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It takes more than a sterling resume to get a job in Los Angeles-based Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton’s entertainment and media practice. Associates have to be bilingual to get in the door. Robert Darwell, who heads the transactional side of the practice, initiated the requirement last summer. He got the idea as he was negotiating financing for “Lord of War” — an upcoming Nicholas Cage movie — with a German lawyer and French producer. Fluent in French, Darwell said he wished he had had a German-speaking colleague in the room. “As we add new associates, I thought, let’s look for those with an additional language,” Darwell said. “Then over the next couple of years the entire group would have a range of languages.” While much of the business world communicates in English, Darwell said clients appreciate it when you can speak their language, and in negotiations people sometimes revert to their original language to discuss a point. Having a bilingual attorney can also eliminate translation costs and make negotiations more efficient. “U.S. entertainment seems to be the cultural language at the moment,” Darwell said. But “getting movies made requires financing from sources all around the world.” Germany, which gives investors a tax break, has become a major source of funding, Darwell said. He noted that last year six films he worked on got German financing. In addition to negotiating financing and distribution, his group also reviews chain of title to foreign films for clients seeking to acquire rights to remake them. The transactional team also assesses movie advertising campaigns to make sure they comply with laws in other countries. Half of Sheppard, Mullin’s 32-lawyer entertainment and media group is bilingual. It still doesn’t have a German-speaking member, though — the mix of languages so far consists of Spanish, French, Thai and Hebrew. Darwell said the bilingual focus has been a hit with clients and the firm. And would-be employees are also eager to adapt to the language requirement. “We get a lot of people saying, ‘I’ll learn one’ or ‘I have rusty German,’” Darwell said.

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