Making The Class of 2018: Top Music Law Schools

UCLA School of Law
Courtesy of UCLA School of Law

The UCLA School of Law has launched a Music Industry Clinic where students work pro bono to help independent artists and producers.

From streaming to licensing, touring to estate planning, the music industry is more complex and volatile than ever. And that’s where the lawyers come in. Whether an artist is an established hitmaker or a rising star, new business models demand legal dexterity to cut the best deals.

Which law schools most effectively offer that expertise to aspiring attorneys? Billboard spotlights 12 institutions as the alma maters of many of the music industry’s most accomplished lawyers.

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University
City: New York?
Enrollment: 828

The FAME Center at Cardozo Law, which focuses on fashion, the arts, media and entertainment, offers more than 20 music-related courses that tackle topics including patent and trademark law, antitrust and intellectual-property issues, and music law. The school continually adds events to enrich the students’ experience: The Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal recently hosted Back to the Future of Music Sampling, and the school also staged New York Right of Publicity Law: Reimagining Privacy and the First Amendment in the Digital Age. Alumnus Jason Boyarski, a partner in Boyarski Fritz and the attorney for Prince’s estate, penned an article for the school’s alumni magazine emphasizing the importance of artists knowing the worth of their catalogs and putting estate plans in place.

Alumni: Google senior counsel John LaBarre, Sony Music Entertainment executive vp business affairs/general counsel Julie Swidler

Brooklyn Law School?
City: Brooklyn 
Enrollment: 923

An entertainment law course, an entertainment law workshop and a certificate in intellectual property, media and information law are all offered at Brooklyn Law. The school also complements its curriculum with special events, many of which spotlight alumni in the industry. The Brooklyn Law School Entertainment and Sports Law Society recently co-hosted an evening with Marty Singer, a founding partner of Lavely & Singer, whose clients include Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Martin Scorsese. And at its annual alumni association luncheon, Brooklyn Law honored Allen J. Grubman, founder of Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks; Hannah Cao, general counsel for China’s Silk Road Fund; and Andrew Rausa, lead advertising/privacy counsel for Facebook.

Alumnae: Interscope Geffen A&M executive vp urban operations Nicole Wyskoarko, ASCAP senior vp membership Nneka Norville, BET Networks director of corporate social responsibility Nicole George-Middleton

Columbia Law School
City: New York?

As a New York institution, the presence of Columbia Law School reverberates around the Big Apple, and not just in the courts: Classical conductor and alumnus Alvise Casellati has led free performances of Italian opera in Central Park for the past two summers. Aside from its robust course selection, the school also offers an externship on arts and entertainment law through which students gain experience in intellectual property, entertainment and nonprofit law assisting staff attorneys at Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. The student-edited quarterly Columbia Journal of Law & the Arts covers legal issues involving the entertainment, sports, IP and communications industries. Alumnus Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group, spoke on campus in February as part of the dean’s distinguished speaker series.

Alumni: Loeb & Loeb partner Jonathan Zavin, Sony Music Entertainment senior vp/deputy general counsel/chief compliance, ethics and privacy officer Wade Leak

Fordham University School of Law
City: New York?
Enrollment: 1,242

Fordham’s Media and Entertainment Law Society sponsors a variety of programming, including “Lunch and Learn” events where attorneys practicing in media and entertainment discuss their career paths. In March, the society hosted its fourth annual Entertainment Law Symposium, an event that explores legal issues facing the media and entertainment industries and offers an opportunity for students, faculty and practitioners to network with thought leaders in the corporate and academic realms. This year’s symposium featured in-house counsel from Madison Square Garden Co., iHeartMedia and Paradigm Talent Agency, among others.

Alumni: Nixon Peabody partner Julian Petty, Warner Music Group executive vp/general counsel Paul Robinson

Georgetown University Law Center
City: Washington, D.C.
Enrollment: 1,749

New in 2018 to Georgetown Law’s industry-focused offerings is the experiential Advanced Legal Writing: Intellectual Property and Technology Transactions Workshop, which complements existing classes focused on music law, entertainment law and the law and business of TV. The school also just added intellectual-property law pioneer Madhavi Sunder to its full-time faculty. The Georgetown Law Entertainment & Media Alliance hosted a recent panel discussion on hot topics and careers in IP law, the Art Law Association sponsored the Lawyers’ Committee for Cultural Heritage Preservation’s ninth annual conference, and the Student Intellectual Property Law Association provides programs that explore various aspects of IP law, including patent, copyright, trademark, trade-secret and related antitrust issues.

Alumnus: Sony Music Entertainment executive vp business and legal affairs, international Stu Bondell

Harvard Law School
City: Cambridge, Mass.
Enrollment: 1,757

This year’s Harvard Law curriculum includes a class covering entertainment and media law, a course on music and digital media, and an entertainment law clinic to complement its many intellectual-property and contracts-focused classes. Students can also moonlight at the legal services clinic, Recording Artists Project, where they gain hands-on experience working with local musicians. The clinic celebrates its 20th year in October with a gala keynoted by entertainment lawyer and alumnus Donald Passman. This past year, as part of Harvard Law’s bicentennial celebration, the school held a Harvard Law School in the Arts event, with alumnus Clive Davis serving as honorary chairman. He also spoke to students about the 2017 documentary Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives.

Alumnus: Spotify general counsel/vp business and legal affairs Horacio Gutierrez

Loyola Law School Los Angeles
City: Los Angeles
Enrollment: 1,019

Loyola Law this year added an Entertainment Fellows Program, through which selected students receive practical training and mentorship opportunities in the legal and business affairs departments at major record labels and Hollywood studios. It also augmented its course offerings, including a music law class and courses on international intellectual property, and “Right of Publicity,” a look at the monetization of musician and other celebrity images. The school’s Entertainment Concentration & Practicum Mentor-Mentee luncheon featured sessions on music business and legal affairs. The school benefits from its location: A class exploring reality TV and new media visited the set of NBC’s The Voice for a look at issues that arise with showrunners and production legal counsel.

Alumni: King & Ballow partner Richard Busch; Joe Escalante, KungFu Records founder and member of The Vandals

New York University School of Law
City: New York
Enrollment: 1,364

NYU Law reviews its curriculum related to music and entertainment each year to ensure students are on the cutting edge of legal developments in those industries. Among the offerings for 2018-19 are classes exploring copyright law, corporate strategy and finance in entertainment and media, and labor and employment in the entertainment industry. The Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law Society programs panels, local events and networking opportunities including recent speakers Lynn Gonzalez, vp business and legal affairs at Universal Music Group, Def Jam Recordings and East Coast labels shared services, and HBO vp legal affairs Kesari Ruza. Additionally, the Art Law Society offers lectures, panel presentations, gallery visits and conversations with practitioners, academics, artists and other students.

Alumni: Pryor Cashman partner Donald Zakarin, Michelman & Robinson partner Michael Poster

University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
City: Berkeley, Calif.
Enrollment: 936

Music and entertainment are pervasive in the courses and the culture of UC Berkeley’s law school, known as Boalt Hall. The school offers a perennially popular course on entertainment law, and this fall added a class that probes social justice issues in entertainment and media law. Upcoming are courses in entertainment law focused on TV and intellectual property in the music industry. The school also hosts an annual Sports and Law conference; it recently held an event with Commissioner Mignon Clyburn of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who talked with students about net neutrality. Students at the school’s Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic helped the Museum of Art and Digital Entertainment in Oakland, Calif., state its case for preserving online video games that otherwise may be lost to time. Students conducted research, recruited witnesses, wrote briefs and testified at a U.S. Copyright Office public hearing in Los Angeles.

Alumnus: Universal Music Group general counsel/executive vp business and legal affairs Jeffrey Harleston

University of California, Los Angeles, School of Law
Enrollment: 942

This past year, UCLA Law launched a Music Industry Clinic created by veteran music attorney Susan Genco, president of Azoff MSG Entertainment, where students learn fundamentals of laws governing the music industry and work pro bono to help independent artists and producers forge licensing agreements and band agreements, among other tasks. The clinic launched in tandem with the school’s new Documentary Film Legal Clinic. UCLA Law also hosted its annual Entertainment Symposium, featuring FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly and Paramount Pictures COO Andrew Gumpert, as well as multiple sessions where alumni who are entertainment attorneys returned to campus to talk to students. AEG Presents president/CEO Dan Beckerman was one recent speaker.

Alumni: Ziffren Brittenham partner John Branca, Loeb & Loeb partner John Frankenheimer

University of Pennsylvania Law School
City: Philadelphia
Enrollment: 736

Penn Law’s reach in the music industry extends well beyond Philly. Students recently landed internships at companies ranging from Comcast and Spotify to Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Bros. Records. On campus, they can immerse themselves in over a dozen entertainment-related courses and gain hands-on experience at the Detkin Intellectual Property and Technology Legal Clinic, which represents entertainment clients. Penn also packs in extracurricular events, including recent seminars on the #TimesUp movement, music licensing, diversity in entertainment and digital media, and the future of entertainment, as well as a visit from composer Jonathan Wolff, who scored music for the TV shows Seinfeld and Will & Grace. John Legend, a Penn ’99 undergrad, last year joined the board of a Penn Law criminal justice center, as did his manager, alumnus Ty Stiklorius.

Alumni: Def Jam Recordings executive vp/GM Rich Isaacson, Sony Music Entertainment senior vp business and legal affairs David Jacoby, Train drummer Drew Shoals

University of Southern California, Gould School of Law
City: Los Angeles
Enrollment: 615

Like the industry itself, the music- and entertainment-focused curriculum at USC Gould is constantly evolving. This year, the school added two courses: “Digital Media Transactions,” which focuses on business, legal and financial issues that relate to the creation, financing and exploitation of digital media, and “Information Privacy Law,” whose topics include privacy and the media, consumer data and behavioral advertising. Those classes join a robust roster that features the perennially popular “Music Law in Practice,” taught by alumnus Corey Field, an attorney who served as president of the Copyright Society of the USA, a nonprofit scholarly group that examines copyright issues.

Alumni: Barnes & Thornburg partner Jason Karlov, Walt Disney Co. vp legal affairs Susan Kigawa, 20th Century Fox executive vp business affairs Ted Russell

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 20 issue of Billboard.


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