THR Next Gen 2008: Legal


Jeff B. Cohen, 34
Cohen & Gardner

Yes, Cohen played Chunk in 1985's "The Goonies." But no, he will not do the Truffle Shuffle for you. The Berkeley and UCLA Law grad is too busy building his entertainment law practice from scratch, having bypassed the risk-averse career trajectory of most attorneys by starting his own law firm at age 27. Now, while other showbiz lawyers his age are slaving for a senior partner, Cohen is growing a book of business with clients like director Wong Kar Wai, actors Esai Morales and Tony Leung, production outfits Once Upon a Time Films (2006's "Broken Trail") and Triage Entertainment/Levity Entertainment (Food Network's "Iron Chef America"), and corporate clients Netflix and Digital Domain. He credits "Goonies" director Richard Donner for serving as a key mentor in the business, even calling buddy Ron Meyer to help get Cohen a law school internship at NBC Universal. "I've actually been on the other side of these deals as a client," Cohen says of his strength in developing his practice. "So I have a lot of empathy for talent in this business."

Chris Miller, 33
vp legal division

"I'm doing my job well if you don't know what my job is," Miller says. Sounds like the mantra of a slacker, but in Miller's case his words are true. He silently protects MGM content from pirates and the studio's bottom line when profit participants claim they're owed millions. And because MGM is smaller than more diversified studios, Miller finds himself with unusually big responsibilities -- he typically handles about 10 active pieces of litigation and 30 prelitigation matters at a time against everyone from the estate of Burt Lancaster to the members of Spinal Tap. He also played a key role in MGM's recent separation from the Weinstein Co. "Business execs don't have time to deal with the lawyer nonsense," says the avid USC football fan and Boston University Law grad, who began his career at the Troop Steuber firm and went in-house at MGM in 2003. "In order to succeed, you have to be able to boil it down in a way that your execs can take the advice and act on it."