Entertainment Attorney Julian Petty Talks Going from Intern to Law Firm Partner

Cool Jobs: Entertainment Attorney Julian Petty Talks Going from Intern to Law Firm Partner

Image: Julian Petty

Image: Julian Petty

Have you noticed any changes in the industry from when you first started?

On the music side it’s just a lot less traditional deal flow. When I first joined the McMillan firm, it seemed like we were doing 1-2 record deals a month and that’s just a reflection of the number of artists getting signed. By the time I left there in December 2009 that wasn’t the case anymore and we were just doing a handful a year. Now, on the flip side entertainers are doing a whole bunch of other deals outside of their core area. So you take a great artist like Estelle. She’s not only doing music, but she’s appearing on Empire. She has a new scarf line. She has endorsement deals. So artists are doing all sorts of things now and moving beyond that core area.

Do you think social media has had any impact on the shift that’s occurring?

Yes, it raises more issues for us. It raises copyright issues when your clients are uploading photos or their music or a clip of their film. A lot of times they don’t own that work. The studio, or the network, or the record label owns that work so you have to advise them on not doing those things or getting permission first. Even photographs they take from somewhere else and do something with it. Social media has just made things move 100 times faster than what it used to be. And when things move faster, that means we have to be able to advise much faster and be available more often. So that occasional weekend that I got off, I don’t get that weekend anymore.

What advice do you have for recent graduates who are interested in entertainment law?

I would say first you have to familiarize yourself with these various technologies. Our clients are using these mediums to reach and touch their audience and anytime you have that sort of direct connection it’s a really good thing, but it’s also the opportunity for things to go wrong. Number two, before you become a good entertainment attorney, or tax attorney or real estate attorney, you need to first be a good attorney. So those skills of analysis and research, they are transferable between any area that you go into. So I would advise them to get good mentors and good training.

Who are some of your clients that you work with currently?

I work with Estelle. I represent Earl Sweatshirt. I represent a young man by the name of Vince Staples who’s with Def Jam. I also represent a number of legacy artists like the estate of Notorious B.I.G. I represent A Tribe Called Quest. But then I also represent brands like the Harlem Globetrotters and I work with H&M on a number of matters. So I kind of run the gamut. The majority of my clients are on the talent side, but I also work with a number of corporate entities and brands.

What sets you apart from other entertainment attorneys?

Number one, I don’t only focus on one area of entertainment. I’ve been trained in multiple areas. When Estelle created/released the single Conqueror, Fox came calling saying they were about to launch a new TV series Empire and wanted to use Estelle’s song but make it into a duet with Jussie Smollet. Estelle was understandably reluctant to “share” her  song in this manner since it was just released. Since I not only work in music but also TV/film, I was able to call folks over at Fox who I do business with and get a better sense of how the network was valuing the series and the type of dollars they were investing in it. After extensive discussions with contacts over at Fox, and learning of the incredible commitment they made in the series, I was able to advise Estelle as to why she should license her song and she ultimately made the final decision to go ahead. So when you come to me, you get a perspective over various areas of entertainment.

Also, I’m in there for the long haul. I’m there to help people build their careers. When your career is on top, I want you to continue to be there. But I started with folks when they were just pitching a demo and doing showcases. I stick with them through the ups and downs. I’m about helping people establish a career and setting up wealth for them and their families.