Legal Superstar Advises, “Follow Your Passion!”
Deadhead, music aficionado, legal luminary, and alumnus Eric R. Greenspan exemplifies how to build a fulfilling career anchored in personal truth
Washington College of Law students who ask entertainment attorney Eric R. Greenspan (WCL ’75) for career advice will get disarmingly simple yet powerful guidance: do what you love. He combined his lifelong passion for music with supreme tenacity, a fair amount of risk-taking, and excellent legal training to become one of the country’s most powerful attorneys in the music business.
“I went into the entertainment business to get free tickets and records. I knew what I wanted, and I was good at it,” he laughs.
Greenspan founded the music department at the renowned Los-Angeles-based entertainment firm of Myman, Greenspan, Fox, Rosenberg, Mobasser, Younger & Light LLP in 1987. His clients are among the best musicians and bands in the world, including Jewel, Bad Religion, Slash, Dead & Company, and the Red-Hot Chili Peppers, whom he has represented since the start of their career.
Greenspan created his opportunity to enter the music industry as a first-year undergraduate at Duke University in 1968. He had failed as a broadcaster at the university’s radio station (“I didn’t have a radio voice.”), so he joined the Concert Committee and persuaded its leadership to let him set up shows at Duke’s indoor athletic venue, known today as Cameron Indoor Stadium.
“Before me, Duke had shows by Bob Hope and Dionne Warwick. I booked the Moody Blues at a time when no one knew about them, and I sold out the show. I proved I knew more about music than the administration did, and they gave me the keys to the kingdom. That was a big moment because they trusted my instincts and let me take the lead in booking major bands while I was a student,” he explains.
Greenspan lined up over a dozen bands that are now in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, including the Allman Brothers Band, Ten Years After (with Yes as the opening act), Traffic, Leon Russell, Mountain, and The Guess Who. He was able to bring the Grateful Dead to Duke for their first performance in the South after the band’s New Orleans arrest in 1970 by pairing them with the Beach Boys.
After graduation, he decided to earn his law degree to use as a foundational tool for furthering his music business career. American University Washington College of Law especially appealed to him because of its location in the District of Columbia.
Greenspan spent his first year at AUWCL attending classes and working part-time as a D.C. concert promoter.
“WCL was a great place with great professors. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really engaged during my first year,” he says. “I spent over 20 hours per week at that job when I should have focused on school.”
He also co-promoted the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen, a 1973 rock festival featuring the Allman Brothers Band, the Grateful Dead, and The Band.
“We had 750,000 people at the event, and that was the last show I had a part of promoting. Thereafter, I focused more on law school in my second and third years, and it was a wise decision,” he says.
Six months after graduating and relocating to Los Angeles to pursue his goal of practicing entertainment law, Greenspan was hired for his first job, as a litigator. In 1978, he met a notable lawyer in the entertainment business and worked for him for three years to gain experience. Next, a chance meeting with a Motown executive on a golf course led him to a position at a multinational firm. In 1984, Greenspan joined his current firm and helped to transform what was then a small film and television enterprise into an entertainment industry authority.
“I took opportunities as they came and kept trying,” he says. “I moved to L.A. because it was far enough away from my home in New York City that I would be forced to work hard to stay in the entertainment field.”
Greenspan values the ability to think transactionally which WCL taught him.
“I see everything in gray. I’m able to see nuances and think outside the box. My education has definitely benefited me,” he says.