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Copyright © Media Law International 2017. All Rights Reserved.

Specialist Guide to the

Global Leaders in Media Law Practice

Copyright © Media Law International 2015. All Rights Reserved.

The media industry is characterised by “erosion, but not implosion” in the traditional television market, according to data from Deloitte Global, while native advertising spend is expected to reach USD 22.09 billion in 2017 following a 36.2 per cent increase.

Valued at USD 170 billion in 2016, the US traditional television market is one of the largest in the world but will face a steady decline, according to market predictions.

By 2020, Deloitte Global predicts there will be approximately 90 million US homes still paying for some version of tradition television, a decrease from the peak of USD 100.9 million subscribers in 2011. The report states: ‘Despite many forecasts of the imminent collapse of the traditional advertising and subscription-funded TV model, it is likely to erode at a slow, steady and predictable rate.’


Conversely, pay-television operators remain the highest spenders on content per customer, ahead of Netflix and Amazon. Figures from IHS Markit show that Sky has the highest rate of spending at USD 350 per subscriber compared with SVoD provider Amazon, which has a rate of almost USD 150, and Netflix at just over USD 50. Liberty Global’s spend is at just under USD 200.

Speaking of market trends, Robert A. Darwell, a partner at SheppardMullin highlighted the growing importance of content and its role in market development.

Mr Darwell said: “the explosion of television content creation and the demand for talent in connection with this augmented reality and virtual reality.”

He also noted the “proliferation of award shows and event-type shows where people want to catch content in real time.”

Ashima Dayal, a partner at Davis & Gilbert, commented on pre-publication work and the significant increase in this area of practice.

Ms Dayal said: “You are going to see more cases addressing the intersection between free speech and commercial speech, and whether non profit organisations can express views on political issues. Clients want to be taking stand and commenting on the event of the day and they are nervous about doing so, worried about a right of publicity issue.

She continued: “Issues of parody are ones that our clients want to engage in but are concerned about legal claims and libel-type claims.”

In March 2017 eMarketer released a report showing a rise in native advertising spend. A development confirmed by Ms Dayal who noted: “Commercial clients are getting more and more involved in native advertising.”

Lauren Fisher, eMarketer principal analyst and author of the report, said: “Growth of native digital display is being driven by publishers’ pursuit of higher-value and more mobile-friendly inventory, as well as by advertisers’ demands for more engaging, less intrusive ads.”


Cooley has an unfaltering reputation for sector specialisation. The practice is frequently praised for its media industry dedication and is highlighted by competitors nationally. Lawyers have broad experience structuring and negotiating transactions involving video and music content, including deals with leading US film studios, television networks, record companies and performing rights societies. The media division is led by Adam Ruttenberg in Washington and Jennifer Massey in Los Angeles and involves representation of established and start-up companies.


Davis & Gilbert is a “well rounded firm where the partners care about their clients and know how to handle matters big and small,” noted one client. The practice is extensively involved in media, entertainment, sports and advertising cases that involve transactional aspects and disputes. Practice leader Ashima A. Dayal is highly respected by clients and competitors around the world who highlight her industry expertise and diligence. Another client stated: “Their legal knowledge, fast turnaround, ability to understand what's important and ability to negotiate with opposing counsel to reach successful resolutions is second to none.”

A US leader for all matters related to media, Davis Wright Tremaine is widely recognised for its work in First Amendment litigation, pre-publication and pre-broadcast advice. Based in New York, industry specialist Robert D. Balin acts for local and multinational firms in cases of defamation, privacy and copyright. The firm’s specialisations include entertainment, radio, television, digital media and advertising.


Hogan Lovells is widely recognised for its extensive involvement in high profile cases on behalf of media and entertainment clients. With decades of experience, Mark J. Weinstein leads the practice group working with clients from the print, film, broadcast and games sectors. His experience includes representation of public and private companies in purchases and sales of professional sports franchises and venues.

Latham & Watkins works with entertainment and sports clients. Joseph A. Calabrese leads the media practice, working from the firm’s Los Angeles office, advising on corporate, transactional and financial aspects of sector-related deals. The team assists with the creation, operation and financing of entertainment and media companies, including negotiating complex distribution and licensing agreements, mergers and acquisitions and structured finance transactions.

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman has broad sector specialisation with a focus on broadcast, talent, and advertising. Media lawyers have extensive experience acting in cases of defamation, invasion of privacy and rights of publicity. Under the leadership of Los Angeles-based Carolyn S. Toto, the team advises on financing, production and distribution of motion pictures. Related experience includes assisting with the acquisition of film and programming rights and the purchase and sale of libraries. Cydney Tune, who works at the firm’s San Francisco practice, takes the lead in cases connected with music, video and multi-media.

Multi-disciplinary practice Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton is praised by clients and competitors. Robb Klein and Morgan Sloane are among practitioners highlighted by clients. The team is described as “Excellent, responsive, proactive and problem solving”. The firm’s work includes the representation of Snapchat on the launch of the Discover platform on the Snapchat app. Lawyers advised on the production of all original content. The team also acted for AwesomenessTV in its multi-year content creation and licensing deal with DreamWorks Animation and Verizon.


Ballard Spahr significantly expanded its capacity after its merger with Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel, which took effect on 01 October 2017. The firms operate under the name Ballard Spahr and together and together create a powerhouse combination with expertise in news, entertainment, sports, publishing and advertising. With decades of experience, lawyers assist some of the largest media clients, including advertisers nationally and worldwide.

First Amendment and media litigation specialist Cahill Gordon & Reindel has decades of experience defending free speech. Working on complex disputes, the team advises on libel, privacy rights and copyright. Based in New York, Joel Kurtzberg and Susan Buckley advise newspaper and magazine publishers, broadcast networks, motion picture and music distributors.

With a presence around the US, Dentons has a leading focus on media. Chicago-based Tiffany Amlot is among the firm’s key practitioners for media law and advises newspaper publishers and broadcasters on disputes. In the New York office Michael Bamberger leads on cross-region First Amendment cases while David Baum handles commercial and finance-related cases involving entertainment, intellectual property, sports and music.

Working from New York and Los Angeles, Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz represents clients on multiple media cases. The firm focusses on cross-border transactions and global media clearance. Lawyers assist with interactive entertainment, copyright, advertising, celebrity branding and litigation. The practice has over three decades of experience advising on production, distribution, syndication, broadcast and financing. Managing partner Jeffrey A. Greenbaum and co-head of media S. Gregory Boyd are the firm’s key practitioners.

Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz focusses exclusively on representing media companies and content providers. Focus areas include defamation, privacy and publicity, censorship and news gathering liability. Lawyers have extensive experience in cases involving pre-broadcast and pre-publication, print and web publishers, television networks and film producers. Litigation specialist Nathan Siege works at the firm’s Washington office with leading practitioners Seth D. Berlin and Dana. R. Green.

Loeb & Loeb is highly regarded by peers for its handling of entertainment and media cases. The firm’s industry specialisations include interactive and digital entertainment, radio, publishing and sports. Managing partner Craig A. Emanuel, based in Los Angeles, is involved in the negotiation of strategic distribution agreements with leading studios. Working from the firm’s New York office, Roger M. Arar focusses on television finance, production, distribution and talent

Perkins Coie’s service areas include sports, entertainment and advertising. Seattle-based Lynne E. Graybeal and William Cheever Rava lead on industry cases, representing artists, authors, publishers, sports teams and musicians. Lawyers have extensive knowledge of digital media and interactive entertainment. Other areas of focus include copyright litigation, communications, marketing and technology.

Media work at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom is driven by corporate and transactional cases. Working with clients from the entertainment industry, lawyers assist with purchases, sales and proposed M&As. Representative works includes advice to 21st Century Fox in its proposed USD 80 billion acquisition of Time Warner, representation of Walt Disney in its USD 4 billion acquisition of LucasfilM and assistance to XM Satellite Radio in its USD 13 billion tax-free merger-of-equals with Sirius Satellite Radio. Thomas H. Kennedy and Stuart D. Levi are the firm’s key practitioners.


Arent Fox acts for diverse entertainment clients on transactional, regulatory and royalty rate-setting matters across all segments of the media industry. The practice is particularly known for its work with clients form the digital media, television, motion pictures and music sectors. Lawyers work from multiple locations including Washington, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Debevoise & Plimpton’s TMT division is active in corporate and transactional cases. Based in New York, Michael J. Gillespie advised Organizações Globo on its strategic alliance with News Corp. and Televisa to provide pan-regional DTH television services in Latin America. The firm was also appointed by Discovery Communications in its USD 195 million investment in Lions Gate Entertainment. Other notable lawyers include Jeffrey P. Cunard, managing partner of the Washington office, who leads the firm’s corporate, intellectual property, information technology and e-commerce practices.

Well regarded by its competitors, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips is highlighted for its increased market visibility. The firm’s core service areas include advertising, marketing, entertainment and digital media. Under the leadership of Linda A. Goldstein the media team also assists clients with online gaming, branded entertainment and mobile marketing.

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius represents traditional and emerging media companies on regulatory and transactional issues notably involving radio and television. Washington partners Andrew D. Lipman and Catherine Wang manage the TMT practice, which also focusses on media ownership, competition and copyright issues.  

Patterson Belknap has significant litigation experience. Lawyers act in complex commercial and antitrust cases across a range of media segments. The entertainment and sports practice is also active in cases involving corporate, financial and intellectual property matters. Saul B. Shapiro, Robert P. LoBue and John P. Schmitt are the firm’s key industry contacts with experience representing music companies, cable operators sports teams and associations.   


Arnall Golden Gregory’s dedicated practice group specialises in the defence of libel, defamation and invasion of privacy. Based in Washington and Atlanta respectively, Ross A. Buntrock and Robert L. Rothman focus on disputes, commercial litigation and regulatory advice.


Cravath, Swaine & Moore is known for its work with leading broadcasters and entertainment companies including Time Warner, Walt Disney and A&E Television. The team handles complex transactional matters and litigation. Lawyers are noted for their experience in intellectual property disputes and governmental regulatory investigations. Managing partner Robert H. Baron works closely with Sandra C. Goldstein and Richard J. Stark who specialise in defamation and corporate governance.

Foley & Lardner’s work covers sports, advertising, and copyright with broader emphasis on technology. The practice focusses on sports franchise investments, acquisitions, financing and commercial transactions. In representative work, lawyers acted for Guggenheim Baseball Management, the ownership group of the Los Angeles Dodgers, in its new television rights deal to launch SportsNet LA, a regional sports network for the franchise.

Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp’s primary focus is on entertainment. Lawyers assist with transactions involving the development, financing, production and distribution of motion picture and interactive projects. In notable work the team negotiated the financing arrangement for a more than 20 high budget films with an estimated value of USD 1.5 billion. Lawyers also have extensive experience advising on joint ventures, publishing and licensing agreements, advertising and copyright.   

The media law practice group at Steptoe & Johnson routinely works with communications industry clients on matters ranging from copyright to complex commercial disputes. Core service areas include digital media, entertainment and e-commerce. The team advises on cases of defamation, commercial speech and corporate expression. In notable work lawyers assisted a production company on television co-production agreements with Chinese production companies for the broadcasting and distribution of television shows in China. Michael J. Allan and Shannen W. Coffin are the firm’s primary contact for media law, working from New York and Washington respectively.

Venable’s lawyers have in-depth knowledge of the home entertainment, new media and advertising industries. The firm’s work includes assisting prominent independent feature film groups with production transactions and financing. The team represented independent film producers in a USD 5 million fraud and breach of contract suit brought by foreign investors. Lawyers also acted for a leading advertising agency in a USD 40 million indemnity action against its former client.


Kelley Drye & Warren has a respected practice committed to media and entertainment litigation, representing defendants and plaintiffs. In highlighted work the team successfully defended two television studios against a claim by two talent agencies for an increased percentage of the revenue generated by the off-network distribution of a television series. Led by Los Angeles-based Lee S. Brenner, the team also aced for a Los Angeles television station against defamation and invasion of privacy claims.

The media group at Robins Kaplan works across a range of sectors. The team handles cases on behalf of advertising agencies, actors, musicians and athletes. Lawyers advise on independent motion picture and television production and distribution. Practice leader Mark Passin advises on high-profile disputes between recording artists and record companies, on royalty audits and motion picture profit participations.

Music specialist Ziffren Brittenham has extensive experience representing clients from the music industry. The firm has acted for more than 30 members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has negotiated multiple global rights deals. Lawyers advise numerous independent music labels and assist independent family entertainment and video game companies. Founding partner Skip Brittenham handles transactional cases and has supervised numerous successful public offerings of media companies.

Ranking and editorials



Davis & Gilbert

Davis Wright Tremaine

Hogan Lovells

Latham & Watkins

Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton


Ballard Spahr

Cahill Gordon & Reindel


Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz

Jenner & Block  

Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel

Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz

Loeb & Loeb

Paul Hastings

Perkins Coie

Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom

Wiley Rein  


Arent Fox

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer  

Baker Botts

Covington & Burling

Debevoise & Plimpton

DLA Piper

Manatt, Phelps & Phillips


Morgan, Lewis & Bockius

Patterson, Belknap, Webb & Tyler

Proskauer Rose

Sidley Austin




Arnall Golden Gregory

Baker McKenzie

Cravath, Swaine & Moore

Foley & Lardner

Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher  

Mayer Brown

Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp

Morrison & Foerster

Olshan Frome Wolosky

Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison

Reed Smith

Steptoe & Johnson

Weil, Gotshal & Manges


Harris, Wiltshire & Grannis

Kelley Drye & Warren

Kellogg, Huber, Hansen, Todd, Evans & Figel

Knobbe Martens

Robins Kaplan

Ropes & Gray   

Squire Patton Boggs

Winston & Strawn

Ziffren Brittenham


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