Power Lawyers: the 100 most influential attorneys in entertainment

By Matthew Belloni

  Anyone know a good entertainment lawyer?

  Of course you do. Attorneys have become so woven into the fabric of the industry, it's impossible to do anything without them. But how many great entertainment lawyers do you know? Advisers who don't just clean up deal details or file cookie-cutter lawsuits but who actually influence the trajectory of the business -- the attorneys who wield as much power as the moguls they represent. There the list gets significantly shorter.

  While assembling THR's second annual Power Lawyers issue spotlighting the 100 most influential outside counsel in entertainment, we noticed something interesting. Collectively, the profiles on these pages illustrate the industry's most compelling dramas: the struggle to define intellectual property rights in a free-for-all digital age; our ongoing labor strife; the decline and replacement (we hope) of old revenue models.

  To whittle down the list, writers and editors first solicited nominations from the entertainment community. We then supplemented the hundreds of recommendations with our own research, asking the most plugged-in executives which lawyers they consider the most influential in five distinct categories: talent dealmakers; litigators; entertainment-finance dealmakers; intellectual property and tech specialists; and labor experts. In-house studio/network/music label execs are not eligible, nor are law professors, international counsel and lawyers for think tanks or advocacy groups (although this year we included a guide to the studio general counsels and a Q&A with Walt Disney Studios executive vp business and legal affairs Bernardine Brandis, who will receive THR's Raising the Bar Studio Lawyer Award at today's Power Lawyers breakfast).

  We've analyze the year's top stories to figure out the attorneys involved, always with an eye not just on who participated but on what impact his or her actions will have. Candidates were judged against their peers only in their specific categories (i.e., Skip Brittenham was compared with talent dealmakers; Marty Singer with litigators). Leadership positions within their firms mattered, as did educational and philanthropic endeavors. And while some names were selected based on reputations forged over decades, others were boosted this year by a particularly influential court win or an especially innovative deal.

  The result, we think, is a definitive reference guide. Now you can say you know 100 great entertainment lawyers.

  A blue-haired Internet gossip has put Freedman at the forefront of the clash between free speech and intellectual property rights in cyberspace. "The cases against Perez Hilton are cases of first impression with wide-ranging implications for anyone who starts a blog or a Web site and wishes to use content (from another) Web site," he says. In one of those cases, the X17 photo agency alleged that Hilton's (real name: Mario Lavandeira) publication of its "hot news" celebrity photos eliminated its ability to scoop the competition. Freedman, who also handles disputes for clients like UTA, argued that his client's postings were protected under fair use. He defeated X17's motion for an injunction, then negotiated a confidential settlement to make the case go away. (Although a similar suit filed against Hilton by five other photo agencies is set for trial in December.) Freedman also won an award of $85,000 in attorney fees from Samantha Ronson, a friend of Lindsay Lohan, who sued Hilton for defamation.