Panel Discussion Held For Students Wanting to Enter the Entertainment Industry

This spring, American University Washington College of Law hosted the “Actor’s Ensemble: How Far Can a Law Degree Take You in the Entertainment Business?” 

The entertaining panel discussion featured individuals who have used their law degrees to help them develop careers in the entertainment industry.  The Sports and Entertainment Law Society at the law school hosted the discussion, featuring four panelists who spoke about their experiences and gave helpful advice. 

“I had this superpower, I had this law degree and I could rise up through the ranks…”

Jonathan Lomma, ’02, AUWCL alumnus and agent at one of the country’s largest talent agencies, William Morris Endeavor, said that he wanted to be part of the entertainment business because he enjoys theater and wanted to work in a creative environment.  He used his law degree to help him work his way up in the ranks.

“I had this superpower, I had this law degree and I could rise up through the ranks and I could become an agent at William Morris Endeavor and be successful,” said Lomma.  “I saw it all in an instant and it was a perfect scenario, and I leveraged every single contact I had.  I would say get in at any level in the entertainment business and your law degree will help you."

Joe Reinkemeyer became a screenwriter for L.A. Law, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Law and Order after working in a law firm for several years.  He said that his work as an attorney helped him become a successful writer for television. 

“I saw the bridge between being a lawyer and being a writer on a television show, and so we wrote a spec script for L.A. Law, and we used all the stories we knew from our law firms.”

“The one connection between law school and the arts is Intellectual Property law…”

Laurence Kay, ’91, AUWCL alumnus and Broadway producer of shows such as How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and American Idiot maintains a law practice while producing theater. 

“I thought that a law degree would be a good degree to have for almost any field, so I went to law school and gradually really enjoyed it and did reasonably well at it, and decided that I would practice,” said Kay.  “I got a clerkship and clerked for a judge.  I litigated for 22 years and at the same time kept theater on the side.  I directed the Law Revue Show here for ten years.  I always kept theater there because it was important to me.”

After the panelists spoke, there was a question and answer session. Jay Rosenthal, senior vice-president and general counsel at the National Music Publishers’ Association and entertainment law professor at George Washington University Law School, said there are two crucial components that one needs in order to get into entertainment: learning intellectual property law and posting user-generated content online.

“The one connection between law school and getting into the arts is understanding copyright law, trademark law, and IP law in general,” he said.  “Learn your copyright, and don’t hesitate to use user-generated availability, whether it’s YouTube or any of the other vehicles that you may have.  You think you’re funny?  Do a couple of jokes and put them up on YouTube.  If you want to do something in entertainment, this is something that you should think about really seriously.”