Entertainment Law Practicum a Pipeline to Prominent Attorney Roles
Whether it’s spending time on set with a star, negotiating a deal for a director or hammering out the terms of a visual effects contract, Loyola’s Entertainment Law Practicum leads to a lot of plum Hollywood roles for its participants. Alumnae Jessica Kantor ’09 and Natalie LeVeck ’11 are prime examples. The two broke into the business with the help of internships secured while they were students. Now top counsel for a major movie studio, the alumnae met while working for the former law firm of Assistant Professor Barbara Rubin ’78, executive director of the practicum.
“Through the Entertainment Law Practicum and the relationship I had built with Barbara Rubin, I was able to obtain and successfully complete my first entertainment law internship” said Kantor, Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs for Legendary Pictures, the studio behind such blockbusters as THE HANGOVER SERIES, PACIFIC RIM, INCEPTION, BATMAN BEGINS and the DARK KNIGHT SERIES. Named to the Hollywood Reporter’s “Next Gen 2013: Hollywood’s New Class,” her professional highlight reel includes the business and legal work on the Jackie Robinson hit 42: THE TRUE STORY OF AN AMERICAN LEGEND and the upcoming reboot of GODZILLA.
“Jessica and Natalie exemplify the value of this program to our graduates' careers, and their intelligence, skills and personality reflected well on Loyola when they were interns and now, as alumni,” said Professor Jay Dougherty, founder of the program and recent recipient of the Public Counsel of the Year Award by the Association of Media & Entertainment Counsel. “When many law firms and most companies will not take on the responsibility – and cost – of training brand-new lawyers, we recognize that our students must learn not just to think like lawyers, but to have the skills and experience of lawyering on the day they graduate and pass the bar.”
The Entertainment Law Practicum requires students to complete 56 hours of field work at entertainment-law internships. Additionally, they write a paper about their experiences and attend a course that includes talks with Hollywood power players.
Practicum director Rubin and Entertainment Law Concentration head Dougherty facilitate internship opportunities using their industry connections. Rubin, partner and chair of the Entertainment Department at Glaser Weil, ran business and legal affairs for Spelling Television, was a department head at A&E and worked at CBS and Disney before going into private practice. Dougherty was assistant general counsel at Turner Broadcasting System and senior vice president of production & worldwide acquisition legal affairs at Twentieth Century Fox.
Above all, Rubin and Dougherty know talent. “Everybody raves about our interns,” said Rubin. “I had interns for many years – mainly Loyola interns. And I hired most of them as lawyers. Many of them are working in very important jobs in the industry. They work hard, they’re smart; they try to figure things out for themselves.”
For LeVeck, participating in internships at Loyola was career-defining. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to do entertainment law,” said LeVeck, a former journalist who is now Senior Counsel at Legendary. “But the second I had my first entertainment internship, within one week, I knew I wanted to be on the entertainment path.”
Kantor and LeVeck first crossed paths at Rubin’s former firm, Peter, Rubin & Simon, LLP. Their paths diverged, with Kantor moving to the entertainment practice at Sheppard Mullin. But they stayed in touch, and after Kantor landed at Legendary, she encouraged LeVeck to join her.
“We’re a very collaborative team,” said Kantor. “Half the time we’ll be sending language back and forth to one another to ask, ‘What do you think about this? Let’s tweak it a little further.’”
LeVeck credits her internship experience both in the Entertainment Law Practicum and beyond with helping her cultivate the skills for which she now receives accolades. “I interned at three different studios and two law firms. That really prepared me for most of what I’m doing now,” said LeVeck, who had stints at NBC Universal, MGM and Lionsgate Entertainment during law school. “The hands-on experience of the internship I did was how I learned many of the things I do.”
But nothing could have prepared LeVeck for a recent trip to the set of the upcoming tent-pole feature Godzilla. After spending months working out deals for the movie, the Legendary duo flew to the production and had an unexpected encounter: Kantor arranged for LeVeck to meet one of her idols, Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston. “You don’t usually get opportunities like that if you’re at a firm,” LeVeck said with a smile.
Inspired by their meaningful internships, the two dealmakers task their interns with important assignments such as researching memos, helping draft contract provisions and performing other work critical to studio operations. “Barbara always mentored us, so it’s something we believe in,” said Kantor. “And both of us do that. We have interns every semester. And we take it very seriously.”
Kantor and LeVeck count another Loyola alum as a mentor – Marty Willhite ’97, Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel at Legendary. “He inspires us to be bold, decisive, innovative and thoughtful,” said Kantor. “He leads by example.”
The Legendary alumnae pay particular attention to candidates from Loyola – for the same reason Rubin did when she ran her own firm. They want interns who ask questions and go the extra mile.
Describing the qualities they value in their interns, Kantor observed, “Practical knowledge is a huge thing, as is a real intellectual curiosity. We have interns who are not just working hard, but also truly engaging with their projects in a meaningful way.” In short, “They get it.”