News Archive

Berkeley Law Alumni in Hollywood: Power Brokers and Deal Makers

Professor Peter Menell

By Michael Collier

Nine Berkeley alumni have made The Hollywood Reporter’s list of the 100 top 2014 Power Lawyers in the entertainment industry. The school was rated fourth among the nation’s top law schools for its number of star attorneys on the annual list.

The alums’ clients include filmmakers, studios, and stars—as well as production giants and indies. The attorneys listed include Harold Brown ’76, Patti Felker ’83, Cliff Gilbert-Lurie ’79, Linda Lichter ’76, Michael Schenkman ’90, Scott Edelman ’84, Gail Migdal Title ’70, Alonzo Wickers ’93, and Mark Holscher ’88.

Attorneys were selected based on their influence on how Hollywood works, according to the magazine. Only UCLA, USC and Harvard had more alums on the power lawyers’ list, which was released online April 30.

Berkeley Law grads’ success in the entertainment world also includes alumni who are talent scouts.

One of them is Rich Klubeck ’87, a partner in the Motion Picture Group at United Talent Agency in Los Angeles. His clients have included Joel and Ethan Coen, Wes Anderson, Angelina Jolie, Ewan McGregor, and Uma Thurman.

Berkeley Law’s prominence on The Hollywood Reporter’s rankings comes as its focus on the entertainment industry is expanding.

This fall, the school’s tech-savvy curriculum will include a new seminar in music law, taught by Christopher Harrison, assistant general counsel and VP for business affairs at Pandora Media, which is based in Oakland.

Course topics will include legal issues concerning writing, recording, performing, licensing and distributing music.

“The future is about the convergence of technology and content,” said Professor Peter Menell, Koret Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology (BCLT).

The trend, he said, has been hastened by the rapid rise of media companies such as Netflix, Apple, YouTube and Google.

Menell is involved in a new initiative, the Berkeley Law Entertainment Networking and Development Group, which he helped launch. It aims to link students and alums with power lawyers, talent agents and studio heads. Menell has taken groups of his students to several networking events.

One of his former students, Amber Becerra (’10), is managing the group’s gatherings in Los Angeles and plans to set up an outpost in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a litigator who works for the Greenberg Glusker law firm in Los Angeles.

The panel sessions and mixers “put people together,” Becerra said, and they can be a practical resource to help students find jobs.

“These are exciting times,” said Menell, who in 1995 co-founded BCLT. The center initially focused largely on intellectual property law, but now includes areas such as cyberlaw, e-commerce and digital entertainment law.

Students’ eagerness to pursue the field has led to a number of other initiatives, including the recently formed Berkeley Journal of Entertainment and Sports Law. The student-run journal held its inaugural symposium on Sports and Entertainment Law this past April. Legendary agent and Berkeley Law graduate Leigh Steinberg ’73—the inspiration for the film Jerry Maguire—was the keynote speaker.

Three on the Top 100 List

Scott Edelman

Scott Edelman ’84
Age: 55
Firm: Gibson Dunn

How Berkeley Law prepared you for Hollywood: At Boalt, I had Professor Harry Scheiber for American Legal History, who later became my father-in-law. I credit him with fathering the love of my life, who is instrumental in my every success.

Most memorable case: Winning a $120 million jury verdict against a Hollywood producer, Elie Samaha, who induced my client to invest based on phony film budgets.

Quote: “My father taught me that you can win and be respectful to your opponents at the same time.”

What you do for fun: Anything my three daughters agree to do with me (a shrinking list, as they get older); lots of tennis, and a little golf. We spend as much time as we can in the mountains at Mammoth.

Linda Lichter

Linda Lichter ’76
Age: 63
Firm: Lichter Grossman Nichols Alder & Feldman

How Berkeley Law prepared you for Hollywood: I got accustomed to colorful characters and not being shy.

People you have represented: The Coen brothers on “Blood Simple,” Wes Anderson on “Bottle Rocket,” Kathryn Bigelow from the first film through “Strange Days.” Linda Woolverton (“Beauty and the Beast,” “Lion King,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Maleficent”). Represented the English-language rights to “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

Quote: “Do what you love and the money (and satisfaction) will follow.”

What you do for fun: Spend time with my family and dogs; swim, listen to music, tend bees and gardens; read, travel and build houses, not in that order.

Cliff Gilbert-Lurie

Cliff Gilbert-Lurie ’79
Age: 59
Firm: Ziffren Brittenham

How Berkeley Law prepared you for Hollywood: It taught me to be a critical thinker, ask lots of questions, and understand the policy behind a law or a decision.

Clients you have represented? Dick Wolf, Sandra Bullock, Tina Fey, Microsoft/Xbox Studios.

What do you do for fun? Traveling, stamp collecting, fine dining; model trains, exercise.