Joshua Pila, general counsel, Meredith Corp.'s local media group

Joshua Pila is general counsel of the Atlanta-based Local Media Group of Meredith Corp., a publicly traded, family controlled national media company headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa.

Meredith’s Local Media Group includes 17 television stations reaching 11 percent of U.S. households. The stations are concentrated in large markets, with seven in the nation’s Top 25—including Atlanta (CBS46 and Peachtree TV), Phoenix, St. Louis and Portland, Oregon—and 13 in Top 50 markets. Meredith’s stations produce 700 hours of local news and entertainment each week, and operate leading local digital destinations.

The National Media Group publishes Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle, Shape and other magazines. Meredith also licenses more than 3,000 SKUs of branded products at 5,000 Walmart stores nationwide and has a marketing division that provides marketing services to well-known brands such as The Kraft Heinz Co., Benjamin Moore, Allergan, TGIFriday’s and WebMD.

Legal Team

As general counsel, Pila is the Local Media Group division’s only lawyer. The department, housed in the Meredith Local Media Group division headquarters in the CBS46 building on 14th St. N.W. has two paralegals.

Pila describes himself as a jack-of-all trades, handling “a very large portion” of the Local Media Group’s work in-house. “A fair amount of it is commodity work that takes me 15 minutes, which could be a $300 bill from someone else,” he says.

The department does outsource its content- and First Amendment-related litigation work, including subpoena defense, access to public records and defamation and invasion of privacy lawsuits. Pila said he also sends out the company’s labor relations work.

Outside Counsel

For the litigation work, Pila turns to Baker & Hostetler in Atlanta and to other local counsel in each of its other markets. He uses the boutique firm Masud Labor Law Group in Saginaw, Michigan, which specializes in broadcast labor relations work for those matters.

Daily Duties

“I could be working on a retransmission consent agreement on Friday and working with bankers on an M&A opportunity on Monday,” says Pila. He adds that his day-to-day work also includes non-litigation-related First Amendment work such as pre-publication review, human resources matters, FCC regulatory filings, software license agreements and Washington, D.C.-based public policy work. Pila also serves on one of Meredith’s joint venture boards.

“My department is like a MASH hospital: You patch them up and get them out of the door,” Pila says. “In a media environment, you don’t have days or weeks to make a decision—you have a 5:00 deadline or a 9:00 deadline.

“One of the reasons I enjoy being a media lawyer is that you do it and move on, which is my personality. You don’t have the time or luxury to nitpick a 70-page document when a three-page document will work.”

Route to the Top

After graduating from Georgetown University Law Center, Pila was a communication associate in the D.C. office of Dow Lohnes. He then spent five years at LIN Media, most recently as senior counsel. Pila joined Meredith as the Local Media Group’s GC in late 2014 and relocated to Atlanta shortly thereafter.

Personal

Pila, 35, and his wife of 10 years have two sons, ages 7 and 5. The Tampa native says he has “enjoyed the integration into Atlanta [and] found Atlanta to be a very positive personal experience for me.” Between his work-related travels to D.C. and Des Moines, Pila said he spends only about five to seven workdays a month in Atlanta.

Last Book Read

A “Magic School Bus” chapter book: “Given the limited time I have, I like to spend it reading with my sons,” Pila said.

What Keeps Him Up at Night

Pila said he worries about the rapidly changing nature of the media industry.

“We need to understand and build for changes in journalism and content over the next five to 10 years,” he said.

Noting the recent emergence of over-the-top content distributed by companies such as YouTube and Sling, Pila says that “we’re at a new frontier.”

“Is there still a media business in 10 years?,” he says. “I think the answer is yes, but I’m just not sure what it looks like, and we’ve all got to figure out what that is.”

Priorities

Pila says he is trying to focus on the automation of commodity functions. The company’s talent agreements are now automated, a process that allows him or a paralegal to simply “plug in” a couple of negotiable terms and have a PDF of the document produced in at least 15 minutes less time than before the use of the automation.

“I am very much into electronic workflow and automation to save us all time,” Pila says. “I can’t pay $500 an hour for commodity work, so if a computer can do it, I’m all for it.”