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One way to develop an entertainment law practice, Marc Simon is learning, is to moonlight as an entertainer. To that end, he has spent the last three years working as an associate with New York-based Dreier and cowriting a documentary about convicts who have been exonerated by DNA evidence. The film, After Innocence, won a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2005 and premiered in New York City in October. The experience has increased his legal expertise, Simon says, exposing him to the intricacies of licensing, distribution, and soundtrack production. “Being on the artist or client side of the fence gives you perspective about what they are experiencing,” he notes. As a result of working on the film, he says, he has landed a handful of clients in the entertainment industry, including Grammy-winning music producer Arif Martin. Simon, 31, acknowledges that he is not following the traditional arc of a legal career: His role model is John Sloss, a New York-based solo practitioner who has produced dozens of films, including A Home at the End of the World and The Fog of War, and whose client portfolio includes Bob Dylan and the Independent Film Channel. The idea for After Innocence came to Simon when, as a law student at New York’s Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, he signed up to work as an intern on The Innocence Project, a nonprofit that uses DNA evidence to exonerate the wrongfully convicted. There he met Herman Atkins, the son of a California Highway Patrol officer, who had been freed after serving more than 11 years in prison on a rape charge. Simon was shocked to discover that Atkins, like most exonerees, had received no compensation for his time behind bars. Simon says Atkins’s case “inspired me” to make a film about the postprison experiences of the freed men. (See afterinnocence.com.) Shortly after he received his J.D. in 2001, Simon sought a firm that would give him time to develop the movie. He found Dreier, which has about 75 attorneys and was founded in 1996 as an alternative to “large-firm lawyering.” “He asked when he joined the firm if he could invest time in the film,” says managing partner Marc Dreier. “He said he was committed to this project to demonstrate the experience of exonerees. We liked him very much and liked the idea of the project very much.” Dreier made a small contribution to production costs of the film (Showtime and The New Yorker Films also provided financing; Simon declined to comment on the cost of the project). Dreier says he never asked how many hours Simon devoted to the film. “I left it up to him,” he says. Simon does not know how many hours he devoted to the movie, either-only that it has consumed several years’ worth of nights and weekends and parts of weekdays, too. He allows that his billables “are probably not the highest in the firm.” And marketing a film, he is discovering, is even more of a drain. A 20-minute phone interview between Simon and this reporter was interrupted seven times by other callers. It ended so Simon could do an interview with a radio station in Milwaukee. The night before, he had attended a film screening in Charlottesville, Virginia, hosted by author John Grisham (an experience Simon describes as “unbelievable”). Dreier thinks publicity for the firm in connection with the movie could help with recruiting. “We get a variety of benefits by association if there is a perception in the law school community that we are a firm that encourages people to do this sort of thing,” he says. “People want to think that going to a law firm is not going to consume all of their breath.” Allowing his lawyers to breathe is a strategy that may pay off for Dreier, and for Simon, too. Next up: Simon is negotiating to be production counsel on what he calls a “major” New York independent film.

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