Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

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PwnLaw
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Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby PwnLaw » Fri May 31, 2013 5:17 am

I do this every 6 months or so (or when someone sends me a private message and reminds me to come back).

Career Path: T14 -> Entertainment BigLaw -> Startup GC/Business Development -> Senior Exec/Game Designer

Additional Background: While I was in BigLaw, I founded and ran a team and built a pretty sizable book of business (for a 3rd year at least) before I left the firm. I can talk about entertainment/startups, building a book, navigating firm life/politics, how to avoid being a tool as a SA and how to transition out of a firm position.

I'm heading to bed right now, but I'll check back throughout tomorrow to answer questions if anyone has any. May check in over the weekend as well.

levin892
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby levin892 » Fri May 31, 2013 5:51 am

Hey thanks for doing this again. Rising 1L, just wondering what you would recommend to get the ball rolling early besides joining the entertainment law society and such while in school? Was also wondering what type of firms were best to target to get started in Entertainment Biglaw, and whether there were any boutiques specializing in Entertainment Law that are worth targeting as well?

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Balthy
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby Balthy » Fri May 31, 2013 6:56 am

I really appreciate you giving us your time!

Why do you believe that startups are not for those whose primary objective is money? Do you think such people can't work as hard, are not as dedicated, or perhaps that their expectations just likely won't be met? The few very successful entrepreneurs I know all seem to biologically require money for their survival. They still all love their respective fields and, if you didn't know better, you would think they would do the same for a lot less; in actuality they would jump ship at the first sign of an extra dollar. Of course, you know many more startup guys than I do, so I'm interested in your opinion.

Similar to the other guy's Q: Is there any way to reasonably expect breaking into the entertainment law sphere? So far most of what I've read on the issue says no.

Could you elaborate a bit on the last transition, from startup GC/biz dev to senior exec/game designer?

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ExBiglawAssociate
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby ExBiglawAssociate » Fri May 31, 2013 7:23 am

OP seems like the type of person who would PWN at anything in life, so his advice probably won't work for most biglaw plebes.

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Balthy
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby Balthy » Fri May 31, 2013 7:46 am

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:OP seems like the type of person who would PWN at anything in life, so his advice probably won't work for most biglaw plebes.



I agree. He's probably not even sleeping now. He's hanging upside down, doing crunches, and learning how to code.

PwnLaw
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby PwnLaw » Fri May 31, 2013 1:16 pm

levin892 wrote:Hey thanks for doing this again. Rising 1L, just wondering what you would recommend to get the ball rolling early besides joining the entertainment law society and such while in school? Was also wondering what type of firms were best to target to get started in Entertainment Biglaw, and whether there were any boutiques specializing in Entertainment Law that are worth targeting as well?


We generally didn't pay much attention to the "entertainment" related aspects of a person's resume. It was pretty much the same as any where else: grades, school, demeanor. Having an expressed interest in entertainment doesn't hurt, but it generally wasn't going to be outcome determinative for anyone we interviewed.

You should just look at the industry rankings and go from there. Most folks start at a big firm, acquire some experience and then branch out from there (talent side representation, in house at a studio, etc.). Boutiques generally do not hire 1st or 2nd years. They're all about laterals.

PwnLaw
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby PwnLaw » Fri May 31, 2013 1:31 pm

superdingle2000 wrote:I really appreciate you giving us your time!

Why do you believe that startups are not for those whose primary objective is money? Do you think such people can't work as hard, are not as dedicated, or perhaps that their expectations just likely won't be met? The few very successful entrepreneurs I know all seem to biologically require money for their survival. They still all love their respective fields and, if you didn't know better, you would think they would do the same for a lot less; in actuality they would jump ship at the first sign of an extra dollar. Of course, you know many more startup guys than I do, so I'm interested in your opinion.

Similar to the other guy's Q: Is there any way to reasonably expect breaking into the entertainment law sphere? So far most of what I've read on the issue says no.

Could you elaborate a bit on the last transition, from startup GC/biz dev to senior exec/game designer?


Because the odds of failure are high and the demands on your person are even higher. If money is the only thing keeping you in the game, most people will recognize that and not offer you positions. You need to be passionate about what you're doing to survive. For me, I love video games. Always have. Always will. It makes it a lot easier to take a huge salary cut to work on something speculative. If it works out, then I'll be a millionaire, but it's not why I signed up. Same goes for everyone we hire. If someone decides to go somewhere else because they want to make a bit more, we're happy to see them go.

Generally people that are jumping ship for a dollar aren't entrepreneurs. They're executives or employees without a decent equity stake. Since it takes a while to earn into equity, you need to be committed to making things work. There's often a lot of shuffling until a person finds the right home though.

The last transition was pretty odd actually. I was pretty well known as a business development type and I joined an early stage game development startup that had just raised a round from VCs I was friends with. Per usual in a startups, the needs of the company shifted regularly and I needed to wear multiple hats. Over time, it became clear to the CEO that I had certain chops for game design. He asked me to spend more time on it. I refused. He insisted. I agreed. Haven't looked back.

PwnLaw
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby PwnLaw » Fri May 31, 2013 1:35 pm

Biglaw_Associate_V20 wrote:OP seems like the type of person who would PWN at anything in life, so his advice probably won't work for most biglaw plebes.


Haha, flattered.

Honestly, the real difference between me and the other associates was a willingness to network and a higher appetite for taking on professional risk. I think even minor shifts in an associate's approach could make a big difference. People get so caught up and overwhelmed by billing hours that they lose sight of the things that will actually make them successful.

I'd also note that going to law school is a ludicrous amount of risk, so I've generally be surprised at how risk averse everyone gets once they graduate.

lolwat
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby lolwat » Fri May 31, 2013 2:05 pm

Hey, I remember you. Not from TLS, but from when I was a law student checking out video game related practices at firms.

In terms of founding and running a team at a big law firm - how exactly did that come about? Was it kind of a right-place-right-time deal with you having enough ambition to talk to the firm's partners about it and get that practice started?

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Balthy
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby Balthy » Fri May 31, 2013 2:41 pm

PwnLaw wrote:We generally didn't pay much attention to the "entertainment" related aspects of a person's resume. It was pretty much the same as any where else: grades, school, demeanor. Having an expressed interest in entertainment doesn't hurt, but it generally wasn't going to be outcome determinative for anyone we interviewed.




When you say schools, do you generally value the schools in order of rank, or are there certain t14s you would recommend over others for those interested in entertainment law?

PwnLaw
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby PwnLaw » Fri May 31, 2013 2:45 pm

lolwat wrote:Hey, I remember you. Not from TLS, but from when I was a law student checking out video game related practices at firms.

In terms of founding and running a team at a big law firm - how exactly did that come about? Was it kind of a right-place-right-time deal with you having enough ambition to talk to the firm's partners about it and get that practice started?


Yup, still alive and kicking. Trying to save law students from themselves.

I spoke to a partner on the executive team about the idea of building a video game team. He asked me to put together a business plan justifying it. I wrote up a ~15 page plan explaining how I would go about it and why it was a good idea. He gave me permission to pursue it. The first part of plan required a bunch of research and analysis into the industry, so I poured about a thousand hours into building up my understanding (read all of the 10Q and 10Ks of public game companies, all contracts related to games I could find, etc.). Also, I began taking members of the industry out to lunch -- anyone and everyone, I just wanted people with knowledge I could gather.

I also coordinated everyone within the firm that had any interest in games. I spent a lot of time talking to partners in all of the offices and getting them involved. Worked on cross-promoting them to our current clients and building up relationships in general. Put a lot of work into marketing (going to conference and speaking, writing articles, etc.) as well.

The rise of social and mobile gaming during this time was particularly helpful, because it created a ton of new companies that I could potentially represent. I spent a lot of time specializing in the problems unique to those platforms (since it was hard to convince the large publishers to take a chance on a younger associate). I became known for that stuff and started to generate business. Rest is history.

PwnLaw
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby PwnLaw » Fri May 31, 2013 2:47 pm

superdingle2000 wrote:
PwnLaw wrote:We generally didn't pay much attention to the "entertainment" related aspects of a person's resume. It was pretty much the same as any where else: grades, school, demeanor. Having an expressed interest in entertainment doesn't hurt, but it generally wasn't going to be outcome determinative for anyone we interviewed.




When you say schools, do you generally value the schools in order of rank, or are there certain t14s you would recommend over others for those interested in entertainment law?


Generally in order of rank with the exception that UCLA, USC and Loyala are given bumps due to ingrained alumni networks.

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Balthy
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby Balthy » Fri May 31, 2013 3:07 pm

Do you have insights into moving from biglaw to a VC firm? How about biglaw to finance/trading? Sorry, I know I'm moving away from your area of expertise; thought you probably still know more about this than everyone here.

This is a weird question too, but you mentioned in another post that you simply like to work, and work a lot. Have you always been this way, or is it a work ethic that you built over time?

jd20132013
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby jd20132013 » Fri May 31, 2013 3:09 pm

How did you find out that this was what you were "meant" to do? You said you've always loved video games, but of course there's a difference between loving it as an experience and loving it as a career path.

PwnLaw
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby PwnLaw » Fri May 31, 2013 3:18 pm

superdingle2000 wrote:Do you have insights into moving from biglaw to a VC firm? How about biglaw to finance/trading? Sorry, I know I'm moving away from your area of expertise; thought you probably still know more about this than everyone here.

This is a weird question too, but you mentioned in another post that you simply like to work, and work a lot. Have you always been this way, or is it a work ethic that you built over time?


Can't talk to finance/trading. I imagine you could get in with a shop if you were willing to start back at the beginning. I know a bunch of merchant bank types out here in San Fran -- getting in with them generally requires the right UG degree or an MBA. If a lawyer busts in, it's because they know him/her personally.

VC firms are pretty hard to crack open. They occasionally hire a GC, but you'll need to be 5-7 years into your career at a very well respected SV firm. I've been offered EIR positions, but that was a product of my business expertise rather than anything related to me as a lawyer.

PwnLaw
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby PwnLaw » Fri May 31, 2013 3:23 pm

jd20132013 wrote:How did you find out that this was what you were "meant" to do? You said you've always loved video games, but of course there's a difference between loving it as an experience and loving it as a career path.


Well, I *thought* I was meant to be a lawyer. I had zero designs around entertainment or video games when I went to law school. But when I saw opportunities pop up (like entertainment), I was pretty aggressive about pursuing them. I ultimately decided that I was *meant* to create things and make decisions. That's what led me away from law, which is a profession defined by facilitating other people creating things and making decisions.

I wouldn't mind working in any job that was somewhat related to my interests and allowed me to have ownership over the things I did. Video games just happened to present themselves as an opportunity.

I should also note I liked law, I just didn't love it.

Anonymous User
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 31, 2013 5:12 pm

Any recommendations for getting into startup/biz dev without going the biglaw route?

PwnLaw
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby PwnLaw » Fri May 31, 2013 8:23 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Any recommendations for getting into startup/biz dev without going the biglaw route?


Very few lawyers in startup bizdev. It happens, but not super common.

MBA is a lot more common. Consulting. Finance.

Network aggressively if you want to have a decent future in it. A business development person's value is defined by their ability to pick up the phone and make something happen.

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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 31, 2013 10:35 pm

PwnLaw wrote:Yup, still alive and kicking. Trying to save law students from themselves.

I spoke to a partner on the executive team about the idea of building a video game team. He asked me to put together a business plan justifying it. I wrote up a ~15 page plan explaining how I would go about it and why it was a good idea. He gave me permission to pursue it. The first part of plan required a bunch of research and analysis into the industry, so I poured about a thousand hours into building up my understanding (read all of the 10Q and 10Ks of public game companies, all contracts related to games I could find, etc.). Also, I began taking members of the industry out to lunch -- anyone and everyone, I just wanted people with knowledge I could gather.

I also coordinated everyone within the firm that had any interest in games. I spent a lot of time talking to partners in all of the offices and getting them involved. Worked on cross-promoting them to our current clients and building up relationships in general. Put a lot of work into marketing (going to conference and speaking, writing articles, etc.) as well.

The rise of social and mobile gaming during this time was particularly helpful, because it created a ton of new companies that I could potentially represent. I spent a lot of time specializing in the problems unique to those platforms (since it was hard to convince the large publishers to take a chance on a younger associate). I became known for that stuff and started to generate business. Rest is history.

Very much appreciate you taking the time to answer questions on here. I commend you on your success with building a book through this approach. It's clearly rather bold (in a good way) for such a young attorney to take on that level of responsibility, and it's great to see that it has worked out for you. I have a couple additional questions for whenever you have a few moments:

1.) As a junior who does not yet have a particular niche area to dive into, can you provide any further suggestions regarding building up business as such a young associate? In particular, at what point did you begin to feel comfortable that you could to pitch for (and feel competent handling) this type of business on your own?

2.) Do you have any suggestions for ways you've observed young attorneys successfully transition existing relationships with friends who are successful in business (banking/finance, VC, PE, etc.), but are still slightly young (since we're mostly only in our late-20s), into potential business opportunities for the future (other than through maintaining the close relationships and some luck, of course)?

3.) Any thoughts on the best way to approach partners with rather innovative, but somewhat risky, ideas like the group you proposed? Putting together the paper to demonstrate the seriousness and consideration with which you approached the idea was obviously a great way to go, but any suggestions for how to put forward the idea initially?

4.) After you began the group, how did you cope with the dynamics of running this group while maintaining your position as a still-relatively-junior attorney within the firm?

Thanks very much again for your time.

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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby PwnLaw » Fri May 31, 2013 11:40 pm

1) I'd generally just pick an industry that isn't heavily mined by the partners in your firm. It's very tough to build a decent book if you are conflicted out of everything or if a number of partners will feel entitled to the folks you are talking to. There are all sorts of burgeoning or otherwise "ignored" industries you might be able to make a move on.

As for when to pitch. I generally didn't pitch much early on. Most of my early clients actually suggested it to me. My general goal was to be helpful, interested and knowledgeable when I was first starting out. If they asked me to pitch them, I would. I had the advantage of understanding the business of games and being passionate about them -- it was enormously helpful. I regularly pitched against people with far more experience from "brand" firms and won. This includes even larger clients -- I managed to bring in a movie studio my second year purely because we had gotten to know each other and I had shown how much thought I put into the issues relating to the industry.

2) I actually started out more litigation oriented and shifted my work toward transactional stuff because of this. It's a lot easier to help people here and there with small matters/contracts than convince them to go to trial with you as a second year. I generally did not pitch friends. I'd tell them if they needed help, I'd give it to them. If they wanted to make things official, I'd be happy to oblige. Otherwise I'd give them my thoughts where I could. Give without asking. This strategy resulted in a lot of business.

You should also keep in touch with the associates that leave your firm. They're the most likely to refer work back.

Also make a habit of expanding your network wherever possible. When I was a first year, I sent a LinkedIn message to the GC of a major publisher. The GC liked my stones and messaged me back. We followed up with a phone call to just chat about the industry. Even if I didn't get work, he at least knew my name, which was valuable social proof in a small industry. We ended up becoming friends later (after I left the firm unfortunately).

3) Early on (first 6 months), I spent a lot of time studying the firm and networking internally. Certain partners clearly had an interest in developing associates while others were more wrapped up in their own matters. I wasn't shy about talking to any partner that expressed any enthusiasm for helping associates progress. I also invited two of the more prominent partners and their wives to dinner relatively early on. Both of them became my mentors. It's the only time I've used my wedding china.

Most associates just keep their heads down. There's nothing wrong with that, it just isn't going to open up many opportunities for you.

4) It was very challenging at times. As it began to grow, more people took interest and that could create complications. There is also the politics of originations and origination credit, which can have an impact on all sorts of things. I generally navigated this by not caring about my short term financial prospects. I worked hard to get partners I respected onto my matters and they generally treated me very well in return. I cared much more over being included in billing approval (so I could make sure we were delivering value for cost) than I did about my paycheck at the end of the year.

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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby Anonymous User » Fri May 31, 2013 11:51 pm

PwnLaw wrote:1) I'd generally just pick an industry that isn't heavily mined by the partners in your firm. It's very tough to build a decent book if you are conflicted out of everything or if a number of partners will feel entitled to the folks you are talking to. There are all sorts of burgeoning or otherwise "ignored" industries you might be able to make a move on.

As for when to pitch. I generally didn't pitch much early on. Most of my early clients actually suggested it to me. My general goal was to be helpful, interested and knowledgeable when I was first starting out. If they asked me to pitch them, I would. I had the advantage of understanding the business of games and being passionate about them -- it was enormously helpful. I regularly pitched against people with far more experience from "brand" firms and won. This includes even larger clients -- I managed to bring in a movie studio my second year purely because we had gotten to know each other and I had shown how much thought I put into the issues relating to the industry.

2) I actually started out more litigation oriented and shifted my work toward transactional stuff because of this. It's a lot easier to help people here and there with small matters/contracts than convince them to go to trial with you as a second year. I generally did not pitch friends. I'd tell them if they needed help, I'd give it to them. If they wanted to make things official, I'd be happy to oblige. Otherwise I'd give them my thoughts where I could. Give without asking. This strategy resulted in a lot of business.

You should also keep in touch with the associates that leave your firm. They're the most likely to refer work back.

Also make a habit of expanding your network wherever possible. When I was a first year, I sent a LinkedIn message to the GC of a major publisher. The GC liked my stones and messaged me back. We followed up with a phone call to just chat about the industry. Even if I didn't get work, he at least knew my name, which was valuable social proof in a small industry. We ended up becoming friends later (after I left the firm unfortunately).

3) Early on (first 6 months), I spent a lot of time studying the firm and networking internally. Certain partners clearly had an interest in developing associates while others were more wrapped up in their own matters. I wasn't shy about talking to any partner that expressed any enthusiasm for helping associates progress. I also invited two of the more prominent partners and their wives to dinner relatively early on. Both of them became my mentors. It's the only time I've used my wedding china.

Most associates just keep their heads down. There's nothing wrong with that, it just isn't going to open up many opportunities for you.

4) It was very challenging at times. As it began to grow, more people took interest and that could create complications. There is also the politics of originations and origination credit, which can have an impact on all sorts of things. I generally navigated this by not caring about my short term financial prospects. I worked hard to get partners I respected onto my matters and they generally treated me very well in return. I cared much more over being included in billing approval (so I could make sure we were delivering value for cost) than I did about my paycheck at the end of the year.

Tremendously helpful - thanks for the thorough responses. Some great ideas in here that hadn't really crossed my mind before.

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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby bizzybone1313 » Sat Jun 01, 2013 12:12 am

What kind of law skool did you attend?

PwnLaw
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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby PwnLaw » Sat Jun 01, 2013 12:16 am

bizzybone1313 wrote:What kind of law skool did you attend?


T14.

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Re: Answering Q's On BigLaw, InHouse, StartUps, Entertainment

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jun 13, 2013 1:05 am

Thanks for doing this Q&A! Hopefully you're still around, and if not, that you'll at least come back in another 6 months!

I'm currently an SA at a biglaw firm working in a practice that's very, very unrelated to startup work in general. I currently have a friend who wants me to help with some basic papers for his startup, and it occurred to me that I might have to speak with my firm about doing this. Is this necessary? Would it hurt my chances of getting an offer (particularly since my practice area and office do not do any start-up related work)?




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