Quantcast
NEAR TRUTHS: EVOLUTION OF THE BARRISTERS, PART 1

During the 1980s, the most important record companies were run by a generation of legendary moguls. These execs did a massive amount of business with the top music attorneys of the era, who controlled the talent. All became major players through the combination of their prowess, their clients and the relationships they’d forged with the captains of the music business.

The label chiefs’ names were synonymous with those of their labels: Warner Bros.Mo Ostin, CBSWalter Yetnikoff and Tommy Mottola, Atlantic’s Ahmet Ertegun and Doug Morris, Elektra’s Joe Smith and Bob Krasnow, A&M’s Jerry Moss and Gil Friesen, Geffen’s David Geffen, MCA’s Irving Azoff, Capitol/EMI’s Jim Fifield and PolyGram’s Alain Levy.

In the ’70s and early ’80s, the biggest West Coast music and entertainment lawyers were Lee Phillips, Abe Somer, Jay Cooper, Michael Rosenfeld and David Braun in L.A., while Paul Marshall, Marty Machat, Pete Pryor and Walter Hofer were their top East Coast counterparts.

These legal luminaries served as mentors to a great many of today’s most prominent music attorneys, as next-gen stars Allen Grubman, John Branca, Joel Katz and Don Passman, later followed by Eric Greenspan, Peter Paterno, Jeff Light, Rosemary Carroll, Elliot Groffman and Michael Guido, soaked up knowledge from these and other trailblazers, who set the template for succeeding generations of musical dealmakers.

Phillips, who started as a music lawyer at Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp, joined Manatt, Phelps in 1977 and became a named partner there, handling legal for Elektra. Somer spent his entire career at MSK, starting in 1962; he represented A&M. In New York, the firm of Mayer, Katz repped Atlantic. Throughout these flush times, the firms became the farm clubs for a brace of talented young hitters. Alumni of MSK included Light, Milt Olin and Gene Salomon. Manatt, Phelps’ gifted graduates included Paterno, Jody Graham and Michele Anthony.

Eventually, Atlantic, Elektra and A&M, along with the other major labels, took much of their legal work in-house. That shift, coupled with a big-firm mentality that undervalued ambitious young attorneys, adversely affected those firms and gave other practices a path to prominence, while motivating more than a few lawyers to move to the label side.

Braun left law in 1981 to become President/CEO of PolyGram, though he returned to private practice two years later. Eric Eisner left Ziffren to become President of Geffen Records as Branca joined Ziffren, while David Berman, Graham, Olin, Anthony and Paterno also went inside companies in high-level positions. Meanwhile, several law firms were doing contract work for the labels, providing indispensable on-the-job training for their attorneys. Passman acknowledges that he made his bones doing contract work for WBR and Capitol back in the day.

While Grubman and Branca were building large practices and dominating the coasts, Joel Katz was building his own empire in the South, making him one of the most powerful players in the business. After law school at the University of Tennessee, the New York native headed to Atlanta and soon hung his own shingle. His first client was James Brown, but he built his practice representing Nashville-associated acts like Willie Nelson, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, Jimmy Buffett and George Strait. Like his New York and L.A. counterparts, Katz was able to straddle that fine line and became the third cog in the power wheel. By the time Katz joined Greenberg Traurig in 1998, he and his close associate Jess Rosen virtually controlled the South. The firm’s profound influence in Music City continues with the current generation of top stars and execs.

Passman has been with the Beverly Hills law firm of Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman for almost the entirety of his career; he was recently made a named partner. Passman’s compact firm has a robust practice of superstar clients including Taylor Swift, Adele and P!nk, and does a brisk trade in executive packages. Indeed, between them, Passman and Katz represent more major-label and publishing- company CEOs than most of the rest of the field put together. Gene Salomon and Ethan Schiffres work in the music department with Passman, who authored the definitive industry tome, All You Need to Know About the Music Business.

Greenspan made his mark at the large multinational firm Finley Kumble Heine Underberg Manley & Casey, leaving three years later to start the music department at a small film-and-TV firm which now bears the nameplate Myman, Greenspan, Fox, Rosenberg, Mobasser, Younger & Light. The firm’s clients include Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dead & Co., John Legend, Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Jennifer Lopez, Meghan Trainor, Queens of the Stone Age, Guns N’ Roses members Slash and Duff McKagan and Bon Jovi. Greenspan lives and breathes music and can be seen at Dead and Peppers shows anywhere in the world. His teammates have impressive pedigrees; for starters, Jeff Light trained at Cooper, Epstein, while Aaron Rosenberg, who has one of the hottest practices in the business, came over from Greenberg Traurig.

After Manatt, Phelps, Paterno became the first President of Hollywood Records in 1990. While there he made the label’s now-legendary deal for Queen. He then became a partner in King, Holmes, Paterno & Berliner, which presently provides counsel for the likes of Travis Scott, Metallica, Pharrell, Frank Ocean, Dr. Dre and Carole King. The firm also boasts partner Laurie Soriano and everybody’s go-to litigator, Howard King, who is currently representing the liti- gants in the class-action suit over the thousands of UMG master recordings that were destroyed in the 2008 fire.

Doug Davis has built a substantial practice—among the firm’s clients are DJ Snake, Mike Will Made-It, LL Cool J and Ron Perry— and he plays a central role in the Clive Davis pre-Grammy Gala, which he produces. He recently made Jodie Shihadeh a partner in The Davis Firm.

Dina LaPolt heads her own firm, representing clients including Britney Spears, deadmau5, Fifth Harmony and Steven Tyler. She’s built a reputation as an activist for diversity and is very well respect- ed—she truly walks like she talks it. She advocated for the passage of the Music Modernization Act, served as an adviser to the Song- writers of North America and deftly ironed out 21 Savage’s im- migration issues. LaPolt and Davis are among the firms leading the way in empowering a wave of women attorneys and transforming the old boys’ club into something decidedly more modern.

Rosemary Carroll started her own firm in 1989 in Beverly Hills and relocated to New York in 1994, soon thereafter bringing in Guido and Groffman, who had been working at Grubman’s firm. The firm’s clients include Dave Matthews Band, Jonas Brothers, Arcade Fire, Patti Smith, Lucinda Williams, The Strokes, The War on Drugs and Iggy Pop. Since going out on his own, Guido has built an impressive clientele as well. He ran point on the 12Tone deal with Apple Music for Doug Morris and reps major executive talent on both sides of the Atlantic.

Davis Shapiro Lewit Grabel Leven Granderson & Blake has seen multiple changes in the firm since Fred Davis left in 2010 to form CODE Advisors before becoming a partner at The Raine Group, and yet more change is at hand. Now comes news that the firm will be divided into two new firms, one on each coast; Steven Shapiro, Peter Lewit, Richard Grabel and Jeff Leven will com- prise the NYC office (“exact surnames TBD,” says the team), while Damien Granderson and Guy Blake will run the Beverly Hills practice—joined by film/TV attorneys led by Andre Des Rochers—under the Granderson Des Rochers, LLP shingle. All clients, they affirm, will remain with their primary teams.

An in-depth look at the firms from our print issue:

Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman

Myman, Greenspan, Fox, Rosenberg, Mobasser, Younger & Light LLP

King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano, LLP

The Davis Firm

LaPolt Law

Carroll, Guido, Groffman, Cohen, Bar & Karalian LLP

Greenberg Traurig

Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks, P.C.

Ziffren Brittenham LLP

 

 

 

 

 

TAYLOR’S LOVER: READING BETWEEN THE LAYERS
It goes deep in places. (8/23a)
THE GRAMMY CHEW:
ALBUM CONTENDERS
These machers have one-track minds. (8/23a)
NEAR TRUTHS:
IT’S TAYLOR’S TIME
Looking at her big week from a different angle. (8/23a)
LOVE FOR LOVER FROM SCOTT AND SCOOTER
An olive branch? (8/23a)
UNDER HIPGNOSIS: MERCK CATALOGS HIS PLAN (PART 1)
From the horse's mouse (8/23a)
TAYLOR SWIFT!
Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift? Taylor Swift; Taylor. Swift. Taylor Swift!
TAYLOR SWIFT.
Taylor Swift...  
TAYLOR SWIFT?
Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift. Taylor Swift.   
TAYLOR. SWIFT.
Taylor!
 Email

 First Name

 Last Name

 Company

 Country
CAPTCHA code
Captcha: (type the characters above)