In the entertainment industry, there’s an unfortunate minuscule amount of African American lawyers. Desiree Talley is one of the seven percent of millennial black women lawyers in the industry. With her passion and love for entertainment, she’s not only killing the entertainment law game with her law firm, Talley Law Group, LLC she’s also sprinkling black girl magic on the podcast airwaves of POPLAW, dishing out tips for the new entrepreneur on the block to the upcoming artists that lack representation. Understanding that ownership is key.
We recently had a chance to catch up with her to dig deep into a few free spring cleaning legal business tips.
MillBuzz: How did you identify that entertainment law is what you wanted to pursue?
Talley: Entertainment law materialized into a career choice for me after doing some research. I have always loved both the legal and entertainment space, but I did not have a noticeable “talent” to become an entertainer. Law equally fascinated me. I was drawn to court television and black women attorneys on television shows, such as Joan from Girlfriends. I discovered I could merge my two passions after watching an episode of My Super Sweet 16 on MTV, where an entertainment attorney was featured. I witnessed him apply the law while representing celebrities, and at that moment, I knew becoming an entertainment lawyer was what I wanted to do.
MillBuzz: What are the daily tasks and responsibilities as an entertainment lawyer?
Talley: I am a transactional lawyer so on a daily basis, I am reading. I am reading anything from contracts and industry publications to relevant laws passed, and entertainment blogs, to stay in tune with the activities artists are engaged in. In addition to reading, I am drafting contracts, negotiating contract terms, and/or attending industry events.
MillBuzz: What’s a pivotal mark in your career that changed your outlook on the entertainment law industry?
Talley: Transitioning from a traditional lawyer to a “creative or talent” was a pivotal mark in my career, that changed my outlook on the entertainment law industry. Being on the other side of the table, I realized how often companies attempt to obtain ownership rights of your person or work—and sometimes at an unfair advantage. This realization made me want to advocate better deals for talent and to educate creatives on the importance of ownership.
MillBuzz: With experience in working with entertainment and television companies like Viacom, Turner and Pandora, what are frequent concerns you saw among new and independent artists and actors that lack legal representation?
Talley: The main concern that I saw among these new and independent artists and actors that lack legal representation was them not knowing or understanding their worth, and the leverage that they may have when negotiating. At times, these artists failed to realize that if they are in the room, that means something and that is value in itself. It is up to the artists to determine what that value is and how to use that to their advantage.
MillBuzz: What are five tips you would give to new business owners in order for them to protect their brand, products, and developing concepts?
Talley: Five tips I would give to a new business owner are:
- Research the market, know your competitors, and incorporate as a business entity.
- Buy domain names and register social media accounts.
- Invest in trademarks and copyrights.
- Always use NDAs (confidentiality agreements) when sharing information.
- Seek advice from an attorney in the beginning!
MillBuzz: What legal advice would you give to an artist or entrepreneur about the legalities of business and collaborating with others?
Talley: Write everything down! Written contracts are necessary in business and can save you in the long-haul if you have them in place. Always have an attorney review agreements before signing them. Use NDAs (confidentiality agreements).
MillBuzz: What is next for Desiree Talley?
Talley: Up next, I would like to transition from the traditional practice of law to a more front facing on-camera role, where I can provide insightful and well-rounded commentary on issues culturally relevant to my community and the entertainment community as a whole.