In Hollywood, it’s often said that success is based on “who you know.” When it comes to ranking the top schools for entertainment law, the industry applies a similar standard but acknowledges the growing importance of training opportunities that meet today’s changing legal needs.
The Hollywood Reporter annually ranks “Hollywood’s Top Law Schools” for preparing future entertainment lawyers. While it might be no surprise that UCLA and USC usually make it onto the list, Berkeley Law and Georgetown also appear this year (and have in other years as well!).
So, besides rankings, where can an aspiring entertainment lawyer look when trying to identify the right law school? Here are some suggestions.
Location, Location, Location
As expected, many of the best law schools for entertainment are located in Los Angeles and New York. Close to Hollywood, UCLA and USC offer easy access to opportunities in the entertainment industry. Moreover, their alumni often go on to become esteemed members of the entertainment community, creating an impressive networking system for students to find the right firm or the next big celebrity client. In fact, first-year students who are selected to join Loyola Law School’s Entertainment Law Fellows Program are paired at the start of the academic year with industry mentors who provide guidance throughout their studies.
The top law schools for entertainment offer industry-specific courses, including ones that address the expanding role of technology and intellectual property law in the industry. One of UCLA’s highlighted “Areas of Focus” is Entertainment Law, where students through the Ziffren Institute for Media, Entertainment, Technology and Sports Law can take classes such as “Music Industry Law,” “Esports: The Legal and Business Evolution,” and “Video Game Law.” Southwestern Law School offers 24 entertainment- and media-related courses, covering topics ranging from copyright law to obtaining music rights for film and television.
Consider schools where you will also be able to get a strong education in core areas such as contracts and torts, in addition to more specific disciplines including intellectual property, negotiations, privacy, international law, cyber security—all of which are relevant to modern entertainment law practices.
Clinics give students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience. USC’s Gould School of Law offers an Intellectual Property and Technology Law Clinic in which students represent filmmakers and artists in areas such as contract negotiations and drafting of licensing agreements. One of Harvard’s Transactional Law Clinics is specifically devoted to entertainment.
Look for schools that offer opportunities in the entertainment field outside of the classroom. Berkeley Law’s Sports and Entertainment Law Society and Cardozo Law’s Cardozo Arts & Entertainment Law Journal provide support and networking opportunities (e.g., through alumni outreach and guest speaker series) for students interested in pursuing a career in entertainment law. Loyola Law School’s Entertainment and Sports Law Society hosts relevant panel discussions and mixers such as the Entertainment Alumni Membership Luncheon for its members. UCLA presents an annual Entertainment Symposium that features speakers from all sectors of the entertainment business, including lawyers and executives, and covers current industry trends.
Finally, as with any other area of law, your chances of succeeding in entertainment law can greatly improve if you attend a high-ranking T14 school. However, don’t discount lesser ranked programs that have a strong reputation in the entertainment industry if you have set your sights on a job in the entertainment field after graduation.