You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Gender balance in entertainment law

Women achieved parity in the junior ranks, but will it last?

The selection process for picking the lawyers on Variety’s first-ever Hollywood Law: Up Next list took no account of the candidates’ gender. When the final list emerged, virtually half of the attorneys turned out to be women.

That’s an astounding ratio in what has traditionally been a male-dominated business. Perhaps the high representation of women indicates how close they are to breaking the glass ceiling in the law firms serving the entertainment industry.

Or are they?

Still to be determined is whether the 50/50 ratio will remain the same as these young attorneys move ahead and try to balance the demands of career and family.

One line of thinking holds that today such life-equilibrium issues affect both sexes equally. “Gender roles are evolving such that the work-life balance is no more an impediment to women as it is to men,” says Amy Nickin, a partner at entertainment law firm Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz — and who is pregnant. “Neither gender is apologizing for spending time with their kids.”

The first wave of women lawyers freshly graduated from law schools became a force in Hollywood in the 1980s as gender barriers began to erode. Some people believe that their social talents made them well suited for legal work.

Getting talent, content companies and end users like TV channels with competing interests to come together on the same deals “suits my personality because I enjoy putting deals together and building things,” says Lauren McCollester, senior VP of business affairs for NBCUniversal’s Bravo Media & Oxygen Media. “I find it rewarding to help people define and reach their business goals.”

And while women haven’t been heavily represented in some law segments, such as litigation, that too has been changing. “The large law firms recruit directly from law schools, and there are lot of women in school these days,” says Nina Shaw, founding partner of entertainment law firm Del, Shaw, Moonves, Tanaka, Finkelstein & Lezcano. “That wasn’t the case when I went to school (in the 1970s), when women were around 15% of the class” vs. roughly 50% today.

But the path that brings women into the mainstream of entertainment law takes twists and turns. For example:

• Some women starting out in their careers get hit up for dates by men they meet both inside their firms and at other companies they do business with. There’s no easy solution for navigating this mine field.

• In a dilemma men don’t face, women who marry after establishing a reputation face a choice with business implications: keep their maiden names, which represent a sort of brand name; take on hyphenated names; or adopt their husband’s last name.

• Occasional knocks on femme lawyers suggest they aren’t adept at bringing in new clients — characterizations women reject with the argument that when the female influx began the first generation was too junior to be rainmakers, and that has now changed.

But there’s still the nagging question whether the proportion of female attorneys in the younger ranks of Hollywood firms will change as the group gets older. Will the family demands take a greater toll on the careers of women than those of men?

“I don’t know, but I hope not,” says Barbara M. Rubin, whose two children are now adults, and who juggled family and career while building entertainment law firm Peter Rubin & Simon. “It wasn’t always easy but it’s been rewarding. Now that I’m an empty nester I’m so glad (I never gave up my career). Now is when I need it the most.”

The best and the brightest

More Biz

  • Prince Memoir, ‘The Beautiful Ones,’ to

    Prince Memoir, ‘The Beautiful Ones,’ to Be Released in October

    The memoir Prince was working on at the time of his death is coming out Oct. 29, according to the Associated Press. Publisher Random House confirmed Monday that “The Beautiful Ones” will combine Prince’s unfinished manuscript with rare photos, scrapbooks and lyrics. Announced just weeks before his 2016 death, the 288-page book, issued in partnership [...]

  • Abigail Disney on Bob Iger

    Abigail Disney Calls Bob Iger's $65 Million Compensation 'Insane'

    Disney chairman-CEO Bob Iger’s total compensation for Disney’s fiscal 2018 was a whopping $65.6 million. Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, calls that sum “insane.”  While speaking at the Fast Company Impact Council, the filmmaker and philanthropist insisted that this level of corporate payout has a “corrosive effect on society.” Disney took [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Signs of Solidarity and Strain Emerge as Week 2 of WGA-Talent Agency Standoff Begins

    Hundreds of WGA members rallied solidly behind their union last week as the industry grappled with uncertainties spurred by the sudden break between writers and their talent agency representatives. But as the standoff heads into its second week, signs of strain among some WGA members are beginning to emerge. Shalom Auslander, author and creator of [...]

  • Woodstock 50 Festival Postpones Ticket On-Sale

    Woodstock 50 Festival Postpones Ticket On-Sale Date

    UPDATED: The troubled Woodstock 50 festival has run into more difficulties, as multiple sources told Variety late Friday that the April 22 on-sale date for the event has been postponed. Agents for artists scheduled to perform at the festival — which include Jay-Z, Dead & Company, Chance the Rapper, Miley Cyrus, Imagine Dragons and Halsey [...]

  • National Enquirer - Jeff Bezos

    Hudson Media CEO James Cohen Purchases the National Enquirer

    Hudson Media’s CEO James Cohen announced Thursday that he will purchase the National Enquirer as well as American Media’s other tabloids, the Globe and the National Examiner. With the purchase of the National Enquirer, which Cohen reportedly bought for $100 million, he plans to strengthen their collaborative efforts, documentary shows, weekly podcasts, and theme parks. [...]

  • Amazon

    Amazon Music’s Free Tier Is More Advertising Play Than Spotify Killer, Analysts Say

    When news began to spread last week that Amazon Music’s long-anticipated free streaming tier was imminent, headlines emerged about its threat to Spotify and Apple Music, with some stories saying that Spotify’s stock price dropped in response to the news. But not only was today’s launch of the free tier basically a soft one — [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content