The Leading Music Law Schools of 2017

Cathy Applefeld Olson | July 17, 2017

Behind the success of every artist -- from the industry mainstays and chart-toppers to rising stars -- is a lawyer fielding the deals and disputes that are a constant part of today’s ever-evolving music business. With the rise of new business models and the growing dependence on brand licensing and streaming, attorneys are more important than ever. The scope of their legal expertise is also wider, moving beyond issues of contract law to questions of intellectual property in the digital age and social justice in entertainment.

At which law schools do the top music counselors gain expertise? These 12 stand out as the alma maters of the majority of music’s most accomplished litigators.

Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law

City: New York
Enrollment: 803
Tuition and fees: $58,764 per year

Cardozo’s FAME Center -- comprising fashion, arts, media and entertainment -- added new courses in 2017 in international intellectual property, intellectual property licensing and drafting, and negotiation in sports and entertainment to its roster of 20 other music business-related classes. The school continues to amp up its speaker roster: Clive Davis recently provided students with a detailed account of his career in an interview with Cardozo alumna Julie Swidler, executive vp business affairs/general counsel at Sony Music Entertainment.

Alumni: Jason Boyarski, partner, Boyarski Fritz; John LaBarre, senior counsel, Google

Brooklyn Law School

City: Brooklyn
Enrollment: 814
Tuition and fees: $63,266 per year

Brooklyn Law offers both an entertainment law course and an entertainment law workshop, plus a certificate in IP, media and information law. Its Brooklyn Entertainment & Sports Law Society student group educates members on current legal issues in the entertainment industry and provides networking opportunities for members and alumni with an interest in entertainment law. The school also hosts entertainment business-focused events, such as a screening of A&E series The Killing Season, accompanied by a Q&A with filmmakers Josh Zeman and Rachel Mills.

Alumnae: Nicole George-Middleton, senior vp membership, ASCAP; Nneka Norville, senior public affairs manager, BET Networks

Cornell Law School

City: Ithaca, N.Y.
Enrollment: 609
Tuition and fees: $86,771 per year

Cornell Law students can immerse themselves in a variety of industry-relevant courses -- from contracts to privacy -- that are included among the school’s general curriculum. They also can partake in on-campus opportunities including DJ’ing at the Cornell radio station and promoting the many concerts on campus. One alum who immersed himself in music extracurriculars is Kendall Minter, class of 1976, who has represented Cassandra Wilson and Peter Tosh, and wrote the music-business contract tome Understanding and Negotiating 360° Ancillary Rights Deals.

Alumnus: Minter, founder of Atlanta-based Minter & Associates

Fordham University School of Law

City: New York
Enrollment: 993
Tuition and fees: $85,586 per year

This fall, Fordham Law will launch a new entrepreneurial law clinic where students can gain hands-on experience geared toward providing insights about business and innovation. The clinic will benefit students planning a career in the music industry and complement the school’s deep curriculum in contract law, business and corporate law, finance and intellectual property. Among the specialized courses: a class in entertainment law taught by Derek Dessler, whose career includes 14 years with Universal Music Group.

Alumni: Michelle Jubelirer, COO, Capitol Music Group; Paul Robinson, executive vp/general counsel, Warner Music Group

Michelle Jubelirer

Fordham alum Jubelirer, Capitol Music Group COOLesterCohen

Harvard Law School

City: Cambridge, Mass.
Enrollment: 1,771
Tuition and fees: $66,142 per year

Alumni who represent music artists will be on the bill for a two-day arts festival in September celebrating Harvard Law’s bicentennial year. The fest will include performances by clients represented by the school’s long-running Recording Artists Project, a legal-services clinic through which students provide pro bono legal services for Boston-area musicians. RAP and the Committee on Sports & Entertainment Law complement such courses as a new music and digital media class, which under Professor Christopher Bavitz explores music and the way legal principles manifest themselves in practice in the music industry.

Alumnus: Horacio Gutierrez, general counsel, Spotify

Loyola Law School

City: Los Angeles
Enrollment: 773
Tuition and fees: $55,110 per year

“Music Law,” “Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes” and “Licensing in a Global Context” are among the courses offered at Loyola, which features a concentration in both entertainment law and intellectual property law. The school’s student-run Entertainment & Sports Law Society hosts regular events, including 2016’s Techtainment 2.0: Technology & Entertainment symposium, hosted with the L.A. County Bar.

Alumni: Bill Colitre, vp/GM, Music Reports; Damian Elahi, senior vp, business and legal, Warner Bros. Records

University of California Berkeley School of Law

City: Berkeley, Calif.
Enrollment: 925
Tuition and fees: $52,654 per year

Music law students at UC Berkeley find robust class offerings, including “Intro to Intellectual Property” and “Fundamentals of Internet Law,” among the course schedule. Given the storied campus’ history of activism, the curriculum aptly comprises such courses as “Social Justice Issues in Entertainment and Media Law,” which considers the underrepresentation of people of color in Hollywood. One of 14 schools and colleges at UC Berkeley, the law school last November welcomed Irving Azoff as a presenter during “Artists’ Rights in the Era of YouTube,” part of its Law and Tech speaker series.

Alumnus: Jeffrey Harleston, general counsel/-executive vp business and legal affairs, Universal Music Group 

University of California Los Angeles School of Law

City: Los Angeles
Enrollment: 979
Tuition and fees: $52,152 per yearDarling Law Library at the UCLA School of Law in California.

Darling Law Library at the UCLA School of Law in California. Courtesy of UCLA School of Law

UCLA Law School again topped The Hollywood Reporter’s list of entertainment law schools in the United States in 2017, the fourth year running for the school. Its Ziffren Center for Media, Entertainment, Technology and Sports Law, established in 2015, offers students opportunities to work with scholars and practitioners, gain insights from UCLA alumni and secure internship programs with studios, labels, talent agencies and other organizations. Since 1976, UCLA Law has hosted an annual entertainment symposium -- this year titled Adapting to Rapid Change.

Alumnus: John Frankenheimer, partner, Loeb & Loeb

University of Miami School of Law

City: Miami
Enrollment: 895
Tuition and fees: $50,039 per year

Working in symphony with UM’s Frost School of Music, Miami Law offers a course in music law for upper-level students, master’s degrees in music business and entertainment industries, a master’s in arts presenting and live entertainment management, and degrees in entertainment, arts and sports law. Former Loeb & Loeb partner Harold Flegelman leads the music and entertainment curriculum, which includes copyright, trademark and antitrust. Additionally, Miami Law and the American Bar Association co-presented a two-day international symposium on the worlds of music, film, TV and sports.

Alumni: Leslie Zigel, chair, Greenspoon Marder’s entertainment law group; Michael Gaid, associate counsel, Ultra Music Festival

University of Pennsylvania Law School

City: Philadelphia
Enrollment: 749
Tuition and fees: $63,364 per year

Penn Law offers more than a dozen courses -- including intellectual property transactions and patent-law litigation -- for those looking to land a gig practicing music or entertainment law. Its Detkin Intellectual Property & Technology Legal Clinic enables students to provide pro bono advice in such areas as copyrights, patents and licensing. Students also can get involved in such organizations as the Penn Law Entertainment & Sports Law Society and Y’Allsa, a student-led group for country music enthusiasts.

Alumni: David Jacoby, senior vp business and legal affairs, Sony Music; Drew Shoals, drummer for Train

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

City: Los Angeles
Enrollment: 649
Tuition and fees: $62,712 per year

New this year to USC Gould’s Media, Entertainment & Technology Law program are a music law course -- where students apply contract and copyright law to hypothetical scenarios that recur in publishing, recording and live performance -- and a TV and digital media class. Gould and the Beverly Hills Bar Association host the annual USC Institute on Entertainment Law & Business, which recently featured Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos as its keynote speaker.

Alumni: Tracy Anne Moore, vp business affairs, Curb Records; Robert Windom, chief content counsel, Apple

Yale Law School

City: New Haven, Conn.
Enrollment: 632
Tuition and fees: $62,170 per year

The country’s top law school -- again -- in 2017, according to U.S. News & World Report, Yale integrates subject matters pertaining to music law among its -general curriculum. Intellectual property, corporate law and contracts are among the focus of relevant courses. The Information Society Project, under the umbrella of media law, focuses on issues including copyright, media law and privacy.

Alumnus: John Tehranian, founding partner, One LLP

This article originally appeared in the July 22 issue of Billboard.

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About the author: Cathy Applefeld Olson Contributor