Given that I was on the board of the Arts & Entertainment Law Society in law school, I’m thrilled to welcome Jaia Thomas, a Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment lawyer, to answer some questions for us!
Without further ado…
I’m a 3L without a job, and I’m thinking about starting a solo practice when I graduate. Do you think this is feasible, and what tips do you have for successfully getting it off the ground?
Starting a solo practice immediately after law school is difficult but not impossible. I started my practice approximately four years after graduating from law school. It probably took at least a year for me to really find my footing.
Law school teaches you a lot of things but starting and successfully running a solo practice isn’t one of them.
If I could do it all over again, I would’ve gotten a head start while in law school.
At my law school (as well as most law schools), law students are permitted to take courses at other schools within the University. My University (The George Washington University) has a reputable business program and if I could’ve done it differently, I would’ve taken several courses at the business school, such as marketing, budgeting, and management courses.
Starting and running a solo practice is only 50% practicing law. The other 50% consists of pure Business 101. When I started my practice, I was equipped with the tools necessary to practice law but not with the tools necessary to market a practice.
So, I would definitely recommend getting a head start on the business basics as soon as possible — whether taking courses or reading books.
I’m just starting law school, and I want to break into entertainment law. What are the three most important things for me to focus on as I move through law school to make this happen?
- Internship/Externship: I would recommend trying to secure at least one entertainment related internship or externship while in law school. It will provide you with the opportunity to learn the inner-workings of the industry first-hand as well as network with key industry professionals.
- Coursework: It is important to take key courses that will provide you with the knowledge base to successfully represent and protect your client’s legal interests. Obviously I would recommend taking any and every entertainment law course offered as well as any intellectual property courses (trademark, copyright), contract drafting, and negotiation courses.
- Read/Research: It is important to not only have a strong legal understanding of the entertainment industry but also a strong understanding, in general, of the industry. Stay abreast of what’s going on by reading the trade and other publications.
Could you talk a bit about what you do in the average day at work, and how it’s similar to (or different from) what you thought you’d be doing when you started law school?
My days really vary. I usually read all the trades and newspapers as soon as I wake up (Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal). Then I spend the next few hours retuning phone calls and answering emails.
My afternoons are usually dedicated to handling client matters — registering trademarks/copyrights, pitching and negotiating television projects, drafting and negotiating talent agreements, etc. I’m also frequently speaking on panels or drafting legal-related articles so I usually have to spend an hour or two preparing for those activities everyday as well as attending networking or client events.
My day looks how I thought it would look when I started law school. I never imagined myself being chained to a desk everyday for 12 hours; it doesn’t work well with my personality so this schedule and the flexibility it provides is perfect.
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Thanks, Jaia! Fascinating.
More about Jaia:
Jaia A. Thomas is a Los Angeles-based sports and entertainment attorney. She is a graduate of Colgate University (BA) and The George Washington University Law School (JD). As the founding manager of The Law Office of Jaia Thomas, her multi-faceted practice covers all segments of the entertainment industry, including: film, television, music, sports, and new media. She frequently counsels clients in the selection and registration of intellectual property, specifically copyrights, trademarks, and servicemarks. She is the author of Entertainment Law: The Law Student’s Guide to Pursuing a Career in Entertainment Law.
You can follow Jaia on Twitter at @jaiathomaslaw.
Want more useful advice about running a solo practice and jobs after law school? Check out these posts:
- Thinking of Starting a Solo Law Practice? Avoid These Traps for the Unwary
- Want to Chuck Your Legal Career and Become an Entrepreneur? A Report from the Field
- Considering Going Solo? Wisdom from the Founder of Solo Practice University
- Can You Start Your Own Firm Right Out of Law School? Meet Someone Who’s Doing It
Or check out all of our interviews here: Interviews with Helpful People.
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Got a question for Jaia? Leave it in the comments!