Richard B. Jefferson
Managing Partner – Entertainment IP Attorney
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For those perspective clients who are interested in my story to get a snapshot into my path to becoming an Entertainment/IP lawyer, feel free to read a blurb below:
My LA Story
My LA Story began Memorial Day weekend in 1996. I was visiting LA to attend the 10th Annual Soul Train Music Awards with the Florida management company owned by a close friend and its high profile acts like 95 South (“Whoot There It Is”) and 69 Boyz (“Tootsee Roll”).
Those were fun days. We were part of the in crowd interacting with people like Tupac, Biggie, Puffy, D’Angelo, Left Eye, Brandy, Mary. We traveled in limos, stayed at Hotel Nikko, partied on Sunset, and shopped at the Beverly Center and on Rodeo Drive. It was an exciting time and caused me to vow that I would one day live in LA.
Fast-forward a couple of months, and reality hit, along with a hard lesson learned from the entertainment industry.
When the artists’ royalty statements came in, the accompanying check was pretty small, especially given the fact that these were multi-platinum selling artists. As you can guess, the biggest section on the statement was for recoupable expenses, including expenses related to the LA trip. Didn’t the label say that they were paying for most of that? How was this term “recoupment” defined? After days went by without a return call from the company lawyer, I said, “Let me read the contract, I can figure it out!” After reading a few “whereas”, “therefores” and countless “notwithstanding the foregoings” I gave up. Who understands this mumbo jumbo anyway? We never got a clear explanation.
The business side of the music industry was a mystery to me back then. I continued to see things that didn’t make sense, such as an artist would have a hit record but the production company and artist would receive modest royalties, or an artist would sell out venues while on tour and would actually owe the major label money, or we’d try to sell merchandise and then find out that the label owned the trademarks so we needed their permission (and to cut them in on the money).
I made a second vow, to learn this business and figure out how to not get screwed.
After a few years, it dawned on me that I could fulfill both of my vows by moving to LA and becoming an entertainment lawyer!
My initial intention was to move to LA, go to law school, and run the business and legal side of a music company with a close friend so that we could do this thing the right way. Things didn’t work out exactly as I had planned but I ended up making things work out.
I began my career working as an intern and then a young lawyer for a major label, which was contrary to my personality (I am not really the corporate type), but the up side was that it taught me to understand the label’s perspective when they sign indie label and artists. Next, I worked for a small boutique law firm that represented high profile independent entertainment companies, which gave me experience in other areas of entertainment, including film, TV, and the developing digital space, and taught me how to strike the right balance when dealing with talent, on one hand, and major labels and distributors, on a second hand.
I also learned about the value of trademarks and other intangible assets, and the best way to manage my client’s intellectual property portfolios. After doing this for a few years I felt that I had the tools I needed to go off on my own so in 2003 I start a law firm with a good friend from law school.
Having a solid legal experience was great, but I looked at this opportunity to practice law in a way that addressed the shortcomings that I had encountered when dealing with lawyers.
Quick Response To Clients
There is nothing worse then having a lawyer on retainer and you cannot get a hold of him or her when you need them! When I was trying to figure out the contracts earlier in my story it took days for the lawyers to get back to me. With today’s technology, that is unacceptable. I do my best to respond to client inquiries within two hours (even if its to say “I got your question…I’m on it”).
Spare The Legalese!
Most of my clients are not lawyers themselves (although some are) so it makes no sense to speak to them as if they are. Before I became a lawyer I was always frustrated when a lawyer would explain things with a ton of legalese intertwined and then I would leave the conversation clueless. I do my best to make sure that I communicate in clear language and explain the legalese that I may need to use.
Give It To Me Straight
I always appreciated the lawyers that had a discussion about what my “leverage” (negotiating position) was in a situation before firing off a counter offer. I do my best to have this discussion and, if a client feels the need to take a less appealing deal because surrounding circumstances exist to make it a good opportunity (i.e., this is their way into the business or the money sucks but the exposure is amazing), that client knows the consequences up front so that they can limit the current situation and strategized to renegotiate when his or her leverage increases.
It’s Going To Settle Anyway
I’ve witnessed how many lawyers have handled their clients who were in a dispute with another party, and I have yet to see a happy plaintiff in a lawsuit (even if they win because they still have to pay a legal bill). To the contrary, clients are typically happy after a dispute is settled because they can move on. I believe that it is almost always in the best interest of clients to settle (within reason, of course) a dispute. Now, there may be different strategies implemented to get to a satisfactory settlement, but once you start litigation the cost/benefit scale begins to tip against you.
So those are the main tenets to which I practice.
I may not have followed my original life plan, but along the way I’ve met a lot of cool people, represented some amazing projects, collected a ton of good stories, and learned to be an efficient and effective lawyer! #noregrets
I will help you build a strong base for your company with the proper legal structure; I will draft and negotiate solid contracts so that you can have peace of mind; I will help you protect your brand by registering and maintaining your intellectual property; and I will defend you from the unscrupulous losers who think that they can take what’s yours!
Richard Jefferson is a life long entrepreneur and business owner who has dedicated his law practice to helping Entertainment Industry professionals.
Richard B. Jefferson
Intellectual Property Counsel
We are well versed in protecting and maintaining your rights in intellectual property portfolios, including copyrights, trademarks, and other intangible assets.
Entertainment Company Counsel
We understand the legal issues and customs of the music, film, and television, industries
Digital Media Company Counsel
We understand the legal issues and custom of the evolving digital space.
Project Production Counsel (Film/TV Projects)
We routinely serve as Production Counsel on many independent Film/TV and other media productions.
Other Legal Services
We offer flat fee services and custom packages for any of our services