Q: What skill was most important for you in becoming a rainmaker?
A: Diligence is the most important skill that an attorney can bring to bear when engaging with and serving a client. One must be diligent in learning the legal issues facing potential clients, as well as understanding their underlying business objectives and where they sit within the industry in which they operate. Immersion in our clients’ industries, which requires developing an intimate understanding of the challenges and opportunities presented within each sector, enables my team to provide legal advice in support of our clients’ business goals. Collaborating with our clients, we use our extensive knowledge of the law, industry insight and comprehensive research to develop effective strategies and solutions.
Q: How do you prepare a pitch for a potential new client?
A: Too many attorneys, and firms, focus on the legal issues alone when executing a pitch. They assume that if the potential client perceives the lawyer as a legal expert, they are likely to get the business. This approach seems incomplete. Clients want counsel who thoroughly understands their business and who, because of industry expertise, will be able to carefully anticipate how each transaction or litigation will play out over time. Performing a deep dive into a company’s business model and industry segment in advance of a pitch will help win business.
Q: Share an example of a time when landing a client was especially difficult, and how you handled it.
A: In my experience, it is most “difficult” to land a client where multiple firms are pitching for the client’s business, and those firms continuously cut their proposed budgets to secure the work. We painstakingly set our budgets and thus generally do not play this game in order to chase business. Either we are the right fit, or we are not.
What motivates you to build a successful law firm?
I’m driven by the opportunity to build an innovative, entrepreneurial law firm. We have a great team that works on an “okay to fail” model. It allows us to continually try new initiatives so that we are delivering exceptional service and legal counsel to our clients. Because of this, every day is new, exciting and rewarding.
What do you look for in new members of your team?
A strong work ethic, intelligence and problem solving skills are the three top qualifications. At the most fundamental level, our firm’s mission it to provide excellent client service. We look for people whose goals and values align with this principle. Also, we want people who intend to retire from M&R. We want to know that our decision-makers are in it for the long haul.
Yesterday we blogged about the widespread coverage of David Lowery’s class action lawsuit against Spotify for releasing copyrighted material without first obtaining proper licenses from artists. We followed up that post with an All Things Considered NPR piece on the subject. Much more has been written on the Spotify lawsuit over the last day including the following articles that quote Sanford Michelman:
Michelman & Robinson, LLP filed a $150 Million class action against Spotify over unpaid royalties on behalf of musician David Lowery of the bands Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven. The suite alleges that Spotify unlawfully reproduces and distributes copyrighted material without first obtaining mechanical licenses. According to Courthouse News Service, Lowery “seeks class certification, an injunction preventing Spotify from infringing on copyrighted works, restitution, and compensatory and statutory damages.” CNS also quotes Sanford Michelman, the lead attorney for the class, stating:
“I hope that Spotify acts in a corporately reasonable manner. These individuals – especially songwriters – put their hearts and souls in their works.”
UPDATE: NPR adds additional color to the story including the following:
“Lowery’s lawyer, Sanford Michelman, says Spotify may owe tens of millions of dollars not just in unpaid royalties but for copyright infringement, which can run as high as 150-thousand dollars per violation.”
Hanna’s co-lead counsel, Sanford Michelman, said Spotify typically negotiates royalty amounts in advance with top artists who have the resources to defend their work, but is less diligent about tracking down the license holders of music by lesser-known or independent artists.
“This is fundamentally wrong for the entire industry,” he said. “Spotify shouldn’t be playing ‘catch me if you can.’ (Lowery) has raised his hand and said ‘I’m going to stop this.'”
Lawyer Sanford Michelman, who’s representing Lowery in court, said that putting money aside to pay out royalties later is a clear indication Spotify knowingly violated copyright law. He said those have to be paid via contracts hashed out before copyrighted work is used.
“It’s like saying, ‘We know we’ve taken these people’s work, we’ve never made an attempt to find them, but we know we’re playing something without the proper license,” he said.
Mega-stars like Taylor Swift and Adele are among the artists who have kept some music off Spotify. Some have criticized streaming services for cutting into industry profits by weakening album sales and offering small royalty payments.
But Michelman said the plaintiffs in this case were never contacted by the streaming service for a contract, and therefore have not received any royalties at all. He said it’s just like “stealing a car” off the lot.
“Sanford is a brilliant strategist. He’s always five steps ahead of everyone else. Sanford has great foresight and foresees the multiple paths in which situations can play out… He asks great questions, actively listens and is very creative, yet on point, with his advice.”
CALIFORNIA, June 22, 2015 – Michelman & Robinson, LLP (M&R), has relocated its Los Angeles office to the heart of Westwood in the Oppenheimer Building located at 10880 Wilshire Boulevard, 19th floor.
“This move responds to M&R’s need for additional space and brings us closer to many of our clients,” stated M&R Managing Partner, Dana Kravetz. “The approximate 27,000 square foot suite is equipped with state-of-the-art capabilities that link us easily to clients and our four offices in California and New York.”
M&R also added an in-suite café, along with a spacious and versatile multi-purpose room that the Firm can configure to accommodate all sizes of meetings, seminars and social gatherings. Everything is cutting edge in design.
Working with a designer on all the updates, the new space reflects a firm that is committed not only to growth, but collegiality. “A Collaborative Room outfitted with a floor-to-ceiling white board, casual environmental surroundings, and videoconferencing will help facilitate the interactive and innovative way we work,” noted Sanford Michelman, M&R’s co-founder and Chairman. “We created a space where attorneys and staff will enjoy working together.”
In 2012, Lawdragon interviewed Sanford as part of it’s Lawyer Limelight series, which “features discussions with top practitioners, including corporate counsel, law firm stars, leaders in academia, public interest lawyers and more.” Below are a few questions and answers from the piece:
Lawdragon: What were some of the biggest challenges of the early days?
Sanford Michelman: Finding the extra few hours a day. We have been fortunate in that we were able to have very talented lawyers join us early on and support from our clients. We never really faced any significant challenges, other than maintaining the quality of our work.
LD: What advice would you give lawyers interested in doing the same?
SM: Make sure it is something you really want to do. It is a tug of war between being a practicing lawyer and operating a business. It requires tremendous hours, patience, and a long view towards where you want the firm to go. Finally, I would say that with every hire, make sure it is a cultural fit – don’t chase business originators in any way that may sacrifice your culture. Define your culture and make that you do not deviate from it.
M&R attorneys Sanford Michelman, Mona Hanna, Jesse Contreras and Kristen Peters won an important Ninth Circuit decision on behalf of client Rightscorp (who represents Warner Bros. and BMG Music). Rightscorp pursues copyright infringers on behalf of entertainment clients and attempts to settle with them for small fines. Plaintiffs had claimed that Rightscorp was abusing the legal process by using subpoenas to identify film and TV pirates. Some pirated movies at issue include Shawshank Redemption, Gravity and The Lord of the Rings. However, M&R argued that Rightscorp had a First Amendment right “to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” While some media outlets were hostile to this argument, the Ninth Circuit ruled in favor of Rightscorp.