Southwestern Law School Los Angeles, CA

Alumni Q&A with Kia Kamran '96

Kia Kamran, Attorney at LawKia Kamran '96, Attorney at Law (Entertainment, Intellectual Property and Business Law Attorney)

Q: What is your fondest law school memory?

A: Oh man, there were so many. On the academic front, I had some extreme "wow" moments. For example, learning the concept of property-ownership and how the doctrine of "trespass" can apply across so many different areas of law (and life). I also really loved learning about copyright law, trademark law, contracts, and anti-trust law. And Professor Shaffer's "Informal Systems of Order" seminar was totally mind-blowing.

On the social front, I had a blast in law school. I developed a close circle of friends early on, some of whom I keep in touch with to this day. Just being amongst other people whose lives were also thrown into chaos, and commiserating with them provided for many cathartic moments. In general, law school was a blast for me, so it's hard to point out THE fondest memory.

Q: Did you participate in any campus clubs or honors programs (Law Review, Moot Court, etc.) at Southwestern?

A: Yes, I was Director of Activities (or some such similar title) for the Student Bar Association during my second and third year and I think I organized some Karaoke parties and other social events, etc. I was also affiliated with the Entertainment Law Association. As far as honors programs, I wasn't involved with Law Review or Moot Court, but I did graduate with honors (top 10% of my class).

Q: Which Southwestern professors do you consider mentors and why?

A: Several. First off, Professor Robert Lind. He equipped me with 90% of the technical knowledge that I use in my practice on a day-to-day basis (Copyrights and Trademarks), and he was a true joy to learn from because of his prowess with the subject matter and teaching skills. I still talk with him regularly and speak at his classes.

Secondly, Professor Butler Shaffer was unquestionably the most intellectually-challenging and interesting teacher I've ever had. He had wild but very PRINCIPLED views and theories on liberty, boundaries, conflicts, etc. that really affected my views of the world. His personality traits and teaching tactics were a pure treat and wildly comical at times. He is the most Rock 'n Roll teacher I've ever had. He has a brilliant mind. I have maximum respect for Professor Shaffer.

Next, I really appreciated Professor Kelly Strader's criminal law classes. He was the quintessential law professor with a super sharp mind and wit. His Criminal Law class was the first law class I ever stepped into. I remember he used to call on us and demand that we "think precise" and challenge us to think like lawyers. Very cool. And finally, although he was not so much of a "mentor," but Professor Jeffrey Light's Music Business class was also extremely useful and interesting.

Q: How did your education at Southwestern help you find a niche in the music industry?

A: Of course Copyrights and Trademarks were indispensible. So was Professor Light's Music Contracts class. However, I was lucky because I entered law school after having worked a few years in the music biz. I had previously interned at a concert promoter and a record label, and was the Director of Concerts during my undergraduate days at Cal State Northridge, which allowed me to meet many agents, managers, and promoters. I also worked for two years at a music talent agency immediately prior to entering Southwestern. So by the time I graduated from law school, I had a base of potential clients, and I had a practice immediately after taking the bar exam - literally the following week. 

Q: Why did you decide to start your own practice?

A: I was lucky AND I didn't really get the chance to go job-hunting. I just dove in the deep end immediately by working for a talent-manager client who had just started a record label. I immediately began issuing and negotiating dozens of agreements on the label's behalf. At the same time, my prior bosses and other contacts referred work to me and hired me, and it all just built up from there. I also joined the Beverly Hills Bar Association and that was a great way to network and get referrals. I've been in solo practice my entire career as a lawyer. Although I've grumbled about not being part of a firm sometimes (mostly when I get tired of the administrative aspects of a running a practice - e.g. billing, personnel, etc.), having had my own practice has been almost ideal on all other fronts.

Q: Which areas of the law are most germane to your music/entertainment law practice (copyright, trademark, transactional)?

A: Contracts, Copyrights and Trademarks. I occasionally deal with other subjects, but if it's a big enough issue, I farm it out to other attorneys who specialize in those fields (e.g. tax, estate planning, etc.).

Q: How has your practice been impacted by swift changes in digital technology?

A: I started my practice in 1996, which was the beginning of the END of the record-business' CD-boom, and the start of Napster and widespread piracy. It is a completely different business now than it was when I was reading the recording agreements in Professor Light's class. There was much attrition as a result of piracy, and I'm grateful to have survived. Although I've experienced some extremely rich transactions in my practice, I'm pretty certain they are less frequent than they would have been if I had practiced in the 90's.

Q: Because you represent so many diverse music and entertainment acts at various stages of their careers, does your work ever involve acting as an act's agent, manager or any other crossover responsibilities?

A: Yes, all the time (as a manager). Working with newish yet-to-be-established music clients necessarily requires you to handle all aspects for them - booking, publicity, personnel matters, etc. My most recent example is my client POMPLAMOOSE for whom I handled pseudo-management responsibilities prior to handing them off to their current managers. I also handle booking duties for one of my internationally renowned comedian clients Ahmed Ahmed, and also used to book international shows for my other client Maz Jobrani (before he got an agent). It's just a necessity of being an effective talent-representative.

Q: How did you come to represent Iranian musicians and comics? How much of your practice is devoted to representing entertainers from the Middle East?

A: About 10%. I am somewhat known in our Iranian community here in Los Angeles, so I get many referrals. I'm also pro-active in seeking out certain Iranian acts that I like (e.g. my clients The Abjeez - an Iranian band from Sweden). I met Maz when I was waiting for my Bar results, and met Ahmed through Maz.

Q: Who are some of the most interesting, well-known, or unique bands or entertainment acts you represent?

A: This is a hard question because I don't want to play favorites. Purely on a professional level, I can confidently say that my most rewarding clients to work with are those who are true professionals and who handle their business in an honorable way, and with integrity. I'm a huge fan of all of the artists I represent because I have the privilege of seeing their artistic process from a unique perspective, and that is a real treat. As far as the most unique... hmm... let's see; I'm Mike Tyson's trademark attorney - he's unique eh? I also handle trademarks for Jay Leno, and I am a huge fan of his (and his motorcycle collection).

Q: How has serving on the executive board of the Beverly Hills Bar Association's Entertainment Law Section been beneficial to your career and professional development? Describe what the section does, and why it's important for lawyers to be involved in bar associations and other organizations.

A: I want to wholeheartedly recommend - no... URGE - all entertainment law candidates who read this article (thank you for making it this far) to DEFINITELY join the Beverly Hills Bar Association. It is an indispensible forum to meet other entertainment attorneys and to network with them. Although I'm not as active there as I used to be, they still ask me to come back to teach their Nuts and Bolts series (through which I make many contacts), and I regularly attend their Continuing Education events. It's indispensible.

Q: What do you think a law student's biggest misconception may be about practicing entertainment or music law?

A: That it's "chill" or mostly glamorous. It's not. Like any profession or craft (and I consider law practice to be a craft), in order to be truly skilled at what you do, you must work hard. Being an attorney is not easy, but it can be extremely rewarding. I think law students should know that being a GREAT entertainment lawyer means being hard-working, intellectual, and principled. We are ATTORNEYS first and foremost, and that entails honing our craft and being counselors, and always, ALWAYS putting our client's best interests ahead of our own, and having unfailing integrity and honor in how we conduct ourselves. I truly take pride in my profession. I guess that's why I am this happy about my career.

Q: What advice would you give to Southwestern students who want to practice music or entertainment law?

A: Be professional and honorable, work hard, be principled, have unfailing integrity, and have the courage to ask questions at all times - even if you think it will make you seem weak. Join bar associations to network, and definitely subscribe to Wired magazine. Oh, and for those of you who want to practice music - learn copyrights and trademark law, read the trades, have a genuine love for music, and be soulful to be around.

Q: What is your favorite genre of music? Who are some of your favorite bands/musicians?

A: My favorite artist of all time is Bob Marley. My favorite band of all time is The Clash. I love Reggae music (and its history), and British Punk and Ska. However, I also really enjoy all other genres (other than country - except for Johnny Cash): Dance, Metal, Latin, Jazz, Persian, etc. The only type of music I genuinely cannot suffer is "slow jams" (to my fiancee's dismay).