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(Reuters) – Entertainment dealmakers Steven Beer and Richard “Rip” Beyman spent almost a decade together as partners with boutique law firm Franklin, Weinrib, Rudell & Vassallo, where Beyman was a 30-year veteran.
Now the New York-based pair have hitched their practices to Los Angeles-based Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, marking a return to a Big Law partnership for Beer and giving both lawyers a bigger stage to serve existing entertainment clients and rope in new ones.
Beer, a Greenberg Traurig shareholder from 2003 to 2012, represented Britney Spears as her career was taking off and has been credited as legal counsel on dozens of films. He will be co-chair of the national entertainment, media and sports practice at 1,500-lawyer Lewis Brisbois.
Beer and Beyman represent film production, finance and distribution companies as well as individual media and entertainment professionals. Jonathan Pink, who’ll lead Lewis Brisbois’ entertainment group alongside Beer, said their work spans “creative conception, IP protection, finance, production, distribution, and talent – managing the gamut of contracts at all levels of the industry.”
Beer said their new firm gives him and Beyman “the bandwidth to support new clients.”
“That’s one of the motivations for moving to a national platform — [it] was to have that ability to attract and support new commercial relationships,” he said.
Reuters spoke with Beer and Beyman about their move this month and what they see for the future of the entertainment industry. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
REUTERS: Why did you decide to make the move from a specialized boutique firm?
BEER: Entertainment, media and sports are national practices in scope and they often integrate with other disciplines. In a boutique, you have the chance to go deep, but you miss out on the opportunity sometimes to collaborate on a single platform, where we now have that. We have access to expertise that complements ours: in tax, in corporate, in litigation. For our clients, they benefit from having experts across the buffet.
REUTERS: Do you see your practices evolving with the move to a full-service firm?
BEER: I think the opportunity is to leverage the experts in the other disciplines. As we did in our boutique, [Beyman] and I plan to stick to our knitting and team up with other experts in the firm to our clients’ benefit.
REUTERS: How did all of the issues that the world faced in 2020 affect your practices?
BEYMAN: It challenged everyone in every aspect of their lives, but the entertainment business especially was impacted because production ground to a halt. Any kind of interface with customers was put aside, and it allowed people to develop properties and to think outside the box. Coming back, we’re seeing clients who are in the live entertainment space suddenly being offered opportunities they weren’t before.
BEER: 2020 was a really challenging year for content production and live entertainment, and any entertainment lawyer who worked in that arena suffered as a result. The good news is that it was a time of change, it was perhaps the most dynamic year for a media, entertainment, and sports practice for a variety of reasons. And it’s that tsunami of change that brings forth the opportunities for our clients and for us as their representatives.
REUTERS: How will the entertainment law space look different in 2021?
BEYMAN: The blockchain world matured in the pandemic because people were home and thinking of ways to engage audiences. NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which started out as RPTs, are becoming something that might be expanded into areas of entertainment via touring. That really hadn’t been thought of but may have been accelerated because of the shutdown.
BEER: Perhaps the greatest change last year was the emergence of streaming technology and how it saved the film festival business. Here I am at Cannes talking with colleagues who program and run film festivals — they discovered the importance of the streaming technology and virtual programming of their other festivals, and many of them plan to continue leveraging the digital technology to find new audiences for programs and content, to raise additional revenues through online transactions, and to enhance the profile of their festival.
The virtual component that saved many festivals last year is not going away. Although the in-person festival is magical for the people factor, the virtual element can complement the classic festival experience and create new opportunities.
Chinekwu Osakwe covers legal industry news with a focus on midsize law firms. Reach her at Chinekwu.email@example.com.