Steve Sidman. (Gittings Photography)
“If I’m in a courtroom, something has gone very wrong,” joked attorney Steve Sidman as he described his unique practice, built on a client list populated by celebrity and acclaimed chefs, top-of-the-line restaurateurs, emerging and avant-garde musicians and creatives of all sorts.
In fact, things are going quite well for Sidman, who is settling into his new digs in the Atlanta main office of Carlton Fields Jorden Burt, the newest addition to that firm’s intellectual property group.
Recording artists, singers, songwriters, producers, independent record labels, production companies, actors and music and literary publishers are also part of his book of business. But it’s his relationship with some of today’s hottest chefs and restaurateurs that has separated him from the pack.
Michelin Award-winning chef Grant Achatz and restaurateur Nick Kokonas (of Chicago’s Alinea restaurant) are in his fold, as are Atlanta-based James Beard Foundation Award-winning chefs Linton Hopkins and Steven Satterfield and “Top Chef All-Stars” winner, TV host and noted restaurateur and chef Richard Blais as well.
He has enough notable chefs to hold a scrimmage. Also among his clients are “Top Chef Masters” competitor Hector Santiago; the Chicago-based and Michelin-starred husband and wife chef team, John and Karen Urie Shields; “Iron Chef America” contestant Todd Richards; “Chopped” winner and a fixture on the Atlanta food scene Suzanne Vizethann; and award-winning cookbook author and culinarian, chef Asha Gomez.
Sidman finds a great deal in common among his variegated clientele, even though their legal needs can be vastly different.
“I love the breadth of my practice. No two days are even remotely alike,” Sidman said. “And I find it very gratifying that this practice is about artists and creative types getting their creations, their content and their art out in the world. No matter how small the project might seem, I feel like I’m helping an artist or entrepreneur enormously.”
Many of his clients are particularly media savvy as well as talented, and Sidman appreciates that.
“I don’t mean they handle their own Twitter accounts,” he said. “I mean using it as a means of expressing themselves in a way that will drive consumers to their restaurant or appearance, and they [are] limited only by their imagination and technological limits.”
Success brings challenges, too. That was part of why Sidman, who lives in the Atlanta area with his wife and two daughters, considered a return to Big Law.
“It seems the more work I do with a client, the less sexy it becomes,” he said. “We start off very media focused, and personality focused, and then success arrives and suddenly I’m taking on more fundamental legal work, like wages-and-hours, insurance. It got to the point where I was outsourcing.”
That got him thinking about a firm again and a conversation with Gail Podolsky, a longtime friend who heads the technology group at Carlton Fields, set the process in motion.
“I wanted to be able to provide clients with a one-stop shop,” he said, “and surround myself with the best and brightest, a team able to provide modern legal work nimbly and efficiently. That’s Carlton Fields.”