By Bobby Borg

Attorneys are necessary to the business of music — and to your career. To find an attorney appropriate to your needs, you need to begin by utilizing all available resources. These include personal referrals, lawyer referral services, music publications, music conferences, and college and adult education courses.

Personal Referrals.

The best way to find an attorney is by asking for referrals from other musicians and industry professionals. Just be sure to consider the source of the referral; just because a musician is successful doesn't mean his attorney is right for you. A big league lawyer may not be able to give you the personal attention you need if you're still in the minors. Consider the motive of the person making the referral as well. For instance, an individual who's an accountant may simply be returning a favor to the attorney for referring someone to him. If a record company or personal manager with whom you're doing business recommends a lawyer, you must especially be careful of a situation called a conflict of interest. In short, you not only need to use discretion when choosing your attorney, you must also use discretion when asking for referrals.

Lawyer Referral Services.

Another way to find an attorney is through referral services. Ask your state or local bar association whether they've got a referral service available in your area. The California Lawyers For The Arts, located in San Francisco, refers callers to lawyers throughout California who deal exclusively with the arts. In Los Angeles, you can call the Lawyer Referral Service of Los Angeles County Bar Association, and in Beverly Hills, there's the Beverly Hills Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service. In New York City, you can call the Association for The Bar of New York City, and in Nashville, there's the Lawyer Referral Service for the Nashville Bar Association. You get the point. Operators at referral services will listen to your legal concerns and direct you to one of the attorneys on their panel. These operators will not, however, guarantee the quality of an attorney's services or suggest which attorney you should choose. It's up to you to set up a phone consultation with an attorney and determine suitability for yourself. There's typically a small fee for the initial consultation, with fees for continued services discussed between attorney and client on an individual basis. Since "heavy hitters" aren't part of referral services (you may not be ready for one of these guys anyway), it's unlikely you'll be referred to Mick Jagger's attorney to handle your needs. Nevertheless, it's well worth your time to call a service in your area to learn what it has to offer.

Music Publications.

Music publications may also be helpful to you when searching for an attorney. Books such as The Recording Industry Source Book (published by Cardinal Media), The Yellow Pages of Rock (published by Album Network), and Billboard International Talent and Touring Directory (published by the Billboard Music Group) list hundreds of attorneys, agents, and personal managers. These resources can all be found either in bookstores or online. Weekly trade magazines such as Billboard magazine are also good sources of information; they'll tell you which attorneys are signing the hottest bands. Finally, try checking to see whether your favorite band has listed its attorney's name and contact number on their CD artwork.

Music Conferences.

Music conferences such as the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM), South by Southwest (SXSW), Music and Media Conference, and National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM) are a sure way to meet people in the music business. Attorneys and other industry professionals usually speak as panelists which gives you a good opportunity to ask a few questions, introduce yourself, and at the least ask for a business card so that you're able to speak in a more relaxed setting at a later date. Keep in mind, however, that music conferences usually draw the heavy hitters of the business, so don't despair if they're unwilling to take the time to help you.

College and Adult Education Courses.

Another avenue to meet an attorney is by taking college courses and adult education courses, such as the ones offered in Los Angeles at the UCLA Extension program (check a college near you for music-related classes). Entertainment courses at the Extension program are often taught by attorneys active in the business.

Another excellent education source is the Music Business Program given at Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, California. That six-month program alone has no less than four full-fledged music attorneys teaching regularly. Taking their class will not only teach you a great deal about the business, it will also provide you the opportunity to form new business relationships as well.



Bobby Borg is the author of "The Musician's Handbook: A Practical Guide To Understanding The Music Business," which is available now at www.bobbyborg.com or in a store near you. Contact www.bobbyborg.com.

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