Owen Sloane: “Being a good lawyer requires a lot of hard work”

Law is a good background education even if you decide not to become a lawyer. The law business is a service business and a lawyer must be prepared to serve his or her clients rather than the lawyer. Being a good lawyer requires a lot of hard work. There is no easy way to become a good […]

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Law is a good background education even if you decide not to become a lawyer.

The law business is a service business and a lawyer must be prepared to serve his or her clients rather than the lawyer.

Being a good lawyer requires a lot of hard work. There is no easy way to become a good lawyer other than to put in the time and effort required to hone the best skills possible.

As a part of my series about “5 things I wish someone told me when I first became an attorney” I had the pleasure of interviewing Music attorney Owen Sloane.

With over 45 years of experience, Owen is one of the most respected attorneys in the entertainment industry, representing major artists and leading corporations in entertainment, internet and music publishing. He regularly handles complex and sophisticated transactions for music industry and other entertainment clients and handles all forms of contract, agreement, and licensing negotiation for clients in the music, film, television and digital media industries.

Over the course of his career, Owen has represented prominent artists such as Elton John, Barry Manilow, Suzanne Vega, Rickie Lee Jones, Steve Winwood, Chris Daughtry, Rob Thomas, Matchbox Twenty, Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Rogers, ABBA, Lindsay Buckingham, Radio Free Virgin, Jane’s Addiction, Joe Cocker and Academy Award winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler. He has also represented major companies in entertainment such as Playboy, Lorimar, HBO, Coca Cola and MTM (Mary Tyler Moore).

Owen has been quoted in The New York Times, Billboard, Forbes, The LA Times, The Wall Street Journal, and other prominent media outlets as an expert, and has appeared on CNN and ET on television.

Serves as an expert witness and litigation consultant on issues such as contracts, intellectual property rights, calculation of royalties, contracts for minors and music industry custom and practices in cases involving the Bing Crosby estate, Nine Inch Nails, the Baltimore Orioles, Harrah’s hotels, the Michael Jackson estate and others.

He has spoken before the bar associations in Sydney, Australia and London, England and as a guest speaker at Harvard University, Stanford University and UCLA. Co-founder of Killer Tracks, a prominent music library and is considered an expert in the music library business. He represented Frank Zappa throughout most of his life, including setting up indie distribution and publishing deals. Currently representing the Zappa estate in contracts, copyright, trademark and licensing matters.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law?

I always wanted to be a lawyer After graduation from Yale I became a corporate litigator at a big LA Law firm. I hated being a litigator and left after three years to try to find a firm where I could do work in other areas.

About a month after I started at a new firm I got a call from a manager in the music business with whose cousin I went to Yale law school. He asked me if I handled music work and I said that now I did. He became my first client in the music business. After about a year I had developed a full-time Practice in music and opened my own office after another two years.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your law career?

My funniest experience in my career was when I got to appear on stage at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas with my client Donna Summers. Myself and some of her other advisers appeared on stage to her complete surprise during her performance of “Bad Girls. “ The look of surprise on her face was priceless.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I am an expert witness in a number of celebrity cases Very often the case is determined on the basis of expert testimony.

I also have been involved in negotiating a number of multi million dollar sale agreements covering copyrights in musical compositions and masters.

What are some of the most interesting cases you have been involved in? Without sharing anything confidential can you share any stories?

One interesting case involved a client of mine who received as a wedding gift from his partner two first class round the world air line tickets. The person that gave the gift then died. A year or two later the airline came after my client alleging that the tickets had been stolen and claimed that my client was liable for the full price of the two tickets. We resolved the issue without my client having to pay anything.

Another interesting case was defending a copyright infringement claim from a very well-known artist. We defeated the claim showing that the artist had copied from public domain materials and that if they persisted in their claim they would lose copyright protection in their work which was much more valuable than my clients work. They withdrew their claim.

Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?

Winston Churchill because he new what was right and stubbornly stuck to it despite enormous pressures two appease the Nazis. And he marshaled support for his position against strong opposition.

Abraham Lincoln because he also knew that slavery was and evil and fight that there was no way to deal with that other than to eliminated it

What advice would you give to a young person considering a career in law?

Law is a good background education even if you decide not to become a lawyer.

The law business is a service business and a lawyer must be prepared to serve his or her clients rather than the lawyer.

Being a good lawyer requires a lot of hard work. There is no easy way to become a good lawyer other than to put in the time and effort required to hone the best skills possible.

If you had the ability to make three reforms in our judicial/legal system, which three would you start with? Why?

A.the court system is inefficient and sometimes too expensive and takes up too much time . I would use more virtual tools to cut down on time needed for hearings and other court proceedings.

B.I would try to encourage earlier disposition of cases. There is entirely too much indulgence given to unmerited claims.

C. I would allow the prevailing party in any litigation to recover their attorneys fees. Now in order to recover attorneys fees , it must be stipulated in a contract or statute involved in the lawsuit.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have tried to help artists with their personal charities and causes to enable them to help others .

I know this is not an easy job. What drives you?

I am driven by my desire to help creative people achieve their goals and protect them from people who want to use and exploit them unfairly. The greatest satisfaction comes from knowing that although I cannot create the music, I can help make it successful and help insure that the creators are protected and reap the benefits of their creations.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. That besides being a profession it was also a business. Charging for one’s time and collecting money is sometimes more difficult than practicing law.
  2. That it is sometimes a 24/7 job. Clients needs don’t end at 5 or 6 pm Monday through Friday and in a service business the lawyer must adjust to that reality.
  3. There are some clients that you should avoid for a number of reasons. Some want as much free work as they can get. Some have unrealistic expectations and are never satisfied with the job you do no matter how good it is. And still others are unreliable or dishonest and want you to do their dirty work for them. I have fired several clients over my years of practice for these reasons.
  4. That law would become computer dominated and require lawyers to develop word processing skills.I have a hard time even typing.
  5. That you will encounter dishonest people and that other lawyers are not always ethical and above board. My friend got caught up in a criminal case because a client altered his paperwork without his knowledge and then tried to blame it on my friend.

Thank you for these excellent insights

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