November 10, 2015
Tulane Law students and Professor Elizabeth Townsend Gard (seated, second from left) enjoy the set of “Friends” during a visit to Warner Brothers as part of a Los Angeles field trip to explore the legal side of the entertainment industry.
Photo courtesy of Ron Gard
During a weeklong visit to Los Angeles, a contingent of Tulane Law students took an insider’s tour of the entertainment industry: They discussed social media, piracy and other issues with lawyers from Warner Brothers, MGM, Sony, NBCUniversal, Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Endeavor, Getty and Miramax. They met with the Alliance of Women Directors. They even sat on the couch on the set of “Friends.”
The objective wasn’t to see stars; it was to learn about intellectual property in the heart of Hollywood and connect with Tulane Law alumni who could share advice on making it in a fiercely competitive industry.
Professor Elizabeth Townsend Gard, who led the trip, called it an exploration of “what is the world of law and creativity — and at what point do lawyers step in?”
The excursion hatched after a panel of copyright experts from across the United States gathered for a workshop at Tulane Law in the spring.
In addition to exploring the legal side of the movie business, students, led by Ron Gard, director of Tulane University's Law/Culture/Innovation initiative, visited the Entrepreneurship Clinic at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. And they met with welcoming alumni, including studio executives and law firm partners, who were eager to help students prepare for and navigate the industry.
“This was an incredible opportunity to get an inside look at places we shouldn’t have access to,” Townsend Gard said.
She is working to build stronger ties to Los Angeles alumni and develop an array of summer jobs and externships for Tulane Law students interested in IP as it operates in the entertainment field, as well as the entrepreneurial arm.
MGM Senior Counsel Cynthia Waldman (N ’86, L ’90) was among several Tulane alumni who met with students during their Los Angeles visit. She then returned to New Orleans for Law Alumni Weekend and a reception co-chaired by Louis Lupin, a senior attorney with Sullivan Stolier Knight.
Photo by Tracie Morris Schaefer
“What she’s doing is so important because the way people get jobs in the entertainment industry is through contacts and who you know,” said MGM Senior Counsel Cynthia Waldman (N ’86, L ’90), who shared her experiences with the students.
After clerking for a judge for three years, Waldman did freelance litigation work, took a job at a small motion picture company and kept networking persistently until she worked her way into a full-time position at MGM. She said it’s vital to recognize that the lawyer’s job is to explain the options in a way that helps the client see how they will affect business decisions.
“The most important thing in working in the movie industry is understanding how the process works,” she said.
IP attorney Oliver Bajracharya (L ’02), a partner at Christie, Parker & Hale, said he’s also eager to expand Tulane Law’s Los Angeles presence.
Bajracharya handles patent and trademark counseling and prosecution, concentrating on mechanical and structural patents and fashion and apparel trademarks. He worked at his firm as a summer associate during law school then returned after graduation.
He said meeting with Townsend Gard’s group enabled him to connect with the Tulane community and give students “someone to reach out to if they come to LA.” He also now is connecting with Tulane's Tech Transfer Office on several projects.
Student Rachel Rodriguez (L ’16) called the trip “an incredible look” into intellectual property issues within entertainment law with professionals who happily shared their insights.
“We learned about what they do on a daily basis, as well as some of the bigger-picture legal issues they are faced with,” she said. “We were taught the importance of knowing the intricacies of the business before diving into our career. We were given practical advice on how to move forward in pursuing our dream job. And we were able to first-hand test the waters of different facets of the entertainment industry.”
Rodriguez said she’s interested in the intersection of privacy with entertainment law, and she discovered that working on clearance issues is an ideal combination of the two areas.
“After this trip, I have a much clearer understanding of what I want to do after law school and what I need to do to get there,” she said.
The week provided many networking opportunities. Some students, including Latisha Mais, were able to schedule one-on-one meetings with entertainment lawyers.
Townsend Gard said she hopes to make Los Angeles an annual field trip and expand to other venues, such as Nashville, Silicon Valley and New York.