2.19.2015

How an Entertainment Lawyer Can Do More For the Client

I was reading about the beef between Chevy Chase and Richard Pryor when I came across a short section describing how Pryor's attorney and agent helped him out:
[Attorney] David Franklin had been a godsend. (In actuality it was singer Roberta Flack who sent him to Richard.) The Atlanta-based attorney straightened out Richard’s finances, renegotiated contracts, made certain he was paid his various royalties on time, retired Richard’s more than six hundred thousand dollars in outstanding debt, settled his alimony and child-support obligations. Further, Franklin established Richard Pryor Enterprises as a corporation to ease his tax burden, and Black Rain, a production company named for Richard’s youngest daughter. He also encouraged Richard to move out of his Hollywood Hills bungalow and buy himself a house. Which he did, a Spanish villa with two guest houses situated on an eight-acre estate in the Northridge section of the San Fernando Valley with the Santa Monica Mountains providing a natural fortification against Hollywood.
I was impressed at the extra mile Franklin went for his client and I thought to myself I want to be like that for my clients. I want to be more then someone who just bills for hours anad then sends them on their way. I've been taking that approach since I started on my own but it was nice to see it validated by someone who was at the top of their game. 

However, I must say that in learning more about Franklin, I came across some bad things he did to Pryor and this wasn't cool:
In a 35-page judgment, Carl G. Joseph, the hearing commissioner, called David McCoy Franklin, Mr. Pryor's agent from 1975 to mid-1980, ''guilty of serious moral turpitude'' and said he had ''willfully misappropriated'' monies that should have been paid to Mr. Pryor for his services as an artist.
So on the one hand he was exemplary and later on he was horrible. What to do? I don't know what happened to disrupt their relationship and why Franklin ended up doing what he did but the RIGHT things Franklin did for Pryor are good goalposts any entertainment lawyer eager to do more for their clients beyond the basic legal representation can strive for.
So I will focus on that part and extract the following things that a lawyer can do beyond the basic legal work:
  • Help an entertainer or artist deal with and understand their finances;
  • Review the old contracts and renegotiate them in a way that favors the entertainer or artist;
  • Ensure the entertainer or artist is paid on time and if not track the debtor down;
  • Assist the entertainer or artist in getting out of debt and handling their debt/familial obligations;
  • Find ways to ease the tax burden of the entertainer or artist; and
  • Figure out ways to help the entertainer or artist make good business decisions so they have peace of mind and can focus on doing what the do best: their artworks.

It's alot to strive for but I think it's worth doing. 
(Minus the moral turpitude and willful appropriation stuff. But hey we knew that already, right?)

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