Global Representation of Models, Entertainment Professionals and More

Please give us some insight into your background and what led you to your current role.

I completed undergrad at NYU and then went to law school at the University of Michigan. After graduating, I wanted to return to New York because New York was my first love. I ended up at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, a great firm with great people. I had an amazing experience there, in the IP group, where the work was a mixture of litigation, transactional, and IP prosecution. Despite the fact that it's a massive firm, being in a smaller department meant I had a very hands-on experience as a junior associate. When my then-boyfriend/later-husband moved to Los Angeles in 2006, I joined him and ended up in-house at Columbia Pictures, Sony’s motion picture division.

Knowing little-to-nothing about entertainment, I was very fortunate to have a wonderful boss and mentor, Roger Toll, who spent his lunch hours teaching me what I needed to know about the entertainment business and how to draft movie deals. I worked with Roger for three years and then I was promoted into the Business Affairs group at Columbia Pictures, working for another mentor, Andrew Gumpert. As a Business Affairs executive, I was responsible for frontline, motion picture dealmaking on behalf of the studio. Andrew modeled complex dealmaking and strategy. He also taught me about the importance of relationships in Hollywood.

That role in Business Affairs also provided exposure to producers, talent agencies, boutique entertainment law firms and many other contacts across the entertainment industry. I met Tom McGuire, the head of Business Affairs at WME, who offered me an opportunity to join WME in a job that essentially married the litigation experience I had at Skadden with my entertainment experience at Sony. WME was looking for someone who understood studio dynamics and how talent deals are made to handle litigation, employment, compliance, and other legal matters impacting the company. The opportunity at WME coincided with having my first child and it was perfect because it offered a more flexible schedule. I started at WME part-time, so I could spend the afternoons with my son. The company was much smaller at the time and the role was manageable as a part time job.

I was at WME for about four years when the company took a different and interesting turn by acquiring IMG, a sports, entertainment, and media business. At that time, the new combined company hired a Chief Legal Officer, Seth Krauss, to oversee the legal department at the parent company level. When he first started, he did an assessment of the lawyers he was inheriting from both WME and IMG and started building a legal department to service the new combined company. I would say this was a turning point for my career at WME – I recognized there was opportunity and raised my hand for more responsibility (going back to full time once my son was in school). We now have about 150 lawyers across the company worldwide, sitting within the various businesses under the Endeavor umbrella. Many of the lawyers are embedded within the various businesses, but we also now have shared corporate legal services that work across all the businesses - litigators, employment lawyers, immigration lawyers, compliance, and corporate lawyers.

Today, I would describe my role in three buckets. The first bucket is the Co-Head of Litigation for Endeavor, which is a pretty big job even having a partner in this role, because we have a lot of dispute work at the company. We have approximately 300 matters on our docket, globally, at any given time. We have five dedicated in-house litigators and an e-Discovery specialist working on these matters. The second bucket is responsibility for the employment, labor and immigration practices across Endeavor, which is also a big job as we have approximately 7,000 employees worldwide, as well as about another 20,000 contingent workers in 40 countries. The third bucket is being General Counsel for our client representation businesses, including WME, IMG Models, and other agency or management companies.

Please talk about the changes that you're seeing and anticipating in the entertainment industry in terms of representing both clients and employees.

There’s a lot going on in the entertainment industry right now – whether it’s the changing landscape with streaming or the labor disputes with the guilds, which are, in many ways, overlapping issues. There’s a lot in flux. As the owners of a talent agency and management companies, our talent clients are our North Stars because we are fiduciaries to those clients. While we are not giving them legal advice (our client is the company itself, not the talent clients), we are helping them get counsel if they have legal issues and translating some of the legal hurdles they may be facing.

The biggest issue in entertainment right now is the writer and actor strike. Many of our clients are members of unions like the Screen Actor’s Guild, the Director's Guild, and the Writer's Guild – and right now we're in a historic moment in Hollywood where both our writer clients and our actor clients are striking the members of the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, the collective bargaining unit of the major Hollywood studios and streamers. A double strike like this hasn’t happened in sixty years. We've met with our clients and their unions regularly leading up to this strike, trying to help them figure out if there is resolution, and if there's not, we’re helping our clients navigate the strike rules. The issues are very real and very important – compensation, benefits, and how AI will impact the industry in the future.

Can you provide some insight on some of your ongoing projects, including your work with the Reproductive Rights Task Force?

It’s certainly been a year for thinking about how we best protect our employees and our clients in the face of these large industry disputes, industry changes, technology changes, as well as recent Supreme Court decisions. After the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, we formed an internal Reproductive Rights Task Force to help our employees and their dependents understand the changing legal landscape and get access to information about benefits available to them. I sit in California, but we also have offices in other locations where the laws are different than California and our employees may have dependents in other locations. They might need to know, what is the law in Texas? What is the law in Tennessee? And how are my medical benefits impacted by the changing laws? We rolled out a portal for our employees to ask these questions, get help from our benefit's provider, and get access to information and understand their rights.

We're also doing some work around the recent Supreme Court decisions against Harvard and UNC, where we saw the Court strike down race-conscious admissions programs. We are looking at how those decisions impact our corporate diversity and inclusion programs. We are auditing our programs and our policies to ensure we are lawfully moving forward with the inclusion work that's really important to us as a company.

We're also thinking a lot about AI. It’s one of the main issues in the Writer’s Guild and SAG-AFTRA negotiations and is one of the main reasons why our clients are on strike. Hopefully, when the strike is over and the Writer’s Guild and SAG-AFTRA have reached resolution, there will be creative and innovative solutions for AI. But we've also been thinking about our clients who are not members of a union. There are many legislative efforts, and opportunities to join Congressional listening sessions and put our clients front and center to make sure that lawmakers understand their perspective. It’s fascinating because it's a moving target. Our strategy is shifting moment to moment, but we're really focused on making sure we're ahead of it and our clients are best positioned to control their own name, image, likeness and voice.

What can you tell our audience about your experience with the WME Fashion Team as you worked with Senator Brad Hoylman-Sigal on revisions to the Fashion Workers Act?

The Fashion Workers Act was introduced in New York, aimed at providing protection for models. We worked with Senator Hoylman-Sigal and his staff to propose language for the Fashion Workers Act to help get more industry support for the bill and strengthen protections in a way that we hope will help the bill get passed. We're very proud of our practices and protections for our model clients and it would be great if they became industry standard.

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