Top legal experts offered guidance and perspective on ethics in the constantly evolving and fairly unconventional field of entertainment law at a South By Southwest panel titled “Ethics Matter.”

Peter Strand, a partner at the Chicago-based Leavens Strand & Glover LLC; Lawrence Waks of Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker LLP; and retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas Wallace B. Jefferson walked attendees through the 4 Cs of ethics:

  • Competence
  • Conflicts of Interest
  • Confidentiality
  • Compensation

To obtain competence in entertainment law, the panelists recommended interested lawyers get involved with “volunteer lawyers for the arts” groups. The work will allow lawyers new to the field to build relationships and gain experience to help them stand on their own in the field.

Handling conflicts of interest in entertainment law can be tricky Strand noted because the industry is very small. When approaching a waivable conflict of interest, Jefferson advised lawyers to make sure clients fully understand the matter at hand and give the clients a chance to back out of representation.

On the matter of confidentiality, the panelists advised lawyers to always keep in mind their client is the artist—not the manager or parents. Sometimes maintaining confidentiality requires not disclosing certain information to some of the management personnel with whom you are most commonly communicating.

When it comes to compensation, the panelists reminded attendees that ethical guidance dictates that fees be “reasonable,” but added this too has its challenges based on nature and size of the industry. Compensation also may circle around to affect confidentiality as an entertainment lawyer representing an artist often may be paid by parents or a manager, but again, the lawyer must remember his or her client is the artist.