Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp partner Gerald Hathaway “grew up dirt poor,” as he describes it, on the streets of Philadelphia. Raised in the city’s Olney neighborhood, he started working at age 10 as a drug-store delivery boy for a dime an hour. At 19, he took a job as a stagehand in Philadelphia’s entertainment halls for touring Broadway shows, opera and ballet companies, and rock bands. He made the practical decision to enroll in law school after getting his bachelor’s degree from La Salle University in 1976, but Hathaway, 58, hasn’t strayed far from show business.

The father of actress Anne Hathaway, he focuses mainly on labor and employment matters for talent agencies, film companies and television producers. The National Law Journal spoke to Hathaway about his role in the firm’s new fashion-industry practice and how his job has evolved.

NLJ: You moved from 850-attorney Littler Mendelson in March to 140-attorney Mitchell Silberberg. Other than sitting down to work at a different desk, how else has your practice changed?

Gerald Hathaway: Littler is a great single-practice [labor and employment] firm. They handle common problems really well.

But in mid-December 2008, I realized I was running a lot of layoffs for a number of different companies. I added them all up and the total came out to be 65,000 employees. It was a staggering moment. I felt a real jolt. This was not just a number. These were real people, with real families, living in real communities.

NLJ: But that was just part of the recession, right?

Hathaway: Yes, but my own practice hadbeen gravitating toward the entertainment industry, and about half of Mitchell Silberberg’s practice is directly tied to entertainment. I had to evaluate what was best for me.

NLJ: You’re part of MitchellSilberberg’s new fashion-industry practice, which represents clients like American Apparel Inc., Pratesi Linens Inc. and Stone Mountain Accessories Inc. How is doing this kind of work different from your previous practice?

Hathaway: The balance of running a business while letting creativity find its expression is the same in both entertainment and fashion. And that tension — control of the employee who also needs freedom to create — exists in both worlds.

NLJ: Your firm represents ABC Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc., Sony Music Entertainment Inc. and individual artists including Mary J. Blige and Taylor Swift. Does being Anne Hathaway’s dad give you street cred?

Hathaway: I don’t bring it up unless I’m talking to an entertainment client who doesn’t know. It gives me street cred, but it’s not something I exploit. Some clients have said that what they like about me is that I’m not in awe of what they do. I’m not asking them for tickets. I’m not asking them for photos.

NLJ: What’s your favorite movie starring your daughter?

Hathaway: Right now, it’s Les Misérables. [Hathaway plays the role of Fantine in the movie that's set for release on December 25]. My wife, Kate McCauley Hathaway, is also an actress. She played Fantine [in the first national tour of the musical].

NLJ: What’s your other favorite?

Hathaway: Brokeback Mountain. It was a great movie.

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