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How do I Become a Media Lawyer?

By Carol Francois
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Many people who study the law want to become media lawyers. This role is very common in North America, with these lawyers representing clients who are in sports, entertainment or related industries. The primary role of a media lawyer is to manage the information about the client that is available in the public media. The scope has expanded to include the Internet, in addition to the written and television press.

Everyone who wants to become a media lawyer must first successfully graduate from law school and pass a law society examination. Admission to law school is based on the successful completion of at least three years of an undergraduate degree at a recognized university. A law degree is a graduate-level program and requires two to three years of full-time study. Upon successful completion, candidates are required to obtain a specific amount of related work experience and to pass a written exam.

The most reliable way to become a media lawyer is to secure a position in a media law firm. Initially, you can look for a position as a researcher or articling student. Take the time to excel at the position that you are in, in order to obtain the confidence of the senior partners or lawyers. A good employment record and references from previous employers are important in this role.

All lawyers are responsible for attracting and signing new clients. For people who want to become a media lawyer, this might require developing business relationships with talent managers, recording studios, producers or sports agents. These contacts will be aware of available artists or athletes and can provide valuable references.

Many people who are interested in this aspect of the law find it necessary to move to a city with a strong media base. Examples include New York City, Hollywood and London. Keep in mind that it is best to secure a job before moving to a new city, regardless of your skills and expertise.

In addition to legal expertise and skills, interpersonal and communication skills are essential if you want to become a media lawyer. Many people invest time in additional, focused courses on these two skill sets in order to improve them. Working with a career or executive coach is another way to identity gaps in your skills and areas of weakness. Developing a plan to address these issues is essential to the enhancement of your career and the realization of your dream to become a media lawyer.

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Discussion Comments

By kentuckycat — On Nov 16, 2011

Does anyone know what the whole process would be to become a media lawyer? I am studying communications in college right now, and I think becoming a lawyer is something I would be good at and would enjoy.

Like the article mentions, I know a J.D. is sort of like a master's degree, but what all is involved in getting it? When you graduate, do you have a J.D. in media like where you would spend all of your time just studying media, or is it more like a general degree that will teach you a little of every part of law, but then you can specialize in your area of interest?

I know a lot of law programs make you serve an internship while you are completing the degree. What all is involved in that? Is it hard to do, and do you learn a lot?

Finally, one of the most important questions, how much does going to law school cost? Are there any sorts of assistantships or tuition waivers you can get to help you through? What are some of the best universities to study media law?

By TreeMan — On Nov 15, 2011

What types of cases would a media lawyer have to represent in court? I would say that some of it kind of depends on the client they are representing.

I am thinking that someone who covered an actor or athlete would probably be mostly in charge of possible slander cases or else working out contracts with different advertisers. I would be interested to know if there is something less well known that I might not be thinking of.

Would a media lawyer be responsible for suing others in response to copyright violations? I would say if you were working for some type of media based company like a recording studio or television station, a lot of your work would involve sending cease and desist letters to people who were illegally using different media materials. Of course, you would have to follow up and take legal action if necessary.

By stl156 — On Nov 15, 2011

@jmc88 - I agree, you are limiting yourself to a certain segment of the population that is involved in the media. I guess when you think about it, though, a criminal lawyer is relying on people to get into legal trouble and a patent lawyer is dependent on people inventing things, so maybe they are all kind of the same.

I'm sure salary is like all things, and location is one of the deciding factors. I would guess that a normal media lawyer probably makes around 125,000 dollars. I bet if they were in charge of representing a high profile individual who had a lot of media contact, they would make much more than that. Just think about Lindsay Lohan's media lawyer. I am willing to bet that person has their hands full.

I am just speculating on this, but I would guess that places like radio stations probably hire one or two lawyers that are responsible for the station as a whole as well as its employees.

By jmc88 — On Nov 14, 2011

I don't I have ever heard of media lawyers before. I know in the news you always hear about some famous person's lawyer making a comment to the public about the person, but I never really thought about what kind of law background they would have.

It sounds like it would be interesting once you got started, but it also seems like it might be more difficult to find clients than in some of the other fields of law.

How many clients would a normal media lawyer have to represent, and how much do they normally charge for their services?

By whiteplane — On Nov 14, 2011

A lot of people will tell you that you need to move to a major media center to become a media lawyer. But the truth is that there is a need for media lawyers almost everywhere, even in small cities.

I have been a media lawyer in Cincinnati for over 10 years now. I work with a number of clients including TV and radio personalities, writers, some of the local print outlets and a number of photographers. There is a steady stream of work and I have dealt with just about every issue imaginable. I can't claim that it is as robust or lucrative as it would be in LA but I have made a nice life for myself.

By truman12 — On Nov 13, 2011

Of course the most important part of becoming a media lawyer is having a law degree and passing the bar in the state where you choose to practice. But it can also be helpful to have some kind of background in media. I don't say this as a media lawyer myself but as someone who knows a lot of lawyers.

In my experience, in all areas of the law it helps to have worked in the industry where you practice law. So if you are a labor lawyer it helps to have worked in the trades, or HR. If you are an environmental lawyer it helps to have a background in science or ecology. So if you want to be a good media lawyer it is probably worth it to get some experience in print, film TV or some other kind of media.

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