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The Hollywood 100: America’s Top Entertainment ‘Power Lawyers’

Those working in the Biglaw world may think they’re living lifestyles of the rich and famous, but their prestige pales dramatically when compared to those working in the glittery world of Hollywood glamour. Let’s face the facts: rainmaking aside, being a behind-the-scenes ERISA or tax practitioner is nowhere near as fabulous as keeping Lindsay Lohan out of jail. Representing celebrity clients will catapult your name into the news and turn your practice into a household topic of conversation.

Those behind the entertainment law bar have worked with some of the most celebrated (and sometimes reviled) clients in the country, and in most cases, the world. Obviously, there should be some sort of a ranking to evaluate the top talent from this Hollywood throng of attorneys.

Luckily, the Hollywood Reporter has been in the rankings game for seven years, and this year’s list is no less entertaining than last year’s. Let’s check out the newly released list of the entertainment industry’s top 100 “power lawyers,” which we’ve dubbed the Hollywood 100….

Here’s how THR chose the names for this entertaining list:

To determine Hollywood’s 100 most influential attorneys (listed in alphabetical order — it’s impossible to rank them), THR researches the biggest deals and legal cases of the past year. Lawyers are identified as talent dealmakers, litigators or corporate dealmakers and evaluated against their peers based on cases won/nature of deals closed as well as their reputation within the entertainment legal community. In-house studio, network or talent agency legal executives are not eligible (it’s too difficult to gauge influence within a corporate structure). Music and Broadway lawyers are evaluated separately against their peers.

We mentioned earlier that behind-the-scenes work doesn’t make as many headlines as representing Hollywood talent in the public eye, and that’s evident when you look at the breakdown between talent, litigation, and corporate lawyers on this list. While the corporate segment of the list names 15 lawyers, the talent segment names 56 lawyers and entertainment practices within firms (with the names in the groups bringing the total number of talent sector lawyers to 60). At 29, the litigation segment has a more respectable number of lawyers, many of whom hail from brand-name Biglaw firms.

On the hefty talent dealmakers list, we see the firm Ziffren Brittenham repeatedly — 10 times, actually. This firm has greater representation than any other on the list. Melanie Cook, the first and only female partner at the entertainment powerhouse firm, represents a host of mega-producers and directors, including Scott Rudin, Cameron Crowe, Tim Burton, and Sam Mendes. She’s also got Keanu Reeves under her belt, which is a conquest that most women would die for.

Moving on to the litigators, we see some representation from Biglaw heavy-hitters like Gibson Dunn, Stroock, Kirkland & Ellis, Sheppard Mullin, Irell, O’Melveny, DWT, Jenner & Block, and Loeb, but the most well-known man on the list, Marty Singer, comes from a small firm, and we’ve written about him previously. Over at Lavely & Singer, this Brooklyn Law graduate makes scandalous lawsuits disappear as if he’s got magical powers, which is a difficult feat with clients like Charlie Sheen.

Finally, on the corporate side, we’ve got a list that’s dominated by Biglaw firms that have handled even bigger deals. For example, John Burke of Akin Gump is referred to as “[o]ne of Hollywood’s top finance
 lawyers,” and Stephen Tsoneff (who looks a bit like Seth Rogen) of Gibson Dunn snagged a $400 million financing deal for Fox, which means we’ll see a sequel to Avatar soon.

Overall, this list is exciting in that it shows you what small firms have the power to do in niche markets, but when stepping away from the glitz of Hollywood to see the big picture, the lack of female lawyers here is depressing. There are only nine women on the talent dealmakers list, three women on the litigators list, and just one woman on the corporate list. In fact, the most prolific small firm to make the list only has one female partner. We can surely aim higher than this and level the playing field.

Here are some additional Power Lawyers on the Hollywood 100 whom we’ve covered in the past:

John Branca is known for representing Michael Jackson and his estate, but he also focuses on “touring, buying and selling companies and management.”

Patricia Glaser is a “hard-core Republican,” but she represented Keith Olbermann in his suit against Current TV (which settled out of court).

Kelli Sager is the Queen of First Amendment cases and handles many of them for her “entertainment clients including Discovery, Turner Broadcasting and E! Entertainment Television.”

Ken Ziffren, once referred to as the “dean of Hollywood lawyers,” is the managing partner of the “most profitable law firm in Hollywood,” but lately has found time to handle only the most important and challenging of deals that his firm handles.

Congratulations to everyone who made the list. It’s well-deserved recognition for all of your work in an industry featuring clients who are some of the hardest to deal with in the world.

Power Lawyers: THR Unveils America’s Top 100 Entertainment Attorneys [The Hollywood Reporter]

Earlier: Who Are America’s Top 100 Entertainment ‘Power Lawyers’?

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