Attorney Dina LaPolt, whose clients include Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Britney Spears and Fifth Harmony, was honored with the Service Award at the Entertainment Law Initiative’s annual pre-Grammy lunch held at the Fairmont Hotel in Santa Monica. The honor recognizes “a commitment to advancing and supporting the music community through service.”

LaPolt was a key supporter and advisor to the Music Modernization Act, which passed in 2018, paving the way for improved royalty payments to songwriters, artists and creatives in the digital era.

Tina Tchen, a partner with Buckley Sandler and the head of the Recording Academy’s Inclusion Task Force, delivered a keynote address that touched on lingering issues .

Following a video featuring tributes by U.S. congressman Nadler, David Israelite, chief of the National Music Publishers Association, Jody Gerson, chairman of Universal Music Publishing Group, ASCAP’s Paul Williams and business manager Lou Taylor, among others. LaPolt’s introduction came by way of Tyler who was in attendance. He described LaPolt as a “confidant, friend and so much more,” acknowledging that she’s only the second female in the ELI’s 21-year history to receive the service honor. “We’ve gone to the moon and back again,” he said holding back tears. “Dina never took no for an answer. You have no idea how much your work ethic and resilience continues to push me and the world forward. Cogratulations, my friend. I love us.”

Read LaPolt’s remarks in their entirety below:

Thank you Steven. You are my spirit animal and I am so proud of all the things we’ve accomplished.  You and I started this legislative stuff together and I will forever be grateful that God brought your activist spirit into my life. I love you so very much.   

Thank you to Neil Portnow, Daryl Friedman, John Poppo and the Recording Academy for giving me this prestigious award especially chairman Michael Kushner and the rest of the ELI Executive Committee.  I have been coming to the ELI lunch almost since its inception and I remember the first time the service award was being given to Al Schlesinger in 2006.  At that time, I was 8 years clean and sober and only had my own law firm for 4 years…..which consisted of me, one associate, one ‘of counsel’, and an assistant.

To envision, back then, that I would be up here accepting the same award many years later, with almost 21 years of sobriety and 9 full time lawyers, would have been an understatement. This is what happens when you consistently do the right thing, in business and in your personal life.

Thank you to the Songwriters of N. America — SONA!  Especially Michelle Lewis and Kay Hanley and Brendan Okrent for putting us all together.  I cannot believe the three of us meeting in my office in January 2015 would end up being the catalyst for starting one of the most prominent and well- known songwriter advocacy groups in the country, which now has a membership of over 600 full time songwriters.  David Israelite – You are the male version of me without all the cusswords. Thank you for getting me in the game.  Of course thank you to Sarah Scott and all the fabulous attorneys and staff at LaPolt Law- none of this would even have been possible without all your hard work, which allows me to do all of this.

I opened my law firm in 2001 on three basic principles, all of which we still follow today:

Number one, be available 24/7, 365 days a year. 

Number two, always get the contracts signed and quickly! 

And number three, never have any conflicts of interest. This was a hard one because the more relationships I formed and the more successful I became, the more people wanted to hire me — which included record companies and publishing companies. Trust me, many times I questioned my third basic principle but I never wavered because as the years went by, these principles became my brand. 

If I represent you, I am on your side in life. I am not the kind of person that can just turn that off and on depending on the transaction. This is the way I do it, which does not make any other way, such as getting conflict waivers, the wrong way of doing it. My way just works for me.

Two other guiding ideologies I live by are having authentic relationships and being of service.   

Some of the most meaningful and important relationships in my life came from being in the music industry.  In fact, I met my wife Wendy, a promotion executive at RCA Records, almost 15 years ago from being in the music business.  It is very important to me to build authentic relationships.  However, I choose who I let in very carefully.  It’s not about who is real to your face, it’s about who stays real behind your back. 

I’m sorry to say that I’ve sometimes had to learn this lesson the hard way but looking back all my experiences, good and bad, it all just helped build my character into what it is today. 

This is a business of peaks and valleys and when you are in valley you want people to help pull you up not kick you as you go down. Today I don’t work with dishonest abusive assholes (laughter) and if I inadvertently find that I am working with one, I graciously find a way out of it even if it costs me money because in the long run it always cost me more. 

Also, I think it’s significant to mention that some of my most important lessons in life were learning what not to do. Often in life we are shown the way by mentors and advocates, which I also had mind you- some of whom are even in this room today—but I can honestly say the most important lessons I’ve learned are what not to do and by determining who I did not want to be like.   

Overall, I guess what motivates me the most is being of service and helping people. I do this without expectation.  This is just how I live my life, personally and professionally. I’ve never been driven by money, rather what drives me is a true desire to help people because it makes me feel good about myself. 

Sometimes there is nothing more difficult than just helping people, expecting nothing in return, or getting involved with something because I am needed and it’s the right thing to do. … especially when doing the selfish thing, like not getting involved, is easier or more lucrative. As Martin Luther King Jr. said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

76 % of Black Immigrants are deported because of over-policing and racial profiling in Black communities. Local police are some of the biggest feeders into the detention and deportation systems. At this point, I am sure you are all aware that my client, 21 Savage, is being wrongfully detained in an Atlanta ICE detention facility.

As an attorney, it is my duty to advocate for my clients. But as a person, the hardships I have faced in life and the hurdles I have overcome have created in me a need to advocate for those who don’t readily have a voice to advocate for themselves. The injustices that 21 Savage has faced represent just the tip of the iceberg when compared to the inequities millions of other good people are facing in our country today.  It is our responsibility to stand up and use our voices as attorneys to fight for the things that really matter.

Finally, as a woman in this business I want to encourage all women in this room to never second guess yourself or question your instincts.  If the strategy feels wrong, it most likely is wrong so speak up!  Do not be intimidated because you are a junior lawyer at the company or because you are not a partner at the firm. This is one of the reasons why I bonded so well with Afeni Shakur in the beginning. Although I only had been practicing law for like 5 minutes (laughter) — I had great instincts and she always wanted to know what I thought.  People respect those who have a point of view and are confident in themselves and their positions so jump in!   …..And if anyone emotionally abuses or gaslights you, call me and I’ll kick their f–king ass!