Hometown: Spring, Texas
Undergrad: University of Texas at Austin, 1998
Current Job: Vice President of Legal Affairs, NBCUniversal Media
YLS year: J.D. 2003
What did you do in your gap years between college and starting at Yale Law School?
I worked in advertising as an account executive at Leo Burnett USA in Chicago. It gave me great business skills, like client management, that my liberal arts degree didn’t impart. I worked on really big projects, like the Keebler Elves and the Jolly Green Giant. The hours were long, and I thought the advice I gave was pretty good, but clients would sometimes choose not to listen to you, or they would blame you. I thought, if I want to give clients advice about stuff, maybe they would take me more seriously if I say it’s the law.
How did you begin to pursue a career in entertainment law?
I liked entertainment. In my 2L summer, I split between Quinn Emmanuel and Prosakuer Rose in New York, and both firms had great entertainment practices. When I joined Quinn full-time in Los Angeles, I was very vocal with the partners about the entertainment work I wanted to do. In my first project in entertainment, I was the primary associate representing the National Enquirer in a suit where an exotic dancer had sued for defamation. I did a good job, and from there I was able to specialize in intellectual property and entertainment matters for clients including Mattel, Mel Gibson, Colin Farrell, the Elvis Presley Estate, the Producers Guild of America, the Los Angeles Times, the National Enquirer, and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Do you have any advice for students interested in going into entertainment law?
You should definitely start trying to get on the radar of the important people in the industry. Do some informational interviews and find out what they’re doing in Hollywood. You can get involved with the Entertainment and Sports Law Society and try to get people from New York to come speak about these issues. In terms of classes, copyright would be helpful. Also, just because of the nature of the work, you should stay up-to-date on the current issues. Read the Hollywood Reporter and Variety online.
How did you decide to make the transition from firm work to going in-house?
The hours at the law firm were long and nonstop. This isn’t atypical and a lot of people are okay with it, but it started to wear on me after a couple of years. Also, it was becoming clear that it might be hard to stay at a large, top firm and just do entertainment work. It wasn’t high-dollar work compared to patient trials, business litigation, etc. If I wanted to stay and be partner, I’d have to expand my practice, but I was more interested in focusing on the entertainment side.
What was the transition itself like?
The hardest leap is going from firm to in-house. Once you get in-house, especially in entertainment, it’s easy to find other in-house jobs. I became involved with the local bar association, and networked with other entertainment lawyers. I looked for decent in-house opportunities for the better part of a year, and I was fortunate when a position opened up at NBC.
What does your job at NBCUniversal entail?
I represent the company in pre-litigation and litigation matters relating to NBCUniversal television and digital properties, including the NBC network, Bravo, USA, Oxygen, Syfy, E!, Style, Fandango, and NBC News. I have handled cases for NBCUniversal in areas including First Amendment, reporter shield, idea theft, copyright, and contract disputes. I have also served as NBC’s West Coast media lawyer, overseeing news media pre-production and legal issues for the San Diego, Los Angeles, and Bay Area NBC stations.
2. LAW SCHOOL
What activities were you involved in at Yale Law School?
I was an editor on the Yale Law Journal, had a weekly radio show entitled “Law Talk,” and was the president of the Entertainment and Sports Law Society. I also worked in the Legal Aid Clinic, and I loved bartending at GPSCY.
Can you speak to achievements and challenges in your professional career?
Well now that I’ve been at NBCUniversal for several years, I don’t just clean up problems for people. I’ve been here long enough and have established enough trust that I don’t just hear from people when things have gone awry. I can be involved in the business process and the business discussion up front, and people reach out to me even if they don’t have to. It’s an achievement to be able to add value from the outset. In terms of challenges, it’s figuring out what you really want to be doing with a law degree. It’s very easy for a job to become all-consuming. You really have to place a priority on yourself and your personal time and development. No one is going to tell you to take time for yourself, so you need to find the right balance.
How has your experience been as a woman both at a firm and now in-house?
If anything, I feel I have been treated better because of it. At Quinn, I had great mentoring from the partners. The only thing I should mention, which might have been more of an issue had I stayed at the firm, was client development. It had a weird vibe sometimes, and it’s more of an issue when you’re young and single. I was lucky that I had a lot of client-facing opportunities as an associate, but when you’re a 28-year-old woman and your client is a 45-year-old man, you don’t want it to seem like a date. Also, I have heard from friends that as a junior litigator, they sometimes show up to court and get the “Little lady, let me tell you how this is going to go” spiel. But that says more about the other person than it does about you. They just assume you’re young and silly and can intimidate you. But, honestly, when you come from Yale Law, you’re just emboldened by that behavior.