Distinguishing Yourself in a Practice Area – Yemisi Falaye, Entertainment Law

Editor’s note For the second edition of the series tagged “Distinguishing Yourself in a Practice Area”, we interview Yemisi Falaye who has distinguished herself in Entertainment Law practice in Nigeria acting for brands such as Tiwa Savage, Adekunle Gold, Zlatan, Toke Makinwa, Wande Coal and more. She shares valuable lessons from her experience for those who might be working towards creating a niche for themselves in Entertainment Law or any other area.

Please tell us about your first few years in legal practice. 

I started my legal career (NYSC) at ACAS-Law and was fortunate to be retained afterwards. I have been working at the firm since 2007, primarily in the corporate commercial group and also dealing with intellectual property, company secretarial, immigration law, amongst others.

Before the Entertainment group at my firm was created, I felt like going to work was a chore. Typical of growth, my formative years in the legal industry and as an employee were tough. However, even though I was not particularly passionate about the areas of law I initially practised, I still made sure I worked very hard and delivered superb quality of work all the time.

How did you discover Entertainment Law and why did you decide to follow this path?

Prior to my appointment as Head of the Entertainment Law Group at ACAS-Law, the group was a part of the wider corporate/commercial group and I had done a few things for some celebrities relating to intellectual property and corporate law.

In response to the emergence of entertainment law in Nigeria, a Senior Partner at the firm (and my direct boss) created the Entertainment Law Group as a standalone department. I was appointed to head the department as a result of my already-established cordial relationship with celebrities and my flair for the practice area.

Entertainment Law is a path I chose to follow because it is truly my passion. It gets me excited and keeps me going. It is a lot of work but because I love my job, I constantly find joy in it.

Please give us a brief overview of what Entertainment Law practice is about.

Entertainment Law practice has to do with the provision of legal services to members of the entertainment industry such as recording and performing artistes, music producers, film producers, media companies, comedians, dancers, film actors, sports personalities, amongst others.

These services often intertwine and overlap with Intellectual Property Law which includes copyright and trademarks. In actual practice, entertainment law cuts across other areas of law such as tort law, criminal law, contract law, defamation and employment law.

What did the Entertainment law space in Nigeria look like when you decided to follow this path and how was your knowledge of other practice areas useful?

When I ventured into the Entertainment Law space in Nigeria, it was practically non-existent except for a few creatives who were aware that they needed to be legally protected in all deals they enter into.

I had acquired knowledge and experience in commercial and corporate law, company secretarial and intellectual property law which have all been of help to me in Entertainment Law.

What were the challenges you faced when you started in Entertainment Law?

The Entertainment Law space in Nigeria although growing fast is still in its formative years. The major challenge was that some of the clients’ matters had no judicial precedent; therefore, finding solutions to such legal challenges was done mostly by intense research and using foreign jurisdictions as case studies.

Secondly, getting some creatives to understand the importance of legal advice and carrying a lawyer along was quite tedious. My team had to do a lot of pro bono cases to gain the trust of the creatives and prove our relevance in the industry as lawyers.

Did you acquire any additional skills or certifications (e.g. online courses Masters, PhD, etc.) to enable you to work in this practice area?

I did not acquire any additional skills or certification. My expertise was mainly developed out of sheer passion, zeal, hard work, determination, research, experience, attending seminars, etc. Through this, I have been able to (and I am still working on) create a niche for myself in the entertainment industry as a lawyer.

You have done very well for yourself in Entertainment Law – why would you say that is? What is the most rewarding aspect of working in Entertainment Law?

I attribute my success to God. He helps me create magic. Honestly. I have also worked very hard, if I may say so myself.

Entertainment Law is a practice area that I have a flair for.  I believe propels me to want to be the best and turn out excellent work at all times. I think the most rewarding aspect is when my clients are satisfied and happy with the work that I have done.

How have you been able to carve a niche and distinguish yourself in this practice area and what keeps you going?

I think for me, it is my dedication to my clients that gives me an edge and distinguishes me from everyone else in this area of practice. I truly am my clients’ friend. This makes them feel comfortable with me.

Also, I make sure that I am available for my clients whenever they need me – I am a truly 24/7 lawyer. For me, there is no such thing as a ‘closing time’.

I also work very hard to ensure that my clients are always protected and that the quality of work I deliver is excellent at all times. My passion and drive for Entertainment Law practice keep me going as well as the grace of God.

How do you see your career in Entertainment Law progressing from here? What would be the pinnacle for you?

In the next few years, I see myself as CEO/Owner of the best and only properly structured record label in Africa that focuses on the artist. Right now, there are barely record labels that are truly artist-friendly. Caring for artists the way that they should be cared for would be the ultimate pinnacle for me.

Please tell us about the most memorable thing that has happened while working in Entertainment Law.

The most memorable things that have happened to me would be doing the paperwork for Tiwa Savage’s latest single “49-99”, Adekunle Gold’s “About 30” album and facilitating Zlatan Ibile’s release from EFCC custody.

How would you describe your workload?

My workload can be quite challenging because this is an area of legal practice in Nigeria that is new and has not been explored as in-depth as other practice areas. However, having been in practice for quite a while, crazy deadlines do not faze me anymore. Each day comes with a new matter and my job is to find creative solutions to my clients’ legal issues.

The process of getting the work done can be overwhelming at times, but the results and smiles on my clients’ faces make it rewarding for me.

What kind of clients do you find yourself working with the most?

I work mostly performing artistes and music producers although I still deal with creatives in general, such as songwriters, authors, sportsmen and women, music producers/composers and dancers.

What advice would you give to young/aspiring lawyers looking to excel in Entertainment Law?

My advice to young/aspiring lawyers that want to excel in Entertainment Law is that they must have the passion and zeal for this area of practice. This is very crucial, as these two elements will ultimately fuel their drive to succeed.

Hard work and expertise are also highly required to succeed as an Entertainment lawyer and knowledge can be acquired by studying and researching on various topics of Entertainment Law.

Finally, working in the entertainment industry is beyond meeting the celebrities, taking pictures with them and attending gigs. If you are not a guru at what you do, you will not fit in anymore.

‘Yemisi Falaye is an Entertainment Lawyer. She works with the law firm of Adepetun Caxton-Martins Agbor & Segun and heads the Entertainment Law Group of the firm.

‘Yemisi has over the years garnered in-depth experience in providing premium legal advice and representation to individuals and organisations in the entertainment industries in Nigeria, which include film, music, theatre, art, television, radio, publishing and digital media.

Asides entertainment law, ‘Yemisi also has a wide-range experience in Intellectual Property, Immigration and Company Secretarial matters in Nigeria. She focuses on the prosecution of trademark, patent, copyright and design on behalf of clients. She manages the immigration status of several expatriates in Nigeria and is involved in general corporate and commercial matters in the firm.

 

legallyengagedDistinguishing Yourself in a Practice Area – Yemisi Falaye, Entertainment Law

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