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Building Business at SXSW: Festival-Going Lawyers Mix and Mingle With People in Tech and Entertainment Biz


Angela Morris, Texas Lawyer

March 17, 2014    |0 Comments

Ryan McCarthy, principal at Fish & Richardson in Austin
Ryan McCarthy, principal at Fish & Richardson in Austin
Joel Salcido
Austin can return to normal as worldwide attendees of the South by Southwest Music Film Interactive Conferences and Festivals wrap up 10 days of parties and revelations of the cutting edge of the entertainment industry.
But entertainment and technology lawyers say they get much more from attending SXSW, which ran from March 7 to 16, including new clients, the opportunity to mix and mingle with high-level entertainment and technology professionals, and an inside track to understanding where their industries could head in the future.
“You get an eye into how the world is evolving and changing. … That’s the huge benefit,” said Ryan McCarthy, a principal in Fish & Richardson in Austin. The firm hosted a SXSW Interactive party called “Patents on Tap,” with free beer and an intellectual property–themed pub quiz.
Catherine Hough, who represents musicians, bands, record labels and other artists, said she has attended SXSW Music for 20 years. Simply attending the festival could help a lawyer professionally because of the networking opportunities, she noted.
Austin solo Amy Mitchell, who represents musicians, filmmakers and other creatives, wrote in an email that attending SXSW Music for 14 years has given her credibility in the industry and allowed her to meet industry professionals from major markets.
Both Hough and Mitchell have gotten new clients from SXSW.
“You meet them. If they like you and want to work with you, you can sign them up right there and then,” said Hough, of counsel at Ferguson, Braswell & Fraser in Plano and chairwoman of the State Bar of Texas Entertainment and Sports Law Section, which hosted a March 13 mixer for entertainment lawyers.
Mitchell added, “I’ve also met a number of prominent music attorneys from other states that started referring prospective clients to me.”
Early in her career, Mitchell wrote, attending SXSW panels taught her what she needed to know to break into the industry. Later, she built a “mentor and referral network” through SXSW.
Lawyers who represent technology companies also said that what they learn during SXSW Interactive has helped their legal careers.
Matt Lyons, a partner in Andrews Kurth in Austin, explained, “If you’re going to represent technology companies, you’re going to have to understand the newer technologies and where things are trending.”
John Saba, a senior associate with Dinovo, Price, Ellwanger & Hardy in Austin, said he can learn about developments in the technology industry much faster at SXSW than he can by waiting for continuing legal education providers to offer events on the same topics.
“Law doesn’t need to be the last to know. Law needs to be with the market as it grows, opposed to reacting to it,” said Saba, an intellectual property litigator who mainly represents plaintiffs.

Big Law at SXSW

McCarthy said Fish & Richardson has tried to become involved in SXSW in the past but was finally successful this year after connecting with organizers at two smaller SXSW conferences in 2013. In addition to attending Fish’s March 11 “Patents on Tap” party, McCarthy participated in a SXSW Interactive mentoring session and spoke on an IP law panel with two other Fish partners.
The firm wants to educate the creative community about IP law and hopes to make its brand more well-known, which eventually could pay off with new clients, said McCarthy.
Lyons said that Andrews Kurth tried to “add value” for others who attended SXSW by acting as a “connector” for technology entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and out-of-town investors, whom the firm invited to a March 7 meet-and-greet event.
“People remember that, and ultimately, they appreciate that, and we end up doing the transactions based on those introductions,” he explained.
DLA Piper hosted a similar party on March 7 for its technology clients to meet venture capitalists, said partner Sam Zabaneh of Austin.
“We don’t try to sell. We don’t try to close or do anything aggressive,” Zabaneh said. “It’s an opportunity to extend the brand so folks know how active we are in the market in Austin.”
Saba said he advises lawyers against attending SXSW just to hand out business cards.
“It’s more building relationships based on common interests, and those relationships in turn may end up in a professional legal relationship down the road,” Saba said.
But SXSW means much more for Saba, founder of the band San Saba County. He played guitar and sang with his band during an official SXSW Music showcase on March 15.
“It’s kind of difficult to get in because of the number of applicants,” Saba said. “Every year we get in, we count our blessings.”
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Read more: http://www.texaslawyer.com/id=1202646818213/Building-Business-at-SXSW%3A-Festival-Going-Lawyers-Mix-and-Mingle-With-People-in-Tech-and-Entertainment-Biz#ixzz2wEYuJWlo


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