Graduating during the economic downturn, Nathan Sheffield was stuck in the legal job market’s murky waters. But he took advantage of opportunities and connections to eventually land him right where he belonged: as an entertainment and sports attorney. Sheffield not only broke into his dream area—he helped found the Sports & Entertainment practice group at his law firm. In the below interview with Vault, Sheffield talks about his career path, working as an entertainment lawyer, and the importance of networking and social media.
Vault Law: Why did you decide to go to law school?
Nathan Sheffield: If you were to ask my parents that question, I'm sure they would say that I always planned to go to law school. I didn't, however, make the final decision until approximately halfway through my junior year as an undergraduate. I, like everyone I knew, was staring down the barrel of uncertainty and beginning to ask the inevitable question, "What next?" I realized that joining the world of academia as a sociologist was not for me (a special thank you to Dr. Chris Ponticelli at the University of South Florida for talking me out of it). So, as a result of a thought process I am still unable to explain, law school it was.
VL: How has your career unfolded since law school?
NS: I was unlucky enough to graduate from law school as the economic downturn began to reveal itself in the all-to-competitive legal job market. The jobs that would have, just a few years prior, gone to bright, eager (albeit naive) first year associates were either (a) nonexistent or (b) going to more experienced practitioners who found themselves without gainful employment. I was out of work and subsisting on whatever income I could bring in as a freelance business consultant for 10 months before I found my first post-JD legal position. The position was advertised as a paralegal position in a boutique entertainment firm. After much thought (and a fair amount of trepidation) I took the position which, thanks to the head of the firm, had been upgraded just for me to the title of associate. After a year in that position, I transitioned into my current position at Davidoff Malito & Hutcher, LLP.
VL: You were the first member of the Sports & Entertainment law practice at your law firm. What goes into launching a successful new practice area?
NS: Having been married to a theatre producer, I was able to gain invaluable access to the inner workings of the entertainment industry. This insight was augmented by my year of practice with The Herzog Law Group. My long-term goal was to end up in a mid-sized firm that included an entertainment and sports law practice. Through a dear friend, who has subsequently become a client, I was introduced to Sid Davidoff. After meeting with Jeff Citron and Larry Hutcher, managing partners of Davidoff Malito & Hutcher, LLP, I was offered a position within the firm utilizing my experience in both bankruptcy and trusts and estates while simultaneously being given the freedom and flexibility to build the firm's entertainment and sports law practice from the ground up. I am very proud to work with such an incredibly intelligent and dedicated group of attorneys including Ed Schauder, who recently joined the firm and chairs the Entertainment & Sports practice group. At the end of the day, hard work and tenacity are the fundamentals and will, ultimately, be rewarded.
VL: What is the best part about practicing entertainment and sports law?
NS: In many ways the best thing about practicing in sports and entertainment is universally applicable to the legal profession as a whole: no two days are ever the same. The opportunity to work with endlessly talented creative minds is, in itself, its own reward. As a lifelong movie lover (and mildly obsessive football fan), my job is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling on both personal and professional levels.
VL: What is the worst part, if any?
NS: The toughest part of my job is no different than that of any other practice area: being the voice or reason or the bearer of bad news is never fun. I am so actively involved in my clients’ projects that when . . . READ MORE HERE
Nathan Sheffield is an associate at Davidoff Malito & Hutcher LLP. He works in the Entertainment and Sports Law Practice Group, focusing on film, television, theatre and music. Mr. Sheffield received his JD from Seton Hall Law School and his BA from the University of South Florida. You can connect with him on twitter at @NathanSheffield.
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