Author Archive | ahorn

Small Business Owners – How to Get Access to Expert Advice

[Originally posted on Dog Trainer’s Umbrella, Jan 4, 2021]

 

Vanessa O'Connor, Transactional Law Clinics of Harvard Law School

by | Jan 4, 2021

This fourth interview in our series is a special treat: our interviewee is Vanessa O’Connor, and attorney with the Harvard Law School Transactional Law Clinic. TLC is an amazing resource for small business owners who can’t afford the legal advice they need to build a strong business. Vanessa is also a smart, articulate speaker who will fire you up.

If you have not heard the story behind these interviews, here it is again:

As small business owners, we are often isolated from our peer group of other business owners.  This feeling of isolation and figuring it out on our own was exacerbated in 2020 by the effects of the pandemic.  While Facebook groups like “DTU: Marketing & Running an R+ Dog Business” can help to provide a sense of community, I was inspired this summer to reach out to other small business owners and talk to them about their industries and their stories, to see what I could learn and pass on to you. I recorded our conversations and want to share them with you here.  I had a lot of fun asking questions, finding similarities and hearing about lessons learned. Be forewarned: the recordings are unedited and low tech, more for listening to than looking at, but you may learn from the shared experiences.

Have you found any free resources that have helped you to build your business?  Is there a law school clinic in your state?  I’m always keeping my ears open for these kinds of resources so I can share them with the dog training community, so let me know.

At the Intersection of Music and the Law

[Originally Published by Harvard Law Today, December 16, 2020]

The music industry is no stranger to legal dispute. From high-profile cases such as Metallica, et al. v. Napster, Inc. to the many legal trappings that accompany artists throughout the creative process, the law has continued to evolve along with music.

Among the 11 Student Practice Organizations (SPO) at HLS, the Recording Artists Project (RAP) focuses on this certain niche. RAP provides pro bono legal assistance on music business matters, such as contract review/negotiation, copyright law, and other transactional work to both local and national musicians. Established in 1998 by Clinical Professor of Law Brian Price, RAP also boasts a cohort of alumni that includes prolific music business attorney Aaron Rosenberg ’02, who has represented Justin Bieber, John Legend, Jennifer Lopez, and more.

“The law plays a really important role in deciding who has access to creative expression, and giving free legal representation to those who can’t afford it is a key first step in making sure that the music industry as a whole is more welcoming to diverse voices,” said RAP Oversight Director Chris Zheng ’22.

Giving free legal representation to those who can’t afford it is a key first step in making sure that the music industry as a whole is more welcoming to diverse voices.

 – Chris Zheng ’22

This commitment rests at the core of RAP’s mission: promoting accessibility by de-mystifying relevant areas of law to musicians without a legal background or without the means to pay for representation, especially musicians who are just beginning their careers.

“Providing simple, understandable legal counsel … is a way for us to serve the community as well as give students valuable educational experience.” said Events Co-Director Anil Partridge ’22.

It’s no surprise that many members of RAP come from artistic and/or musical backgrounds. Beyond pro bono work, RAP serves as an incubator where those interested in the intersection of music and law can share resources and ideas.

“I didn’t know where I was going to find community at law school,” said co-president of RAP Lowry Yankwich ‘21. “RAP was a nice way to keep music in my life and having a group of people to connect with over a shared passion is really important to me.”

For Partridge, his experiences in music and law allow him to feel more invested in his clients.

“We were able to restore ownership to material that was a personal expression [of the client’s],” he said, speaking about a client he helped work through an authorship concern. “It became more than reclaiming an economic right. I’m a musician myself and I felt that I was able to really connect with this client.”

RAP doesn’t solely cater to recording artists, they work with clients in other areas of the field as well, including but not limited to producers and record labels. This varied clientele is a result of consistently fostered relationships with organizations in the Greater Boston area and beyond.

RAP’s focus on local musicians manifests in a long-standing partnership with the Berklee School of Music, where they assist students and alumni with reviewing contracts regarding issues such as band agreements and sharing rights.

It became more than reclaiming an economic right. I’m a musician myself and I felt that I was able to really connect with this client.

– Anil Partridge ’22

RAP also aims to reach larger audiences through hosting general workshops that outline major concepts in music law. In 2019, RAP attended and provided pro bono sessions at Mondo.NYC, an annual music, arts, and technology conference in New York City. Since then, they have expanded their involvement through the 2020 conference’s Continuing Legal Education Program, with student members returning to provide a virtual version of their pro bono sessions and Yankwich serving on Mondo.NYC’s 2020 Steering Committee for their Music & Tech Law Symposium.

In the era of COVID-19, both the music industry and the delivery of legal services have undergone drastic changes. Zheng and Lowry mentioned that, with many artists switching to live steaming concerts on platforms such as YouTube and Instagram and looking to other sources of revenue, the rise of new legal issues is inevitable. Without in-person meetings, advising clients presents new challenges.

For RAP, it has been a somewhat familiar adjustment. Due to the nature of their work, RAP has been conducting meetings and calls virtually since before the normalization of remote work. If anything, this has allowed them to expand their reach even further.

“One silver lining is that people have been becoming increasing comfortable with remote interactions,” said Yankwich. “We’ve talked to people in D.C., in Texas, in California. We don’t really have to think of ourselves as helping strictly Boston locals.”

COVID-19 has been such a wrench in the machine but there are still all these musicians out there making music, getting online, holding concerts virtually, and just trying to make do. That has been an inspiration for me in my work at RAP and in this particular time

– Lowry Yankwich ’21

As the students at RAP continue to bring direct legal services to musicians across the country, some look to the resilience of those in the industry for inspiration.

“COVID-19 has been such a wrench in the machine but there are still all these musicians out there making music, getting online, holding concerts virtually, and just trying to make do. That has been an inspiration for me in my work at RAP and in this particular time,” said Yankwich.

Ultimately, over the 20 odd years since its inception, RAP continues to advocate for the voices of musicians and music professionals everywhere.

“I think the arts are the primary vehicle [for] the voices of other people. It’s important to ensure that anybody who wants to be a part of the field can. I think protecting these voices and helping them from the legal side is so critical,” said Zheng.

Small Business Lease Negotiation Workshop

A Webinar hosted by East Somerville Main Streets with Transactional Law Clinics of Harvard Law School

Watch the presentation, recorded on April 8th, discussing the process and important things to consider when negotiating a lease for a small businesses. The full presentation is available on the East Somerville Main Streets website.

Lease Workshop FlyerThis workshop includes the following helpful information:

  • Q and A about commercial Leases for small businesses
  • Explanation of common provisions in commercial leases
  • Advice on how to interpret and apply these provisions
  • Recommend provisions that commercial tenants can try to include when negotiating a new commercial lease

Democracy Brewing

[Originally published by Harvard Law Today, September 17, 2019]

 

Last summer, with the help of Harvard Law School’s Transactional Law Clinics (TLC), Democracy Brewing became the first brewery in Massachusetts to launch as a worker-owned owned business. TLC, a clinical program of Harvard Law School which provides legal assistance to small businesses and entrepreneurs, helped the downtown Boston brewery incorporate, including setting up a direct public offering to raise the initial capital needed to start the business. Democracy Brewing Co-founders James Razsa and Jason Taggart; Joe Hedal, Deputy Director of HLS’ Transactional Law Clinics; and Hillary Baker-Jennings ’16, one of several TLC clinic students who advised the fledgling company, reflect on the process of getting Democracy Brewing from an ambitious idea to a thriving business.

 

How Practicing Entertainment Law in TLC Made Me a Better Lawyer

[Originally posted May 10, 2019, on the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs Blog]

Iain McCarvell, LL.M .‘19 on stage playing a guitar

Iain McCarvell, LL.M .‘19

By: Iain McCavill LL.M. ’19

The Transactional Law Clinic was one of the most useful, necessary, and enriching courses I took at Harvard Law School. I chose to focus my clinical work in entertainment law. My interest in entertainment law stemmed from my six-year journey as a musician and manager of a touring rock band. The Transactional Law Clinic represented my first opportunity to work in the entertainment industry since 2015 when I traded in practicing music for practicing law by applying to law school. I enrolled in the Transactional Law Clinic because I wanted to learn more about how the entertainment industry works, to understand the types of deals done, and to learn about the legal language used in showbiz agreements. While I learned a lot about those things, what I learned most was how to be a better lawyer.

I learned that my desire to understand the industry, the deals, and the applicable law was vital but myopic. The Transactional Law Clinic helped me discover that in my eagerness to master the legally salient aspects of my chosen profession, I had forgotten about the most important thing: the client – the human being whose legal issues I was being trained to resolve. From the initial client interview to eventual case resolution and beyond, I learned how important it is to be curious, to discover what makes the client tick, and to discover what the client cares about beyond the immediate legal issue at hand. I found out that the more I learned about the person I represented, the better I was able to advocate on their behalf.

Another thing I gained from the Transactional Law Clinic was the opportunity to bump into ethical issues in a controlled environment. As a law student, I did not have a full appreciation for the ubiquity and frequency with which ethical issues arise in everyday practice. Learning the theory behind the Rules of Professional Conduct is a different thing altogether from actually handling ethical issues as they arise. The Transactional Law Clinic gave me the opportunity to spot, consider, and address these issues in real time.

It would be remiss of me to not mention the humbling quality of my classmates in the Transactional Law Clinic. Whether through in-class discussions, attendance at the clinic each day, or trips to the Harvard Innovation Lab, I learned a lot from them and made some lasting bonds.

As a 2019 Harvard LL.M and a 2018 J.D. graduate of a small underfunded Canadian law school (go UNB!), the Transactional Law Clinic was my first opportunity to work in a practical setting under the guidance of experienced lawyers who were themselves not captives of the billable hour. This environment allowed the clinic’s supervising attorneys to provide helpful feedback and support throughout the semester. With this tremendous guidance, I developed important skills related to interviewing clients, case management, negotiating, and communicating better with clients and related third parties. And one more thing: if, like me, you ever thought it was absurd that many law students graduate from law school without ever actually seeing a contract, then you probably should have signed up for the Transactional Law Clinic.

Finding Your Startup Lawyer: What Every Entrepreneur Should Know

[Originally posted May 2, 2019, on the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs Blog]

Via Xcomony

Photo of an open plan office space

Source: Pexels

By: Linda Cole and Joshua Fox

Successful management of any new enterprise, regardless of industry, is a process demanding of concerted effort to realize opportunity with a finite set of resources. As an entrepreneur, perfecting your vision, securing and managing funds, building a team, marketing and selling, and executing on plan, all while navigating unexpected obstacles, likely occupy your every day. At the core of whether you can succeed is whether your principal team has not only the requisite ability and experience, but the support in place to sustain it. This support, typically, derives from academic advisors, industry experts, professional consultants, and, eventually, from investors.

From whom you choose to seek advice, including from which startup lawyer, will significantly impact your progress. To assume that any corporate lawyer—and there are many able ones out there—can meet the demands of your business need not be one of your early fails. The right lawyer for your startup will not purely be a legal advisor but a strategic one—that is, an integrated teammate who is uniquely prepared to support your mission.

What makes a particular lawyer worthy of this role? A set of professional skills and personal attributes that combine with your own in just the right balance to drive success. Whether this lawyer is with an outside law firm or in house as part of your core team, our collective experience across both roles reveals a strikingly similar skillset. What, precisely, do these skills look like? You may be surprised to learn that the most predictable is, in fact, not necessarily the most impactful.

1. Risk Management

If your first contact with a lawyer is prompted by risks associated with your business, such as how to document equity owned by the founders, protect intellectual property, or engage human resources, then you are not alone. It is this expectation of risk management that creates what is, in theory, where the value of the lawyer’s contribution to your startup lies. It is, of course, imperative that your lawyer be prepared to identify, analyze and recommend steps to eliminate or, at the very least, mitigate risk.

If your startup is highly data driven, for example, your lawyer must not only understand the applicable legal and regulatory framework around the collection, storage, use, and/or sale of the particular type and form of data but, likewise, the related risks and remedies, if any, that may be employed to avoid them. There are multiple means of managing risk, such as through informed decision making, contract drafting and liability insurance, but before risks can be addressed, they must first be identified.

You absolutely need to be able to look to your lawyer for input into cost-benefit analyses relative to legal risks to your business. Ideally, you will want to choose a lawyer who has experience with companies similar to your own, either in terms of industry or issues, including having worked on the types of transactions you expect to engage in. Contrary to popular belief, however, understanding and analyzing legal risk is not the only, nor is it even the most beneficial, skill that the right lawyer will bring to your startup. It is, more specifically, the lawyer who is able to adroitly shift between advisor on risk to participant in solutions from whom you will derive the greatest value. This agility is as much a mindset as it is an expertise.

2. Partnership

Your choice lawyer may be an individual attorney or a law firm, but, in either case, you should expect and receive consistent proof that your legal counsel is an engaged member of your team. Whether a lawyer (or firm) inwardly identifies as “your business partner” will noticeably manifest, in both character and actions.

Your lawyer should be ready, for example, to support the business through creative and flexible billing practices, including offering alternative fee arrangements, such as a discounted hourly rate or fixed fee per project; estimating legal fees before commencing work; or deferring collection until your startup has realized a certain amount of revenue or capital. Willingness to experiment with such measures demonstrates that a lawyer is “on your side” by supporting your financial goals, despite the risk, and taking a long-term view of the relationship—in effect, making an “investment” in you and displaying confidence in your business’s likelihood of success.

The lawyer who thinks like a partner will consistently demonstrate that he or she cares and can be depended upon. You should feel valued after interactions with your lawyer, regardless of his or her workload, and confident that you and your business will take priority at the appropriate times. Your lawyer should be reliable and responsive, promptly returning phone calls and emails; mindful of your timeline; and able to deliver work product on time and within budget. You should never be left to worry that more mature businesses, which are larger paying clients, will monopolize the attention of your lawyer.

Perhaps the most meaningful attribute and indicator that a lawyer is prepared to be an effective teammate is a genuine interest, not simply in the business but in you as a person. The right lawyer will take the time to get to know you—your personality, your leadership style, your expectations, your work routines, and even your communication preferences—and proceed to accommodate them. In cases where you expect help analyzing risk but prefer to make the final decision yourself, your lawyer should facilitate that, by guiding you through pertinent pros and cons; but, in cases where you, instead, prefer a definitive opinion, your lawyer should provide one.

Say, for example, that you are a first-time entrepreneur negotiating a term sheet for an initial round of financing, and, with negotiations faltering, you ask your lawyer whether he or she would sign the term sheet “as is.” If your lawyer understands you to have a need for clear and concise guidance around integral business decisions, your lawyer must be able to provide you with a “Yes” or “No” answer, and not an exhaustive recitation of terms. You will likely desire some balance between analysis and opinion from your lawyer, and where he or she is adeptly able to gauge which one you prefer and when, you have forged a strong partnership.

3. Collaborative Communication

Being a good communicator is essential to being a good lawyer, partner and problem solver, especially when navigating the bumpy terrain of a startup. Your lawyer should, therefore, routinely be asking incisive questions about the particular business issue, goal, or transaction at hand. How else will he or she be able to clearly comprehend what you are looking for, what you care about most, and, alternatively, what you may not think is important? It is only through asking questions that your lawyer can construct and tailor recommendations that are both sound and relevant. After all, your business is not a hypothetical, and legal advice should never be delivered to you in a vacuum.

While posing the right questions is a necessary first step toward effective communication, your lawyer should not stop there. It is equally imperative that he or she pay careful attention to your answers. Only through active listening will your lawyer be able to understand the broader context within which your specific need has arisen. If, for example, you ask your lawyer to review and interpret a contract, the advice that you receive will be most useful to you when generated from a clear understanding, not only of the proposed transaction, but, more specifically, of your objectives and leverage relative to those of the counterparty to the contract.

Returning to our example above, if you are a first-time entrepreneur engaged in collapsing negotiations for seed financing and looking to your lawyer for guidance on whether to sign the term sheet “as is,” only if your lawyer has been carefully inquisitive might he or she know, for example, if you have spent months chasing financing, have received only this one offer, and are increasingly concerned over the resulting delay in technology development. Advice appropriately shaped by these facts would include a shift in focus toward negotiating a smaller subset of your most important issues (perhaps even just one or two) in order to make sure that a deal gets done as quickly as possible.

4. Practical Advice

Although many of the questions that you will pose to your startup lawyer will have complicated answers and, thus, require detailed analyses, you, typically, will need a succinct response. While a lawyer can spend a lot of time over email or on the phone with you summarizing relevant issues and describing the review conducted to reach his or her conclusion, this propensity is contrary to the startup reality. Time is money, and you are, no doubt, both busy and cost conscious. It stands to reason, then, that the more compatible lawyer is the one who is able to “cut to the chase.” While your lawyer should be able to work back to the analysis supporting his or her conclusion, in the course of discussing your questions, practicality dictates that the lawyer should lead with that conclusion, offering a recommendation at the outset.

As an entrepreneur, most likely with a business or technical background (rather than a legal one), you should expect your lawyer to be the one to bridge the gap and have the ability to speak your language. Your lawyer should avoid the use of legalese, so that you find the advice easily understandable and relatable. In fact, an essential component of your startup lawyer’s role is not providing legal advice—that is to say, to offer counsel on related, but non-legal, matters. For example, you may ask the lawyer representing your startup in a venture capital financing to advise you regarding how frequently particular deal terms, like participating preferred stock, are seen. Knowing how prevalent deal terms are is not “legal” advice, per se, but explaining which terms are “market” and which are atypical is a key value-add. This relevant expertise will enable your lawyer to help you to prioritize and determine which terms to negotiate and which to accept.

The ability to provide practical business advice is part of a larger skillset that will distinguish your best startup lawyer from the rest. Most lawyers will be able to educate you on how to interpret a provision in a contract or analyze risk in a transaction, but the lawyer that you want to find exercises sound judgment in the provision of real-world advice. Your world is the startup world, and, as such, your lawyer must be able to expertly determine what is important to you (and what is not), given the stage that you are at. This determination is impacted by the particular circumstances and context, such as when and how urgently you may need outside financing, and the circumstances and context need to figure into the advice that you receive.

If, for example, your startup is running low on cash—with payroll, accounts payable, and other obligations due—but has received a proposal from a prospective licensee of your technology in a specific territory outside of the United States, you may need to accept terms that are less than favorable, and it is the role of the skilled startup lawyer to help you determine what your business can live with. Your lawyer should know not to “over-lawyer,” such as by drafting and negotiating the definitive agreements in a way that adds unnecessary time, complexity, and expense to the deal or, even worse, in a way that puts the deal at risk: By continuing to negotiate a matter for which there could be a compromise or by delaying the closing date through prolonged negotiations, the deal could fall through.

5. Understanding the Business

As an entrepreneur, your business is born of an idea that you believe is unique. It could be an advanced technology, an innovative service, or a progressive social mission. Whatever it is that sets your business apart needs to be substantively understood, in both design and practice, by your lawyer.

If, for example, your startup is a software-as-a-service play, your lawyer must be familiar with the software, its functionality, feasible customizations, and what steps the business is willing to take in terms of customer care, warranty, and support. Otherwise, your lawyer will not be able to negotiate successfully with tech-savvy customers, discuss the finer points of service level agreements, and explain what credits, if any, will be offered in the event of unexpected downtime. If this dexterity is not the case with your lawyer, in order to support your sales team, then you may as well be selling off-the-shelf software, because, before the contract is even signed, the prospective customer may determine that the service piece is missing.

Equally as important for your startup lawyer to grasp is the financial model and underlying accounting principles on which your business runs. Whether you are selling a product or a service, there will be a process by which revenue flows through your business. With working knowledge of this process, your lawyer can draft and negotiate license and services agreements that, to the extent possible, support the conversion of bookings into recognized revenue sooner rather than later. Be sure that the lawyer you select does not plan to simply “do deals” for your startup but that he or she plans to help you craft deals that are structured in such a way as to support your business goals.

While finding “a” startup lawyer may seem a straightforward enough task, finding “your” startup lawyer—the practitioner whose partnership, communication, and practicality will advance your business purpose—requires that you know who and what you are looking for. The right fit from the outset often proves determinative and, therefore, you will want to evaluate carefully skills that many entrepreneurs, especially those searching for a lawyer for the first time, might not intuitively focus on.

Linda Cole is a Clinical Instructor at Harvard Law School and Supervising Attorney for the Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project. Joshua Fox is a Partner at WilmerHale in Boston and an Adjunct Lecturer at Boston University School of Law. Both are alumni of Harvard Law School.

Making it big behind the scenes

[Originally Published by the Harvard Gazette March 11, 2019]

Linda Cole, Brian Price, and Gaia Mattiace.

Linda Cole (from left), Brian Price, and Gaia Mattiace meet as part of the Law School’s Recording Artists Project, a student-run group that provides legal assistance to budding artists. Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer

Law School students follow dream careers in showbiz

Growing up in South Florida, Rebecca Rechtszaid dreamed of becoming a professional singer, but after a case of pneumonia wrecked her vocal range in college, she settled for the next-best thing.

She couldn’t be an artist, but she could become a lawyer for artists.

“I figured I’d go to law school and I’d try to help musicians because even if I didn’t have my own voice, I could help them find theirs,” said Rechtszaid, J.D. ’19. “There hasn’t been a day when I’ve questioned my choice.”

That seems to be the case with hundreds of students who have signed up for entertainment law courses and clinics at Harvard Law School (HLS) over the past 20 years. The phenomenon underscores a trend among law students to veer from the conventional paths of corporate law or litigation and look to work in creative industries. The trend, also noticeable at other law schools around the country, has spurred growth in the niche field of entertainment law.

These students are driven by a passion for music, the arts, and showbiz, said HLS Clinical Professor of Law Brian Price, who supervises the Entertainment Law Clinic.

“It’s an exciting career for a music lover,” said Price at his office, where a wall is covered by a corkboard neatly filled with business cards from agents, managers, artists, and alumni.

Although entertainment attorneys work behind the scenes, they can have a bigger influence on artists’ careers than agents or managers, said Price. They review artists’ agreements, publishing deals, endorsements, and licensing and merchandising contracts, making sure their clients’ interests are protected. In the end, beneath the glitz, it’s all about business.

“Artists are becoming savvier and want to be involved in the business aspects of their careers,” said Price. “When they ask for legal advice, they want to know their legal rights, and how to make good deals and find ways to make more money.”

In 1998, Price founded the Recording Artists Project (RAP), a student-run group that provides legal assistance to budding artists, prompted by two students who told him of their longing to work in the music industry. Price is faculty adviser for the group.

Most HLS graduates end up working in business or corporate law, though some alumni have had successful careers in the entertainment industry. Among them are Bruce Ramer ’58, who represents clients like George Clooney and Clint Eastwood; Bert Fields ’52, who represented Michael Jackson; and legendary music lawyer Clive Davis ’56, who signed many luminaries like Whitney Houston, and boasts his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Donald Passman, J.D. ’70, has represented celebrities like Janet Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Pink and wrote the bestseller “All You Need to Know About the Music Business”; and Aaron Rosenberg, J.D. ’02, counts John Legend, Jennifer Lopez, and Justin Bieber among his clients.

For future entertainment lawyers, the goal is often to find a job in Hollywood and experience the glamour and thrill of working with artists, but streaming and other technological changes have added new career options in entertainment law.

Take Kike Aluko, J.D. ’19, who will move to Atlanta to join the national law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP, and work on music licensing deals, trademark protection, and artist representation. Aluko, who interned at a record label in the mid-2000s, is struck by the recent changes in the industry.

“It has grown a lot and is more diverse than a decade ago when there was no streaming or Spotify,” she said. “There are so many different avenues for people to pursue their passion rather than going to a record label.”

Kirkland Alexander Lynch, J.D. ’14, works as a business affairs strategist for the Stevie Wonder’s organization, including Stevland Morris Productions, LLC, Wonder Productions, Inc., among others. He oversees the legal aspects of anything related to shows and business deals, and travels around the world with the organization.

It is a dream job for Lynch, who abandoned his plans to work in finance after being inspired by a classmate who wanted to become a sports lawyer. “He made me think that I should pursue my true passion, which was music,” said Lynch from Los Angeles. “And I saw a path for me when I interned at Sony Music Entertainment in New York during my second year at the Law School.”

But it was while taking the Entertainment Law Clinic with Price that Lynch started learning the ropes of entertainment law. He helped a rapper from Dorchester and an indie group based in Union Square with partnerships and band agreements. Last year, Lynch launched his own media management and consulting company, Kirkland Alexander Enterprises Inc.

As members of RAP, students draft, review, and negotiate recording contracts and artists’ and managers’ agreements for musicians and other entertainers. One of the group’s most famous clients is renowned jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding, now a professor of the practice in Harvard’s Music Department, who was counseled on the negotiation of her first record deal.

Breaking into the music and entertainment worlds is hard, but HLS’s strong alumni network helps young attorneys build connections that pay off. That happened to Ethan Schiffres, J.D. ’10, who reached out to Passman, whose firm is Gang, Tyre, Ramer, Brown & Passman Inc., and kept in touch with him. When Schiffres graduated, he was offered a job as a music associate. Today he’s a partner at the firm, where he reviews legal contracts for endorsements, touring, publishing deals, and trademark litigation.

Schiffres credits the Entertainment Law Clinic with providing hands-on experience and contacts with alumni willing to help the younger generation of lawyers. His biggest piece of advice is to network.

“Entertainment law is sexier than corporate law,” he said, “but it also involves hard work, passion for music and entertainment, but it really is about networking.”

Rechtszaid agreed.

“Connections are everything,” she said. “It takes a lot to muster the courage to reach [out] to somebody you don’t know, but it’s worth it.”

As the president of RAP, Rechtszaid wrote emails to the manager of Chance the Rapper and Passman last year asking them to visit Harvard to talk to HLS students. They both came.

Rechtszaid’s dream clients are Lady Gaga, the indie rock band Dorothy, and the Bronx hip-hop artist and Instagram personality Cardi B. “Cardi B is so talented and funny,” Rechtszaid said. “I want to be her best friend.”

HBS New Venture Competition

Register for the HBS New Venture Competition!

The HBS New Venture Competition provides a unique opportunity for students to put entrepreneurship principles into practice with an integrative learning experience. Students may participate in either the Business Track (for ventures whose economic returns drive substantial market impact) or in the Social Enterprise Track (for ventures that drive social change using nonprofit, for-profit or hybrid models).

 

Key deadlines:

  • Thurs, Jan 31, noon: Early Registration Deadline
  • Wed, Feb 27, noon: Final Registration Deadline & (for SE Track) Executive Summaries Due; (for Business Track) pitch decks due

See more info on deadlines.

Support your entrepreneurship journey!

 

Testing Your Social Venture: Iterating Based on Market Feedback

Monday, Feb 25, 6:00 – 7:00 pm, Harvard i-lab

How do you test and iterate your idea? Social entrepreneurs will discuss how to understand social needs and the demands of the impact economy, as well as how to skillfully and resiliently adapt their models as their understanding of these needs changes. Sponsored by the HBS Social Enterprise Initiative to support the HBS New Venture Competition, and open to all students with an interest in creating social ventures. Register to attend.

Community Enterprise Project Participates in Boston Ujima Project’s Citywide Assembly

[Originally published by the Office of Clinical and Pro Bono Programs (OCP) Blog on Nov. 2nd 2018]

 

Boston Ujima Project citywide assembly, October 6th – October 7th 2018

By: Samy Rais

Over Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend, more than a hundred community members, business owners and activists assembled to celebrate and participate in the Boston Ujima Project’s second official citywide assembly. The Ujima Project was founded in 2017 with the mission to create a new community-controlled economy in Greater Boston, initially focusing on[1]:

  1. Good Business Certification and Alliance: establishing community standards (and supporting businesses) that consider business practices like living wages, Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI)-friendly hiring, local purchasing, environmental impact and affordability.
  1. Community Capital Fund: pooling savings and investments to engage in participatory budgeting to meet the enterprise, housing and consumer needs of the community. The fund will be democratically governed by historically divested communities, giving every member an equal vote on the fund’s investment priorities, loans and equity transactions.
  1. Worker Services Network: growing employee satisfaction and security by organizing human resource programs.
  1. Alternative Local Currencies: establishing alternative local currencies (like time banking) that would allow members to trade their skills and labor and incentivize circulation of resources within the community.
  1. Anchor Institution Advocacy: building community power and advancing campaigns for the City, State and large nonprofits to direct investment, subsidy and procurement dollars to Ujima’s network of certified good businesses and developers.

Since early 2016, the Community Enterprise Project (CEP) of Harvard’s Transactional Law Clinics has been supporting the Ujima Project’s inception and community-driven mission. CEP students have provided the Ujima Project with legal analysis on various transactional matters, namely corporate and nonprofit law, corporate governance structures, 1940 Investment Company Act and securities laws implications, consumer protection laws, and secured transactions. These areas of law are customarily associated with the law firm-world, but are a critical need in the public interest space. Currently, CEP students are building on work completed last semester by helping to finalize the initial documents for the Ujima Project’s Community Capital Fund to begin making investments in community-supported businesses.

As part of CEP’s support of the Ujima Project, I attended the citywide assembly with CEP director and clinical instructor, Carlos Teuscher. CEP’s attendance at the citywide assembly had two purposes: first, in following the community and movement lawyering approach, CEP believes in supporting organizations that are working to dismantle and radically restructure current systems of law and power, and it is essential to be present in order to be in solidarity with such movements; and second, it was critical to hear the voices of the community that the Ujima Project was supporting and are the most impacted, in order to effectively prepare the Ujima Project’s Community Capital Fund loan documents.

As mentioned above, the Ujima Project is creating the first-of-its-kind investment fund that is controlled by the community. While my involvement in transactional cases generally consists of undertaking legal research, drafting contracts, or forming a legal entity, it was obvious from the start that working with the Ujima Project was going to be different. Because of its community-driven approach, as its legal counsel, we need to ensure that the Ujima Project’s legal documents are able to adapt to its members’ ideas, struggles and demands, no matter how unconventional.

In that sense, the Ujima Project is both a unique project and a large-scale illustration of recurrent challenges in our work at CEP. This semester, student advocates in CEP have been advising several groups looking to form worker cooperatives in Greater Boston, which, like the Ujima Project, require democratic voting. By giving workers collective ownership in their business, worker cooperatives enable collaborative entrepreneurship and help tackle many of the issues poverty lawyers interact with on a day-to-day basis – wage-and-hour violations, health and environmental issues, immigration, criminal justice, and many others. As with the case in the Ujima Project, we need to ensure that the voices of all the members in the cooperative (undocumented/documented, low-wage workers/management, reentering citizens, etc.) are heard and reflected. At the same time, it is challenging to balance the need for urgency in the day-to-day operations and democratic management.

As we pass the mid-point of the semester, I am excited to have been able to interact with communities experimenting with and implementing alternative economic models. As an aspiring lawyer, I have appreciated the need to better understand the community you work for and their needs. Further, as a foreign student at Harvard Law School for the semester, I discovered communities in the United States, who, although being disadvantaged, gather and spare no effort or ingenuity to fight and overcome the systemic struggles they face.

[1]Ujima Concept Paper available at https://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/40c717_f16102d86a644584af4c47c72ea2794b.pdf.