The 8th annual Protect Athens Music conference is happening today at the 40 Watt Club in downtown Athens. As joint effort of the School of Law’s Sports and Entertainment Law Society and Terry College’s Music Business Program, the event brings together music and business students with professionals and academics from entertainment industry. This year’s keynote will be delivered by School of Law graduate and local entertainment attorney Michelle Davis.
We recently spoke with Michelle on Episode 2 of the library’s On Reserve podcast about her experience as a law student, networking advice, her favorite resources, and choosing to go into solo practice straight out of law school. Here are some highlights from her segment (45:38 to 1:04:50).
On what led her to Entertainment Law:
“In parallel to my music interests there was this whole development on the technology side of the industry and I remember being really fascinated by the Napster litigation that was going on… and that was my first introduction to intellectual property and that kind of push and pull between the music industry and the tech industry. I thought how can I find a solution, maybe that’s in the legal field where I can help artists navigate this new terrain.”
On the benefits of clinics and internships:
“I did the D.C. Semester… and I did that to work with an awesome artist’s rights group in D.C. called the Future of Music Coalition. While there I got a list of UGA Law grads who were in the D.C. area and one worked for NPR … We went for coffee and he said I should check out the internship program. It never would’ve occurred to me that it existed, so I applied and was accepted and came back that next summer. I highly encourage law students or undergrads if you’re interested in journalism, literally every show has an internship position. It is a great program and they pay their interns and it is enough to get by in D.C. in the summer.”
On Protect Athens Music:
“What’s great about it is it’s really student driven… Attorneys and experts across the industry come down and have amazing discussions. I encourage any students interested in entertainment law to be involved.”
Law School Course Advice:
“Obviously Copyright Law is essential. If you are lucky enough to have Entertainment Law taught while you’re a student. If you’re interested in film, Labor Law is really great. Tax law, Corporation Law if you’re interested in bands since they’re essentially businesses; thinking of yourself as a business attorney is helpful. Any and all clinics are great. That’s your chance to actually learn how to be a lawyer and how to interface with clients. I did the Business Law Clinic.”
Writing Competitions and Independent Study:
“There is a writing competition called the Entertainment Law Initiative put on by the Grammy Foundation. They say write about a legal problem in the music industry and your solution. The first time I entered I didn’t get anywhere but the second time I was a finalist, and they pick five finalists and fly you out to the Grammys. I like to say its like the coolest thing you can do as a law student, but maybe the least cool way to go to the Grammys. Even if you just have a passing interest in entertainment law and you just want to spend some time writing about it. I enrolled in an independent study one semester so I could have time to write – actually what I had to write for credit was a little more substantial than what I needed for the competition, but it was easy enough to sort of whittle it down and it gave me an academic advisor for it. So that is a nice way to cut out some time to focus on whatever interests you.”
Networking with Clients and Attorneys:
“The vast majority have been friends that I knew before law school or have been referred to me by those connections. In my last year I did this sort of tour of entertainment lawyers in Georgia and talked to every single person I had met on any panel or symposium or event and just sort of said … “what do you suggest?” and more than one attorney said you should just do it, start your own practice and if you have questions or are in over your head call me and I’ll help. And I was pleasantly surprised to see how warm and supportive the other attorneys were in this field.”
Entertainment Law Resources:
“I still use LexisNexis and Westlaw for research for case law stuff, and for finding forms, that is really useful. There’s also industry specific publications that I follow like Hollywood Reporter and Law 360, the ABA has a sports and entertainment law section and so does the Georgia Bar. Also strategically selecting CLEs that are relevant is a great way to meet other attorney’s in entertainment law or IP but also they’re usually really informative.”