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 the “Top 10 Entertainment Law Schools,” based in part on the number of each school’s alumni on the publication’s Power Lawyers list. 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, what can an aspiring entertainment lawyer look to 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.
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 and touts such classes as “Cultural Property Law,” “Music Industry Law,” and the new and timely “Future of Television,” which launched this year. Southwestern Law School offers more than 20 entertainment and media-related courses, covering topics ranging from copyright law to the financing and distribution of independent films.
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 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 clinic in which students represent filmmakers and artists in areas such as contract negotiations and drafting of licensing agreements. Two of Harvard’s Transactional Law Clinics are specifically devoted to entertainment.
Look for schools that offer opportunities in the entertainment field outside of the classroom. Brooklyn Law School and Berkeley Law’s Sports and Entertainment Law Societies provide support and networking opportunities (e.g., through alumni outreach and guest speaker series) for students interested in pursuing a career in entertainment law. NYU’s Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law Society organizes mixers and relevant panel discussions 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.