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January 26, 2021

Dan Petrocelli '80, Kicks off 2021 with Two Huge Accolades [Q&A]

Dan Petrocelli '80 emerged a winner from an impressive field of finalists nominated for The American Lawyer's Litigator of the Year during a virtual Industry Award ceremony hosted by Kal Penn (Harold &  Kumar, 24, House, and former White House Public Liaison). 

Kal Penn nominee Dan Petrocelli

Within days of AMLAW's YouTube televised award ceremony, the Los Angeles Daily Journal included Attorney Petrocelli on its list of Top Lawyers of the Decade. Petrocelli, no stranger to accolades, has also been recognized and celebrated for his success as a high-profile entertainment lawyer by Variety Magazine and The Hollywood Reporter. To be honest, Dan Petrocelli is a large part of why Southwestern Law School is consistently regarded as a top entertainment school on a national level.  

If you are too young to remember or haven't studied OJ Simpson's trials, you may not recognize Petrocelli as the attorney who successfully held OJ Liable in the civil wrongful death lawsuit (of the century). Perhaps some of his clients might ring a bell: Ariana Grande; Walt Disney Co.; Twentieth Century Fox; Warner Bros.; Investor Colony NorthStar; KE$HA; Live Nation; Sirius XM Radio; Top Rank Boxing, and so on. Anybody?

Mr. Petrocelli was kind enough to chat with SW LAW BLOG about these awards, some pro tips, and being a Southwestern Alum.

While Mr. Petrocelli believes that these recent awards are a result of his cumulative work on multiple cases, there is an undeniable industry (legal and business) buzz about his incredible victory and being the driving force in the AT&T Time Warner acquisition case —a case now referred to as the antitrust case of the century.

FUN FACT: When Dan Petrocelli got the call about leading a team of top litigators to secure a green light for the acquisition, he had never tried an antitrust case. When the SW LAW BLOG asked about how it felt to step outside his "comfort zone," Petrocelli set the record straight. "A trial . . . is a trial . . . is a trial! The venue and the subject matter are unimportant. So long as you are equipped with the experience and the skillset and put in the hard work it takes to prepare—you can try any type of case."

"A trial . . . is a trial . . . is a trial! The venue and the subject matter are unimportant.  So long as you are equipped with the experience and the skillset and put in the hard work it takes to prepare—you can try any type of case."

Dan Petrocelli '80
(When asked about taking on the AT&T case without prior antitrust litigation experience.)

We followed up by asking him to pay forward some advice to Southwestern students wanting to try their hand at litigation. "There is no secret sauce. It is important to get as many trials under one's belt as possible." Then he added something a lot of trial lawyers might not have. "Arbitrating is an equally good opportunity for gaining trial skills."

When we asked him about some pro tips for students with "Big Law" litigation aspirations (he went directly from Southwestern's evening program to a large firm), he mused, "Big firm life is not for everyone.  There are a great number of equally terrific opportunities at mid-size and small firms. If being a big firm litigator is your dream, you will give yourself an advantage by getting as much trial experience as possible. That might look like a job at the Public Defender's office, the U.S. Attorney's office, or even at a plaintiff's firm."

What Mr. Petrocelli won't #humblebrag about (but we will) is his ongoing and steadfast support of Southwestern.  Dan Petrocelli has been honored by Southwestern's Entertainment and Intellectual Property board and the Alumni Association for his longtime financial generosity to Southwestern and service on our Board of Trustees.

Our favorite thing that Mr. Petrocelli said during the interview, and the thing that will likely give all Bison the feels, is in the blockquote below.

I am grateful for the time I spent at Southwestern. I received an excellent education that fully prepared me to practice law.

Dan Petrocelli '80
Partner, O'Melveny & Myers