the more I can contribute and the healthier our relationship is. Never be hurt or offended when your client has a better idea or doesn’t take your advice. That is their prerogative and usually they are right.  

    Don’t be afraid to separate the forest from the trees. When I was a young lawyer, I spent way too long negotiating a force majeure clause. I was worried — as was the studio lawyer — about what the client’s rights would be in the case of nuclear war. My mentor politely pointed out that in that case, there probably wouldn’t be anyone left to read the contract — and certainly no judge to enforce the rights I wanted clearly spelled out. In the end, the studio lawyer and I and flipped a coin to see whose language we would include — which no one ever read — and had a glass of wine.” 

    A version of this story first appeared in the March 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.