Whether you’re searching for lawyers in person or online, research a few recent cases they have handled or clients with whom they have worked. Check their efficiency by reading reviews, which can help you scratch some names off the “might-be-the-one” list. Remember, you can't be too nice about things when the law is involved! You’ll need someone who is very meticulous and known for getting the job done well.
Here is a small list of general points to consider when looking for a lawyer/attorney:
- Do you feel comfortable talking to them?
- Are they cost-effectively handling your legal affairs?
- Do they give you clear and concise answers to your questions?
- How is their attention span? Do they listen to what you are saying and give you proper guidance in base to what you just said?
- Is their level of expertise convincing to you?
- Do they treat you as an equal?
If you can answer all of these questions with a satisfying “yes” once you’ve completed the whole approach and interview process (which we will explain a little later), then you have yourself an excellent deal! It is a good idea to start considering the answers to these questions from the first point of contact; this will help your insight and judgment a lot.
As for things you should avoid when looking for a lawyer (including “no” answers to any of the previously mentioned suggestions), avoid lawyers that work directly for the record label you’re hoping to sign with. There’s the potential these lawyers may have been speedily hired and their primary responsibility is to the label’s concepts and ideals, which may not match yours at all. Avoid smooth talkers and show-offs. Anyone who brags about other cases they might be handling or blows off your concerns with automated solutions may not be taking what you say very seriously.
Be on the lookout for these attitudes, and if you encounter a lawyer like this, we suggest you move on to someone else. No matter how highly they are recommended, it just won't work—trust me, we are talking about your career here. Don't give in or give up so easily.
Now, the approach to finding a lawyer...
There are three approaches for you to try, let’s take a look at them:
Music Business Directories: These directories are particularly helpful as they only enlist entertainment lawyers or people with relevant experience. They are also organized geographically, making it easier to locate a legal professional in your area. Music Business Directories are updated annually to include the most proficient, successful lawyers, ensuring that every candidate is up to date with all of the current procedures and legal technicalities you might come across as an artist.
The downside is that many artists and entertainment professionals hire through this directory, so you might come across a few lawyers that are at capacity or have a long waiting list. But the size of the directory makes it likely that you can find another suitable option.
Referrals: Probably the most straightforward method is to ask your closest friends and family if they know any lawyers with relevant experience. If not, you can reach out to local artists through social media and ask if they would refer you or answer any questions you might have.
Take advantage of this personal connection. Ask your contact if their experiences with their lawyers have been successful, if they enjoy working together, and if they know how long their lawyer has been working in entertainment law. You can also ask if they knows any other artists that have worked with this lawyer, for how long, etc. Ask until you are satisfied and if you feel convinced, you can to be in contact with the lawyer.
Music Business Conferences: Music Business Conferences are a great way to network for your career and find a lawyer all at the same time! If your primary goal is to gain a lawyer, stick to bigger conferences that involve more entertainment business professionals versus small local deals.
Hang around at the conference rooms and panels. If any artists or lawyers are being showcased, make a point to hear them chat about their work. If you believe you would work well together, approach them and request an appointment for an interview.
So you made it to the interview, now what? Keep reading for the last installment in our Finding a Legitimate Music Lawyer series!