My career in media and entertainment law was a beautiful stroke of luck.
I was informed of a job opening by a lawyer with whom I had negotiated in a prior internship. He was impressed with my work and referred me to the legal head on his own. There were a few rounds of interviews before I was selected. However, I cannot disregard the fact that the reference helped me find the gateway to my career. I was lucky!
Now, as I write about my experiences and insights, I get many queries from lawyers and law students alike. They want to know how to make their way to a career in media and entertainment law.
I think that is the weird part of our legal education system. By the time we graduate, we should have enough knowledge about our desired field. But that is not how the present system works. We are not taught enough about the viable career options. I remember my media law paper was an optional subject. True that it had the largest number of people in the class, but it should have been one of the compulsory subjects. I didn’t even know that moots on media law existed until recently!
Even the subject in college was taught by a professor with theoretical knowledge and no practical experience. We had a couple of workshops where lawyers working in the industry came and delivered lectures, but that was not enough exposure to the industry. Now there are media and entertainment law courses available, but there are very few institutes which offer a masters in the subject.
What should law students and lawyers do to pursue a career in media and entertainment law?
I believe that with enough hard work and dedication anything is possible. But it helps tremendously to know where to begin. Once that is figured out, you can take the necessary steps towards a successful career.
Here are the few things I have learned which may contribute towards building a career in this field:
Learn media and entertainments laws
Know your laws!
Any lawyer must know the laws first. So you can begin by reading about media laws. There is copyright laws, trademark laws, patent laws, design laws, i.e., intellectual property laws. But that does not constitute media laws alone.
Did you know that defamation and sedition laws in India constitute media laws? Yes, these are two sections from the Indian Penal Code, but form a core part of media laws.
Were you aware that Article 21 of the Constitution of India that guarantees freedom of speech and expression is the genesis of media laws? Yes. It maybe constitutional law, but Article 21 is where media laws was born.
There are various bare acts, books, journals, media and entertainment law courses, blogs, websites which will help build your knowledge base. You also need to know about contract laws, negotiation and dispute resolution to put the knowledge into effect.
To understand any legal concept, I prefer to start with the bare acts and then go through the commentaries or articles on a specific topic. They are available in libraries – physical and digital. You just have to look them up. Put in the work. It will work.
For instance, what will I do if I need to know whether the title of a cinematograph film can be protected under IP laws? I will read up the IP laws and figure out whether it should be copyrighted or trademarked. In case of a film title, procuring a trademark and using it helps. But foremost one must register the film title with the authorized association like the Association of Motion Pictures and Television Programme Producers (AMPTPP), the Film and Television Producers’ Guild of India (Guild) and the Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association (IMPPA). You can read more about the topic here.
But theoretical knowledge is not enough. One also has to test the knowledge in the practical field. The best way to do that is through hands-on work or if you’re still in law school, try this course here that gives exercises based on real-life situations.
Gain practical knowledge
The best way to learn media and entertainment law is through internships or working with law firms and lawyers in the field. But, it is easier said than done.
Of the many queries I have received so far, the common query is regarding how to get internships in media and law industry. My suggestion would be to make a list of top lawyers, law firms, media companies dealing with media and entertainment law. You can find their information online. Almost all of them have a careers page or contact details. Just get in touch with them and ask about their internship programme or hiring procedure and apply! You can even follow their LinkedIn pages to keep up with the call for intern or job opportunities.
You need to have a crisp resume and a cover letter. You can check for templates online or from your college seniors, recruitment cells or do an internship course or resume building course for a well-prepared application. Don’t worry about stipend or salary if you get a good opportunity to learn. Once in the door, you will be able to develop skills that allow you to make money on the side like contract drafting, legal notices, etc.
I cannot emphasise enough on the practice of writing. Lawyers are the eternal learners. They need to keep up with the ever-changing laws and keep themselves updated. For this, they not only have to read current legal articles, but also write themselves.
Law students and even lawyers should have a habit of writing. The articles should be on the are of law you’re interested in, like media and entertainment laws. If you’re keeping yourself updated about laws and learning, then you would have developed your ideas and take on topics. Just write them! It is that simple.
Of course, all good articles are backed by a solid research and writing skills. You write what you know, so you have to research thoroughly to write a crisp article. Share it on social media and forums. Keep the article simple and on point. It should have a logical structure, your take on it, and most importantly it must serve a purpose. Your article should make legal experts, peers, professors take their time out and read it.
A good article not only effectively demonstrates your legal acumen, but also the command of the subject matter. It makes a prospective recruiter see you as a knowledgeable candidate. I have had two job offers in a little over two months just after I started writing! My resume is still the same, the only thing that changed was the writing.
Skill development and networking
Keeping your brain on its toes is only one step towards learning. You need to keep honing your skills which has practical applications, like your writing skills, contract drafting skills, researching skills, etc. You can do workshops, online courses, practise to develop these skill sets. The idea is to keep learning marketable skills so that you can demonstrate your value as a potential candidate.
But just being learned and skilled is not enough. You have to be able to display these skills to the right audience. You should have a professional social media presence as well, like LinkedIn. Start networking with the people in your area of interest and otherwise. You never know where the opportunity might come from. I regularly see posts on LinkedIn by recruiters looking for candidates. Sometimes, you can even approach recruiters and enquire about their internship or professional hiring programmes.
You must not stop learning. If you find yourself short time, organise it to have a more productive day. All the best lawyers are busy people, but they keep themselves sharp to stay at the top of their game.
Know your industry
I remember before my interview, I had no idea what my company did and how. But by the day of the interview, I had figured out their growth per cent in the past three years, their history online. In fact, I even slipped it in the middle of a conversation to show that I came prepared!
How can you know about the media and entertainment industry? Keep up with the news both in and out of courts. Even the seemingly fluff pieces in this industry might be of value for a lawyer. I found out a prominent singer was launching a recreated version of our song through a newspaper. I informed the bosses immediately, and necessary actions were taken swiftly.
The importance of knowing your industry is quintessential for any lawyer. You have to assist, advise and work with various departments. Unless you know the ins and outs of the industry and the company, you cannot perform your best. You must understand the industry to know what works best for it. For instance, in media and entertainment, rights are granted territory-wise. So a lawyer representing a producer must realise while negotiating that for a Tamil or Hindi film which territories might have the largest demographic. This way they can focus their efforts accordingly.
Is this the ultimate guide to establish yourself in the media and entertainment industry? No.
These are some of the things that I know of, which have yielded results. There is a lot of hard work and persistence required after everything. You have to put yourself out there and keep on trying until you make it happen. Don’t be complacent, keep on improving, for there are no shortcuts to a successful career in media and entertainment law.