What questions should your ask your potential entertainment attorney? Every day we enter into agreements and some of those agreements turn into contracts. Those contracts, whether good or bad, are the essence to success in the music industry. Important contracts for musicians, bands and songwriters include topics on co-songwriting, recording, performance, publishing and many, many more.
What Does An Entertainment Lawyer Do?
The biggest tip I can provide you is to make sure you have a qualified entertainment attorney to review and counsel on the pros and cons of the contract that you are considering. Do not hire an attorney who specializes in something other than entertainment/music law. A quality real-estate attorney may not know what clauses or issues are missing in a typical entertainment contract. So how do you know if the attorney you’re considering is going to work well for you?
Questions for Your Music Lawyer
Here are a few questions to ask when interviewing your potential music lawyer. The questions you should ask will vary with your case. Consider the following list to be a starting point:
- What are your areas of specialization? This question is crucial. Do not assume the attorney knows the entertainment/music business.
- What is the cost of the initial consultation? Usually, the initial consultation is free. This is the time to discuss fees and other critical questions. Remember, you are interviewing the attorney and he/she is interviewing you.
- Will you be the only attorney who works on the case? If not, who else will work on it? Sometimes, attorneys work in large firms. Depending on your case, you may end up hiring the firm and not necessarily the attorney that you interviewed. Be clear on who will handle your legal issues.
- How much does the attorney charge for their services? Again, be clear on what you are being charged for. Ask the attorney if they can take your case on a contingent fee basis. This might help you with your financial budgeting.
- Can I do some of the work on the case to keep the cost down? Many times you may be able to assist your attorney with mundane work where you may cut costs. If the attorney is charging you’re their full hourly rate to make photocopies, perhaps you could do that work instead.
- If I contact your office with questions, how long will you take to return my call? Some attorneys are very busy. That does not mean that they do not have time for you. This may mean that they are in high demand. Your concerns are most important to you and you should know, in advance, an estimate of a response you may expect from your legal counsel.
- How often do you go to trial? This could signal an attorney who may not want to negotiate a settlement which may ultimately cost you time and money.
- Have you ever been disciplined by an ethics committee, or been suspended from the practice of law? If so, why? There is a reason why there are so many lawyer jokes. Be wary of someone who does not share your values.
- What “continuing legal education” courses have you attended during the past few years? Attorneys are required to keep their knowledge of law current. They must take a certain number of educational credits to maintain their license. The better question would be… “How do you keep up with the on-goings of the music business?”
This is just a start of where to begin when asking entertainment attorneys about their involvement with your career. Many music professionals start building their team with an attorney first… then the manager. So… interview a few music lawyers before making any decisions about your team.