Matthew Williams ’06: “Be opinionated, but always open to changing your mind.”
Alumnus Matthew Williams ’06 was recently promoted to partner at his firm, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, where he represents top entertainment and technology clients in domestic and international copyright issues. We spoke with him about his path to success.
Could you describe your career path after law school?
During law school, I was hired by a boutique law firm in D.C. that focused on policy work for trade associations, like the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America, and technology companies, like eBay. One month before the bar exam, the firm was dissolved. It was terrifying at the time, but it turned out to be a lucky break for me: I followed two of the partners (one an AUWCL grad) to my current firm, Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp. At the time, the firm was best known for litigating the Napster case for the record companies and handling the civil murder trial against O.J. Simpson. Since then, I’ve been lucky enough to do litigation work for film studios and directors like James Cameron, Morgan Spurlock, and Ang Lee, as well as recording artists and songwriters like Drake and Arcade Fire.
How did you get interested in the kind of law you’re practicing?
Before law school, I wanted to get a master’s degree in creative writing and to do something “practical,” like being a poet or a screenwriter. It’s cliché, but doing copyright and entertainment industry work lets me live vicariously through clients who were actually good enough to make a living from it.
What does your role with Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp entail?
I litigate entertainment and technology industry cases, which often entails defending creative people against bogus lawsuits. If I’m doing well, my role is to make sure my clients can forget about those distractions and keep being productive. In the American court system, unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. I also advise companies and trade associations on copyright policy and privacy issues.
What is your favorite memory as an AUWCL student?
My group house threw some great Halloween parties!
Who were some of the AUWCL professors who inspired you to pursue your career goals?
I owe everything to Professors Peter Jaszi and Robert Kasunic, who taught as an adjunct and is now the Associate Register of Copyrights and Director of Registration Policy & Practice at the United States Copyright Office. Professor Isaiah Baker, who I am sure would not remember me, and who gave me a C+ in first year Contracts, should likely be credited with inspiring me the most because the poor grade made me work harder than I ever had before in order to right the ship.
What kind of advice would you give to graduating AUWCL students today?
Be opinionated, but also always open to changing your mind. We never know as much as we think we do about anything.