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Those of us from Los Angeles are fortunate to practice law in a place with such a vibrant legal economy. Much of the fuel for the legal business in this city is provided by people in the entertainment industry — people like Robert Downey Jr., Charlie Sheen and Heidi Fleiss. Oh yeah, there are also those who get tangled in our justice system for merely preparing for roles inside Saks Fifth Avenue. To see celebrities in Los Angeles, you no longer need a Map to the Stars’ Homes and you don’t have to go to movie premieres. Instead, you can simply spend the day at the courthouse and you’ll see a parade of famous people. If you don’t believe me, read the Los Angeles Times. The paper carries a weekly feature devoted exclusively to celebrity lawsuits. One consequence of these developments is that the number of attorneys now calling themselves entertainment lawyers has skyrocketed. Some deserve the label. Others have to stretch the definition a bit to fall within it. I have made such a stretch during my legal career. The Rodent once had a celebrity client whose coattails I rode all the way to membership in the Entertainment Law Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Best of all, my representation of this one celebrity client gave me the right to wear the coveted double-breasted suit reserved for members of the Entertainment Bar. How was it that I became a celebrity attorney? Well, I once drafted a contract for a member of the musical Jackson family. I would like to tell you which of the Jacksons it was but rules relating to Rodent-client privilege prevent me from doing so. Let’s just say it wasn’t La Toya. From my dabbling in this area of law practice, I learned some important things. The first is that you have to act as if the word “celebrity” as used in “celebrity attorney,” applies to the lawyer rather than to a description of the type of clients the lawyer represents. In other words, you need to be famous, not just have famous clients. Otherwise, you run the risk that your fortunes will fall with the client. This way, you remain famous even after you no longer return phone calls to clients whose albums drop off the charts or whose box office receipts from their latest film fail to meet expectations. No, it wasn’t Michael Jackson either. When you get right down to it, there isn’t that much difference in representing celebrity clients. They have mundane contracts and pleadings that need to be drafted, they demand projects be turned around immediately and they don’t pay their legal bills on time just like other clients. Most people think that being a show business attorney entails sitting around the set, eating meals at overpriced Beverly Hills bistros and waiting for someone to approach and ask: “Have you ever thought about producing?” It’s not quite like that. In fact, when you’re in The Firm’s library at 4:00 am, a contract or a pleading prepared for Arnold Schwarzenegger is going to look a lot like the one you prepare for Arnold Schwartz. Still, no matter how uninteresting the actual work of the entertainment attorney is, the image is always one of fun and excitement. If nothing else, promoting this image makes other lawyers resent you more than they otherwise would. Many of the entertainment lawyers I know do this by filling their office walls with photographs of celebrities. Most effective are snapshots of those who either beat the rap or who now walk free as a result of their celebrity and slick legal maneuvering. Photos of a smiling you shaking hands with Don King, Leona Helmsley, William Kennedy Smith or O.J. Simpson will go a long way in establishing your credentials. Janet Jackson? No, not Janet Jackson. It wasn’t Jermaine either. Another thing to remember if you want to be in the entertainment business is that you, as much as your clients, have a role to play. For example, if you screw up in drafting an agreement or during a court appearance, you have to handle the situation like all good entertainment lawyers do. Here’s the best way to react when someone (such as a judge) confronts you about your substandard work product: (1) Act aloof, rub the palm of your hand hard against the side of your face and stare at the floor; (2) Explain that your work reflects your creativity and that others simply cannot see what you see (such as a case you relied upon for authority that is clearly not on point); and (3) Suddenly and loudly, scream “I am an artist” and then storm out of the room. At this point, you’re probably guessing that my client was Tito Jackson. You’re wrong. The Rodent is a syndicated columnist and author of “Explaining the Inexplicable: The Rodent’s Guide to Lawyers.” His e-mail address is [email protected].

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