Want to be an Entertainment Lawyer? Join the OBA!

  • October 26, 2018
  • Roger Angus

So, you want to be an entertainment lawyer? Maybe you’re a law student looking for articles; maybe you’re a newly licensed lawyer; or maybe you’re looking for a career change? Well, I can tell you what I’m doing to get into entertainment law, but know this first: I’m a third-year law student who hasn’t secured an articling position yet so I’m in the same boat as you. But I can share what has been working for me.

If you’re in Ontario, the OBA is your secret weapon. No matter where you are in Canada, the CBA is your secret weapon. Bar association events tend to bring out more lawyers than students, and lawyers take the OBA seriously and, by proxy, they take people who show up to OBA events more seriously. As a student at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, I’ve found that I am often one of very few law students at OBA events and I’ve made better connections as a result.

Every fall the Entertainment, Media, and Communications Law Section of the OBA hosts a networking dinner for law students and lawyers interested in this area of practice to meet and connect with industry lawyers. I have twice attended these dinners and it has helped me enormously. Going to these dinners and seeing familiar faces has helped to cement me in lawyers’ minds as someone who is professional and serious about their career. 

For example, one of the lawyers I met at the OBA is an in-house counsel at a production company in Toronto. A few months ago I got an email from her asking if I was interested in doing some copyright clearance work for a show they are developing. It’s a small gig, but it’s a gig that I didn’t have to compete for; it’s a gig that will give me invaluable experience; and I got it because when she thought of who would be good for this small job, she thought of me from having met me at OBA events.

Getting involved in your law school’s activities is another great way to break into any legal field, and the OBA is the way you can connect with lawyers who can come and speak at law school events. Lawyers are always going to conferences and talking; it’s something most of them really love doing. I also believe that most lawyers secretly want to be law professors, and most will jump at the chance to speak to a group of law students interested in what they do. Fortunately for me, Osgoode has an entertainment and sports law club that organizes a conference every year, so I applied to join the club’s executive and recruited the lawyers I met at the OBA to participate – and that’s further cemented my relationships.

Although law school is a competitive place, a lot of law students don’t appreciate the value of the bar association while at school. They may assume that law school events are good enough and will get them the exposure they need. Also, people going into law school straight out of college tend to be academically confident but weak in social situations and may carry the attitude that every spare hour of time would be better spent studying.

Your time in law school should be a balance of getting your academic work done and making moves to secure a career path after law school, even if it isn’t in the form of a guaranteed job. I think it’s more important to focus on building a reputation among a small group of lawyers who work in a particular area and talk to each other regularly. The OBA is designed to be the place where lawyers talk to each other and catch up, so it’s the perfect place to put your soft skills to work.

My perspective may be informed by how I ended up in law school. I was a musician after college, then I did an MBA, then I worked in marketing, then I worked in banking, then I got into law school at the old age of 29. By the time I was in law school, I had spent enough time in the working world to see the outsized impact that showing up and socializing has on your career.

The OBA is more than the one dinner referred to in this article. They host networking events throughout the year and talks on specific developments in the law. The talks often qualify for CPD hours, which is a great incentive for lawyers to attend. And, while there are small fees associated with these events, it is always money well spent. If you’re willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a legal education, do yourself a favour and spend a bit of money on the OBA. Like I said, it’s a secret weapon.

About the author

Roger Angus is a third-year JD student at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, interested in practicing intellectual property law after graduation. He is currently working at the Department of Canadian Heritage in Ottawa as part of Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Program. He is still looking for articling opportunities, and he loves talking to people, so reach out to him at rangus@yorku.ca


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