Summer Job Diaries: Brittany Elias capitalizes on her IP background as a summer associate
Brittany Elias '15 is spending her summer working as a summer associate at Kramer Holcomb Sheik LLP (KHS), where she also serves as marketing director. She served as a law extern at the firm during the spring 2014 semester. At Loyola, she helped found the Dotted Line Reporter, a blog exclusively dedicated to topics of entertainment and intellectual property law. She is also the founder of Museum of the Souls, a business affiliated with the small museums organization that offers exhibition and auction opportunities to Latino and Hispanic artists in the Los Angeles community.
Q: How did you land your summer job?
A: I started working for KHS about seven months ago after I was referred to my current supervisor through Professor Jay Dougherty. Professor Dougherty was instrumental in kick-starting my career. I am incredibly grateful for his efforts to place me in an entertainment firm. In this particular case, taking advantage of my resources and relationships at school was the primary reason why I was able to secure a position in the field of law I am passionate about. From this experience, I learned the true value of social networking and the importance of utilizing your current network base when seeking employment opportunities. Relationships are key to your success in business.
Q: What is the most interesting part of your job?
A: Working on the entertainment transactional side of the business, the majority of the clients I work with are production companies and talent such as directors and producers. The work covers a wide range of law that is not necessarily emblematic of what one would think entertainment law entails. A large part of my work, and perhaps the most interesting part of my work, is the ability to sit with clients and offer business strategy analysis. For example, when dealing with a production company, our initial meeting with the client offers a detailed business plan from what entity formation is appropriate for the business, to what ideal pre- and post-production locations are according to state tax incentives (e.g. Louisiana is a great option at this time, offering tremendous tax incentives), to how intellectual property entitlements factor in to business planning – ranging from name searches for title clearances to securing the appropriate protection of the script, pitch materials, and final feature – to deciding what film festivals to pursue.
Overall, sitting down with a creative client and offering business strategy allows you to partake in an incredibly private and exclusive side of movie making. This component of my work is without a doubt one of the most interesting and unexpected aspects of my job at KHS.
Another interesting part of my job arises through working in the intellectual property department. A typical component of my work includes researching IP conflicts with potential third party infringers and drafting cease and desist letters where necessary. Participating in this work, I have the opportunity to interact back and forth with attorneys for incredibly famous brands and labels. From a star-struck perspective, this is one of the most interesting and unique aspects of my work.
Q: What has been your most challenging assignment thus far?
A: One of the most challenging assignments I have worked on thus far included an idea submission claim and copyright infringement claim. We represented a client who pitched a TV show to a network, having submitted four complete outlines of the project segments and a five-minute sizzle real of the program. Not only was the outline completely integrated into the network’s allegedly infringing work, but also clips from the sizzle reel that were stripped and placed directly into the secondary work.
When performing the idea submission claim analysis, I sifted through hundreds of emails between the client, his agent and the network representative to determine the disclosure issue of the claim. Additionally, for the copyright claim issue, I created transcripts for both the client’s sizzle reel and the alleged infringer’s two hour-long work. Once completing that stage, I did an intense comparative analysis of the two works for all similarities in structure, language of the scripts, use of the same talents, etc. It took three weeks to complete the preliminary analysis for the copyright infringement and idea submission claims. Although it was the most challenging work I have completed to date, it was one of the most interesting and exciting projects I have worked on.
Q: What new legal skill have you acquired during your summer job?
A: From a practical standpoint, one of the best new legal skills I have acquired during my time with KHS is the ability to pitch and secure new talent and clients. My direct supervisor, Shahrokh Sheik, is an incredible mentor and has afforded me the opportunity to attend meetings with prospective clients so that I can learn the sales strategies behind working with entertainment clients. When working with clients like production companies, majority of the initial sell is to provide short- and long-term business strategies for the company. Unlike a typical PI client that comes to you with one issue you need to look at talent as potentially long term clients. Thus, when pitching representation of talent or other players in the industry, the main pitch should always encompass what the firm can offer long term. Thus, to adequately prepare for the initial consultation, it is important to do your homework and know the details of the business prior to the client arriving. Using this background information while listening to the goals and desires of the client during the initial meeting, you need to think quickly and offer compelling strategies that will impress the client and instill in them a sense of trust with you and their business.
Q: What bit of legal knowledge have you been able to display?
A: Professor Jennifer Rothman’s Trademark Law course and Professor Dougherty’s Copyright Law and Entertainment Law Courses were crucial in my ability to immediately perform in my position at KHS. My ramp-up period was significantly faster than others due to my strong base knowledge of the subject matter at hand. I have taken on a tremendous amount of potential infringement suits, and my knowledge from these IP courses gave me the base necessary to immediately deliver when assigned these projects at work. Likewise, I have been able to apply my knowledge from entertainment law to a variety of issues that have arisen at work. Idea submission cases are very rare, however, because I was able to demonstrate a strong base understanding of the subject matter from as early as the first week of work, I have been assigned to every idea submission claim that filters into the office.
Additionally, Professor Rothman’s inclusion of practical Trademark skills in her course – including the basic understanding of Trademark domestic and international registration – has been incredibly helpful in my Trademark practice. Because of her introduction, from early on in my position, I was able to perform weekly conflict searches, registrations and amendments to existing applications where necessary.
Q: How has Loyola helped you map your career path?
A: Loyola's Office of Career Services has been incredibly important throughout my law school career. Whether offering their services for mock interviews or resume review, the Office of Career Services always makes itself available to its students. This is especially true of Brooke Loesby, my career counselor, who has gone above and beyond to reach out to her network base to open up opportunities for internships and summer positions. Looking back, I am incredibly grateful and appreciative of everything Loyola has done to advance my career.