All Lawyers are Not Created Equal
You can find good lawyers at all size firms and you may even know some (or be related to some, I know I am). However, even within the entertainment business not all lawyers are created equal.
Are you planning to use your production council to negotiate the finance closings on your film? If so the rationale makes sense since most production attorneys will negotiate a flat rate for their services (hey, you got ‘em, you might as well use ‘em). However, issuing crew deal memos and negotiating with SAG (while no small task) is not the same as taking a multi-party financing through to a
You’ll find most entertainment attorneys claim they are capable of negotiating a closing (and that may be true to some extent), but be warned: the lenders are going to increase your deposits if they are unfamiliar with your council or have had a negative experience. Hence your $15,000 legal deposit can become $20k-$25k in the blink of an eye.
Think of it this way… finance closings can take up to three months of hardcore billable hours.
I have seen lenders spend from $125k-$250k in legal on a single-picture closing that ends up being billable to the production. In most cases an established entertainment finance attorney can deliver the closing in fewer billable hours, than an attorney who does not conduct closings on a regular basis.
Because attorneys can be notorious for not being able to get out of their own way and stop negotiating on points better off left alone, which means that even though they’re charging less, they’re billing more and in turn delaying the start of production. Bottom line, ask the financier (or their business affairs person) you’re about to do business with what attorneys they work with on a regular basis before choosing one. After that make sure to talk with other producers who have used them in the past and make sure they didn’t run up a bill.
If you are already working with a lawyer here is a quick test to to determine if they will be best suited to help handle your closing…. ask if they have ever done a deal with the bank or investor you are about to acquire funds from, if they say yes, confirm it. If they say no, run don’t walk. Unless of course you are related to them and then you’ll have to do a dance.