Power Lawyers 2012

Austin Hargrave

Meet Tom Cruise's protector, Ryan Seacrest's dealmaker and the woman keeping Lindsay Lohan out of jail as THR reveals the top 100 entertainment attorneys in America.

How the List is Chosen: To determine Hollywood's 100 most influential attorneys (in alphabetical order), THR canvassed the biggest deals and cases of the past year. Lawyers were broken down into four categories -- talent dealmakers, litigators, corporate dealmakers and "troubleshooters" (divorce or criminal matters) -- and evaluated against their peers based on cases won/nature of deals closed as well as their reputation within the entertainment legal community. In-house studio, network or talent agency lawyers are not eligible (it's too difficult to gauge influence within a corporate structure). Profiles written by Matthew Belloni, Alex Ben Block, Paul Bond, Tina Daunt, Stephen Galloway, Eriq Gardner, Lesley Goldberg, Shirley Halperin, Borys Kit, Pamela McClintock, Daniel Miller and Lacey Rose.


NEW: Rick Stone
Jenner & Block

Litigation specialist: 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."

NEW: Matthew Thompson

Corporate dealmaker: 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."

Gail Title
Katten Muchin Rosenman

Litigation specialist: 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!' "

Marc Toberoff
Toberoff & Associates

Litigation specialist: 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."

Larry Ulman
Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

Corporate dealmaker: 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."

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

Talent dealmaker: 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."

Laura Wasser
Wasser Cooperman & Carter

Troubleshooter: 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."

Howard Weitzman
Kinsella Weitzman Iser Kump & Aldisert

Litigation specialist: 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. 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."

Alan Wertheimer
Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris & Klein

Talent dealmaker: "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-gross- ing 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.' "e for a first-time director."

Alonzo Wickers
Davis Wright Tremaine

Litigation specialist: 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.Resume highlight: He vetted the famous 2005 South Park episode "Trapped in the Closet," featuring a parody of Tom Cruise.

Bryan Wolf
Ziffren Brittenham

Talent dealmaker: 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!"

Jonathan Zavin
Loeb & Loeb

Litigation specialist: 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."

Ken Ziffren
Ziffren Brittenham

Corporate dealmaker: 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."


Jake Bloom: A Lunch Is Scheduled: Bloom still isn't officially on this list, an unfortunate result of him refusing to talk to THR for his profile for six straight years. But the ban could end soon. In April, the longtime attorney for Johnny Depp and Sylvester Stallone showed up with clients Charlie Sheen and Arnold Schwarzenegger at the dinner honoring Marty Singer as entertainment lawyer of the year. So THR approached Bloom and, after a semi-cordial exchange, he agreed to a lunch. Sure, he's already postponed the date once, but progress is progress. -- M.B.

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