Gary A. Watson, has over the past 25 years provided clients in the music, motion picture, television and allied and ancillary industries with a full range of transactional entertainment legal services. His music industry clients have included Motown Records, Def Jam Records, Tommy Boy Records, Jimmy Jam’s and Terry Lewis’ Flyte Tyme Records and Dr. Dre. In the motion picture industry, his work has included representation of BET Pictures, II and the producers of the feature film, “Get On The Bus,” which was executive produced by Spike Lee and starred Ossie Davis and Charles Dutton. He also served as lead attorney for Universal Pictures on “The Guardian,” a film by the director of “The Exorcist” and “The French Connection,” William Friedkin; two pictures by Spike Lee, “Mo’ Better Blues” and “Jungle Fever;” “Childs Play 3;” Wes Craven’s and Shep Gordon’s “People Under The Stairs;” the John Goodman starrer, “The Babe;” the film featuring Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis and Meryl Streep, directed by Robert Zemekis, entitled “Death Becomes Her;” and the Oscar Award winning picture starring Al Pacino titled “Scent of a Woman.” You can find more information on his Website, Facebook and LinkedIn.
1. How did you get started in the industry? How can someone who is interested in your work get started?
The moment I knew a career in entertainment law would be most suitable to me was during my time in college. I thought long and hard about career pursuits in college. I felt that whatever work I would pursue needed to have a strong purpose and the possibility to influence. I therefore looked to find an occupation with intent and effect.
At the time, I had the opportunity to act in a play that was produced by fellow students at my college. It was a wonderful piece about reflection on an American tragedy. To call it moving would be an understatement. What hit me hard about the reaction that was felt in response to the play was the keen ability that this drama had to arouse. I thought then how wonderful it would be to work in support of those who instigated, motivated and stirred. By doing so, I could contribute to inspiration.
I had this thought on my mind when I happened to lay hands on a magazine that featured an article on entertainment lawyers. I then learned of these fierce advocates who championed the cause of creators. Upon reading this article, I knew that law was my calling. Without a doubt, the passion that I have for entertainment law is because of the opportunity that it gives me to service creators who inspire. This passion has carried me far in my profession and allowed me to establish and advance my firm. It indeed fulfills because the work is for those with vision that guides them to produce meaningful work.
An individual who is interested in working in the entertainment legal field should seriously consider attending a law school ranked in the top ten. An individual who has graduated from such a law school, and therefore demonstrated academic accomplishment, especially if they are ranked high in their class, shall be competitive. Additionally, it would be wise for them to read about the entertainment industry in trade publications for film, television, and music. Some trade publications that first come to mind include: Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and Billboard Magazine.
Also, taking courses and participating in internships that are focused on entertainment law are excellent ways to get started. This gives the individual the opportunity to learn and network with already established individuals.
2. What’s the future of your industry or job?
Because of the changes in technology, and the resultant need for development and production of content to be distributed new ways, there likely will continue to be opportunities in entertainment law. For example, content is increasingly distributed online. Lawyers, then, may very well be needed to service the development and production of new content distributed online.
Jobs for lawyers are growing at the average rate for all occupations. In an article published in the New York Times website, November 28, 2012, Lawrence E. Mitchell wrote the following: “… the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports projected growth in lawyers’ jobs from 2010 to 2020 at 10 percent, ‘about as fast as the average for all occupations.” Nonetheless, it is estimated that the number of law grabs will outpace job growth. Thus, the aforementioned need to be competitive.
3. What do you look for when you hire an intern or entry-level candidate?
Those who apply for the Entertainment Law Intern position should be mature, responsible, self motivated, hard working, detail oriented, tech savvy, personable and able to work under the pressure of the demands of deadlines and a heavy work load. Applicants should type 60 words per minute or more and have strong proofreading skills. Applicants should have experience with, and ideally a strong working knowledge of, Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel. Applicants should have excellent phone skills. Experience in billing and collections is preferred, but not essential. Applicants should posses the ability to learn quickly and with a minimal amount of training.
4. What is one thing an intern can do to make a favorable impression?
There are several qualities in an intern that stand-out to me. First, an intern should demonstrate interest. On their resumes, I like to see that they have taken courses or have already participated in an internship program relating to law or the entertainment field. In addition, work experience in law or the entertainment fields is looked upon favorably. This shows me that they have a sense of what is required of them in the work environment. Second, hard work and dedication are qualities that are necessary in my office. An intern that does not have these two qualities will find it difficult to meet the daily tasks that my office demands.
Third, attention to detail is an essential trait for someone working in my law office. I have had many individuals contact me to intern in my office; unfortunately, most of them do not completely answer the questions I have for them in our email exchanges. This shows me that they do not pay close attention to detail. An individual that thoroughly answers my questions is difficult to find. Finally, an intern needs to be an organized person. There is a great deal of documentation in a law office and organizing this must be properly managed. Organizing documentation is a task that needs to be addressed on a daily basis.
5. Can you share a positive intern story and an intern horror story? No names needed…
One positive intern story that comes first to mind is the first intern that applied at my office. When the first intern applied at my office I was not currently searching for an intern. The individual was employed at the time. He had contacted me requesting to intern with me at my office, and I accepted his offer. His schedule consisted of coming to my office after work and contributing whatever was necessary to my office. Eventually, he became an employee at my office while attending law school. Since then, he has completed law school and has found work in the industry. This individual led the way for other interns to follow in his place.
One “horror story” that comes to mind was when an intern left my office and never returned. The individual had informed me she was going to the restroom, which I acknowledged, and it was simply the last time I saw her.
Interested in interning for Gary A. Watson? He’s currently looking for Entertainment Law interns! Apply now.