Florida State University College of Law promotes expertise in the areas of business, environmental, international, and criminal law in brochures, booklets, and on its Web site as well as through curriculums leading to the attainment of certificates in business, environmental, and international law. The College of Law’s Web site also provides guidance through recommended core courses and course lists in the areas of administrative law, business and commercial law, civil rights law, criminal justice, environmental and land use law, family law, international law, and litigation.
This should not be taken to mean that you are limited or that you should focus your preparation to practice in one of these areas if you choose to attend here. If we were to poll all of our 8,500+ alumni, you would find someone practicing in almost every imaginable area of law. This also does not mean that the expertise is not there to prepare you to practice in another area. The College of Law’s faculty is among the nation’s best and the number of options beyond the 1L required curriculum exceeds 225 different courses and numerous opportunities for clinics, internships, and externships. What it does mean is that you have to take matters into your own hands, be a little more creative and resourceful, and take some initiative to formulate a curriculum that will meet your needs. You also have the resources of the College of Law, its faculty, Externship Office, Placement Office, and Alumni Affairs Office to help you.
So, for example, what if you want to be an entertainment lawyer? Well, the J.D. degree requires 88 credit hours with 36 of those hours being required coursework and 4 being “guided” coursework. That leaves 48 hours of elective credit that you can use to design a custom curriculum. Before getting into course selection, note that four of your required hours are the 1L Contracts course. This is perhaps the most important class for any budding entertainment lawyer and the contracts professors at the College of Law are top notch. One of our newer instructors, Professor Bruce Markell, has been published in law review articles and books and has even written his own book on contracts.
The “guided” coursework requires a skills training course and an upper level writing course. The skills training course for this build-your-own entertainment law curriculum is an easy one, Contract Drafting. This is a wildly popular course and could not be more relevant to practice as an entertainment lawyer. More importantly, this course is offered almost every semester.
The upper level writing course choice is not as obvious, but there are two readily available options. The first is Cyber Law. There is no doubt that the entertainment industry is inexorably intertwined with the Internet. Because this course ends in a paper, you are free to make that paper about whichever field of entertainment law that interests you (sports, music, etc.). The second option is not actually a course, but rather pursuing an instructor guided paper. These papers can be on any subject that a professor is willing to supervise. Because entertainment law touches so many other fields of law, it is fairly easy to make entertainment law relevant and of interest to one of the professors at the College of Law.
For the remaining elective courses, start with the namesake course, Entertainment Law. This course is not offered every semester, but should certainly be a part of your ad hoc curriculum. Entertainment law is taught by entertainment industry experts like Robert McNeely, who has represented bands selling millions of records and who has engaged in nearly every facet of the entertainment industry including management contracts, rights management, and etc. Because entertainment law is an amalgam of other areas of law, the following courses should be considered: Sports Law, Closely Held Business Organizations, Copyright Law, Trademark and Unfair Competition, Taxation, Taxation of Business Entities, Alternative Dispute Resolution, Legal Negotiations, and Anatomy of a Deal.
This still leaves some additional electives, and that is a good thing. Even when you know which area you want to practice, it is important to balance your legal education. The benefits of this include comparative analysis and most notoriously: issue spotting. As an entertainment lawyer, you may end up having to diagnose a client’s other legal problems. This will be a lot easier if you have taken courses such as Criminal Procedure: Police, Family Law, Bankruptcy, Gratuitous Transfers, or Gambling & Pari-Mutuel Law.
There is no doubt that any up-and-coming attorney could also benefit from field experience while in law school and this build-your-own curriculum should be no different. During the summers, the world is your oyster and you should use the time after your first and second year to volunteer and/or work somewhere in the entertainment industry. Opportunities in New York City or Los Angeles would be optimal, but if you are looking for opportunities closer to home, Nashville, Atlanta, Orlando, or Miami could also provide great opportunities. The Placement Office, Externship Office, and Alumni Affairs Office can be a huge help in this area, so make sure you get to know them as early as you are able and let them know what kind of opportunities you are looking for and in what areas you would consider going to gain this experience.
Getting experience during the school year is admittedly tougher, but then again, so is cracking into the entertainment business in general. In fact, the challenge of getting your feet wet in a town with fewer entertainment industry options may serve as an advantage later on after you have learned how to open doors in an industry where most doors often seem closed or even unavailable. If you want to get into entertainment law, you have to look to where the entertainment is. Tallahassee hosts a variety of nightclubs and bars that feature regular entertainers or guest artists who either need representation, or who already have representation, but could use some help.
Florida State University and Florida A&M University are also home to multimillion-dollar sports programs and programs in arts and entertainment, so rubbing elbows with the booster organizations, sports marketing departments, or representatives from the different sports and entertainment programs could open doors. There are also great organizations that meet, organize, and host events throughout the state, including our very own Entertainment, Art, and Sports Law Society; the Florida Bar Entertainment, Arts, and Sports Law Section; and the Florida Chapter of the Grammy Recording Academy.
Why go through all of the trouble to create your curriculum when you could go to a law school that advertises one or has a certificate program in the area of law that interests you? Because the quality of the faculty and experience at Florida State University College of Law is unmatched, especially in Florida, and when you are picking a school, quality matters. So, just because Florida State University College of Law does not have your explicit curriculum does not mean that you will leave any less ready to practice.