You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Beverly Hills Bar Association Honors Marissa Roman Griffith as Its 2019 Entertainment Lawyer of the Year

When she was about 10 years old, at an age when most kids are toying around with the prospect of such fantastical-sounding careers as rocket scientist or prima ballerina, Marissa Roman Griffith had already set her sights on becoming an attorney.

Now, Griffith, a partner at Los Angeles-based firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld is considered one of America’s top transactional attorneys, with a practice that focuses on media finance and entertainment transactional matters.

Griffith represents clients in numerous areas of production, from the financing and distribution of film, television and digital content, to co-financing arrangements in various countries. Recent projects on which she’s worked include the films “Hotel Transylvania 3,” “Mortal Engines” and the Netflix series “Ozark.”

It was Griffith’s mother who turned her on to law. “My mother started going to law school at Georgetown University, the night division, when I was in fifth grade,” says Griffith, the youngest of three kids whose parents divorced. “My mom was working full-time while going to law school. Sometimes there wasn’t after-school care, so I would just go there with her. Sometimes I would sit in on her class and I would basically be reading or drawing, half-listening to what was going on.”

Griffith attended a private Catholic high school on scholarship and was later admitted to Princeton, where she majored in art history. But despite being enrolled at one of the country’s top universities, Griffith, who worked myriad part-time jobs to pay for her books, felt slightly unsure of her rightful place among its ivy-covered walls and largely homogenous student body.

“The last 10 years or so has been amazing in terms of how diverse [Princeton] has become, but this was back in the early days,” says Griffith, both of whose parents were born and raised in Puerto Rico. “There actually was a Puerto Rican student group there, but most Puerto Rican students had grown up on the island, and I wasn’t the traditional Puerto Rican girl. I didn’t have an accent, I didn’t speak fluent Spanish, I don’t look Puerto Rican. Culturally you identify, but you also feel sort of out of place.”

It wasn’t a lack of self-esteem that Griffith felt, but rather a sense that at any moment someone at Princeton would realize “they’d made a mistake” in admitting her to the university. “You feel like you have to prove yourself all the time.”

Driven and serious, Griffith embarked on her first clerkship the summer after her freshman year, working for a tenant attorney in Washington, D.C. “I was going down to court with her, helping her fill out the complaints, answering phones, talking to clients — I really enjoyed it,” she says.

By the time Griffith entered law school at Stanford, she knew contractual law was going to be her area of focus. “I knew I didn’t want to be a litigator,” she says. “It’s not my personality. I prefer to build bridges and reach compromises. I really enjoyed Paul Goldstein’s copyright class [at Stanford]. And oddly enough, I really liked property [law], and a lot of people do not like property law. It was all very rule-oriented and, to me, there was something about property law that just made sense.”

Griffith’s first job out of law school was as a transactional attorney for the D.C.-based firm Arnold & Porter, “doing a little bit of everything,” including bank regulatory work. But there persisted this nagging feeling that she didn’t quite belong. “That imposter syndrome,” she says.

But going on 20 years at Akin Gump, a top firm with offices around the world, it’s clear that Griffith is a superstar in her field. The Legal 500 named her a leading attorney in media and entertainment, 2017 to 2018. Euromoney’s Best of the Best USA Expert Guides named her one of the Top 30 Media Lawyers in the U.S. this year.

At Akin Gump, Griffith heads the team representing Media Rights Capital (MRC) and its affiliates in conjunction with a JP Morgan credit facility backing MRC’s film and TV projects, working on such projects as “Baby Driver,” “Ted,” “Ted 2” and “The Dark Tower.” She also repped Endgame Entertainment in connection with the 2018 Netflix film “Come Sunday.”

“When someone asks me, what you do, if it’s a lay person, the analogy I give is, ‘it’s very much like mortgage lending, but instead of a house or real property, we’re talking about IP [intellectual property], an entertainment project, or even a company that’s being financed,’ ” says Griffith, who credits Akin Gump colleague P. John Burke “for being a great mentor.”

Griffith is also passionate about her philanthropic endeavors. She’s a board member of Female Executives & Entertainment, a nonprofit organization that supports advancement in the entertainment biz; a trustee of the Mexican-American Bar Foundation, which supports diversity and inclusion in the legal field; a board member of Outfest, which promotes LGBTQ equality; and a member of Akin Gump’s Inclusion Council and co-chair of the Los Angeles Inclusion Council, both of which promote diversity.

“From when I was young, giving back has always been important,” says Griffith. “My mother was a big role model for that. I’ve always volunteered, donated, even when it was only five bucks, because I didn’t have real money. It doesn’t matter what you give, just give. Our firm is extremely inclusive and everyone is open-minded, so celebrating diversity and different cultures is very important for people to see.”

As for what Griffith hopes to accomplish in the years to come, aside from finding more time to visit her large, close-knit family back East, she’s looking forward to seeing how both her career and the law profession as a whole take shape.

More Biz

  • Sub Pop Cofounder Jonathan Poneman Talks

    Sub Pop Cofounder Jonathan Poneman Talks Legacy and Lifetime Achievement Award

    In its early days, Sub Pop seemed like one of the last record companies on earth that would survive, let alone remain vital, for more than 30 years. They brought Nirvana and Soundgarden to the world, but seemed destined to be forever typecast as the ground zero of grunge, a rock genre that shook the [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Writers Guild Rejects ATA Offer, Seeks Individual Talks With 9 Top Agencies

    The Writers Guild of America has called off negotiations with the Association of Talent Agents in favor of pursuing individual talks with nine top agencies as it enforces a total ban on packaging fees and affiliated production for agents representing guild members. WGA West president David Goodman announced the guild’s decision to reject the ATA’s [...]

  • Harry Ponsonby and Diane Kamin

    Hollywood’s National Research Group Expands Into Asia (EXCLUSIVE)

    Media research and testing firm National Research Group is this month to open its first office in Asia. The new unit will be located in Singapore and eventually operate across a widely-defined version of Asia Pacific that includes mainland China, Japan and India. Best known for its behind the scenes role in pre-release testing of [...]

  • Jim Gosnell

    APA Claims Texts Were Fabricated in Lurid Sex Harassment Suit

    A former assistant at APA filed a lurid sexual harassment complaint on Wednesday alleging that a partner at the firm sent her graphic text messages and threatened to have her fired when she refused his advances. The assistant, identified in the suit only as Jane Doe, alleges that top management fostered a “toxic, pervasive and [...]

  • Logic Launches BobbyBoy Records as Joint

    Logic Launches BobbyBoy Records as Joint Venture With Def Jam

    Grammy-nominated rapper Logic — aka Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, aka Bobby Hall —has announced a joint venture with Def Jam Recordings for his new label, BobbyBoy Records, which was formerly known as Elysium Records. The imprint’s initial artist roster is comprised of singer-songwriter John Lindahl, Damian Lemar Hudson (featured on “Black Spiderman,” from Logic’s RIAA platinum 2017 album, “Everybody”); Big Lenbo (featured on two previous Logic albums); [...]

  • Shari Redstone Joe Ianniello

    Shari Redstone, Joe Ianniello in Spotlight as CBS and Viacom Pursue Merger Talks Again

    As CBS Corp. nears a formal acquisition offer for Viacom, the actions of two key players — controlling shareholder Shari Redstone and acting CBS CEO Joe Ianniello — will be closely watched in the coming weeks. Redstone’s moves are under scrutiny because of the potential for litigation surrounding a deal that some have criticized as [...]

  • In this courtroom artist's sketch, defendant

    Nxivm Founder Keith Raniere Convicted of Sex Trafficking

    Keith Raniere, the founder of the Nvixm sex cult, was convicted on racketeering and sex trafficking charges on Wednesday. The jurors deliberated for about five hours before returning with guilty verdicts on all seven counts, including racketeering and forced labor conspiracy charges. He is set to be sentenced on Sept. 25, and faces the possibility [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content