April 4, 2016
New Music Attorneys Share Career Stories and Tips
Brandon Intelligator and Jessie Winkler graduated from Southwestern in 2015. And they both quickly landed jobs as music attorneys: Intelligator works at the Law Offices of David A. Helfant and Winkler is with LaPolt Law, PC. On March 31, the Music Law Society presented a panel in which these two new attorneys talked about why they wanted to go into music law, how they landed jobs so quickly, and what it is really like to be an attorney in this ever growing field.
Intelligator and Winkler are both musicians. Winkler earned her bachelor’s degree from Berklee College of Music in Boston. “I’m a type-A personality and I like structure, so I figured the business side of the industry was a good idea for me,” she said.
Winkler explained that good mentors and contacts are important to get started in any industry, and that she has had a great team of mentors since college. Intelligator also considers himself a musician first. After graduating from New York University, he worked for a music publisher.
“It’s necessary to put yourself in front of a lot of people,” Winkler said. “Be humble, and you’ll be amazed how many people will help you.”
Before she started law school, she worked in marketing and lifestyle branding at Universal Music Group Distribution. Later, when she was analyzing royalties, Winkler took an extension class. It was taught by the woman (Dina LaPolt) who eventually became her boss. When she got to Southwestern, Winkler made it a point that she would take on three different internships. She spent the summer after her 1L year at Sony in New York. Then she worked with LaPolt Law after her second year, and she externed at Viacom during her third year at Southwestern.
When she was finishing school, LaPolt called her and offered her a job. “I told her I needed to think about it,” Winkler said. “And by the way, it’s your right and responsibility to think things through. Take a few days to let it marinate. This is your life and your career.”
Before he applied to law school, Intelligator had an opportunity to be introduced to Professor Steve Krone through a family friend. Professor Krone invited Intelligator to his house for dinner, where he sat next to David Helfant.
Later, fellow Southwestern alum Yealee Song ’14, who was working for Helfant, suggested that Intelligator intern there, which he did from January through May 2015. “Like a week after I took the bar exam, David called me frantically because an associate had just quit, and he offered me the position,” Intelligator said. “Sometimes it’s about being in the right place at the right time. But it’s also about how you carry yourself.”
Both alumni stressed that music law is a very small industry and people should get to know everyone in it.
“Even if you take a lunch with someone who can’t help you, they may know someone who can,” Intelligator said. “So take those meetings. Don’t ignore potential opportunities.”
Winkler added, “You’ll get to a point where you’ll go to a party with 60 people there, and you’ll know every one of them. When you’re there, don’t talk about work. Don’t tick off your resume points or tell anyone your GPA. And be cool. Don’t take yourself too seriously.”
And while students are still at Southwestern, Intelligator suggests taking classes with Professor Krone, saying, “He’s the guru who knows everything.”
Professor Robert Lind is another great resource for students and keeps in touch with Southwestern alumni. “I call him about once a month for advice,” Intelligator said. “He just made me promise that when I hire attorneys, that they be Southwestern grads.”
He also recommended Adjunct Professor Gary Fine’s Music Industry Contracts course as well as Adjunct Professor Patrick Sweeney’s course on Drafting Video Game Agreements. “It’s not music,” Intelligator said. “But he will make you understand boiler plate language in these agreements like nobody’s business.”
For Winkler, it wasn’t just about entertainment and music related courses at Southwestern. She wanted to be prepared for the bar exam. That’s why she fought to get into Professor Ira Shafiroff’s Selected Topics course. “I’m so glad I did. He was amazing and super thorough,” she explained. “I felt so much more prepared when I entered bar prep.”
The Reality of Getting What You Want
When asked if being a music attorney was what they hoped it would be, Intelligator and Winkler both said they really enjoy what they do. But they were very realistic about their jobs.
“It’s very time-consuming,” Winkler said. “You have to be available weekends and nights. It’s not unusual for me to wake up to a lot of texts with client requests. You’re dealing with things that affect peoples’ livelihoods and lives. It’s a lot of responsibility.”
Intelligator said his situation, working for a solo practitioner, is a bit different, and his office work is a more traditional five-day week (albeit with long hours Monday through Friday). But he often works nights and weekends to build his own clientele.
“I’m busier since I started this job than I’ve ever been in my life,” he said. “But I love what I’m doing.”