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Asked and Answered: Do I need BOTH an agent and an attorney?

qQ: What is the relationship between an entertainment attorney and an agent? The promotion and the protection of intellectual property are inextricably related. Can an erstwhile screen author obtain combined services?

A: Your Agent and your lawyer are each key members of your team. If you think of your screenwriting career as the business that it is, your company is YOU, and you are the person responsible for research, development,and manufacturing… i.e., delivering the product (writing services). Any company needs a sales department to generate the business, and most require legal advice on their corporate, business and contract matters to protect them from questionable characters and shady dealings.

Think of the talent or literary agent as your ‘sales' department. The job of the agent is to identify and exploit opportunities to sell your products (spec scripts) and services (writing for-hire).

Meanwhile, your lawyer's role is that of a company's General Counsel… coordinating the legal matters relating to the company's business. If you form a loan-out company, your lawyer will help make sure that it's organized properly, minutes are prepared, and necessary licenses and permits obtained. When you enter into deals for the sale of your products or services, the lawyer will make sure the contracts protect your interests, accurately reflect the deal terms, and provide necessary accountability if things go wrong.

In all U.S. States, lawyers must be licensed to practice. In California, New York, Tennessee and a few other states, talent and literary agents are also licensed. (In California, any person who “procures employment” for others must be licensed). Since very few attorneys are licensed as agents, most don't engage in the ‘sales' aspect of things. Likewise, unless licensed as an attorney, an agent shouldn't represent clients in a legal capacity.

If you take this writer -as-a-business paradigm a bit further, you might also think of your business manager or accountant as your accounting or finance department.

Ultimately, however, you, the artist, are the CEO, so you're responsible for the success or failure of your business. Even though you're delegating some of the responsbilities, it's important that you supervise your team.

A few years ago, I wrote some blog articles about “Assembling a winning team”… here are the links:

This is intended as general information only and  does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter.  We will not be responsible for readers' detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.

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