Celebrity Lawyer Salary (Complete Guide)

A career in entertainment law is one of the most lucrative professions in the United States and worldwide. It’s a career with an ever-growing demand as more celebrities spring up from Hollywood and across the globe. 

This article highlights the hefty salaries entertainment lawyers earn as well as some of the most successful celebrity lawyers in the world

Who is a celebrity lawyer?

Celebrity lawyers are personalities who’ve handled cases that sparked the national media’s attention. They’re entertainment lawyers whose cases made national headlines and transformed their once ordinary attorney careers into successful celebrity lawyers. 

Some lawyers became celebrity lawyers after transitioning from the law career into acting, music, business, and investing. 

What is the difference between an entertainment lawyer and a celebrity lawyer?

The difference between an entertainment lawyer and a celebrity lawyer lies in the instant public recognition of the lawyers and the cases handled. Entertainment lawyers can be ordinary attorneys handling cases or legal matters surrounding the entertainment industry but celebrity lawyers are those whose cases stood out and became famous for it. 

For example, Dave Feldman is an entertainment lawyer based in Los Angeles and has tons of experience in the entertainment industry but is not as famous as Alan Dershowitz who handled the 1995 O.J Simpson case

What is the average salary of an entertainment lawyer?

According to the ZipRecruiter, The average salary of an entertainment lawyer is approximately $95,700 per year. The salary can range from $20,000 to $200,000 or even higher depending on the experience and clients the entertainment attorneys represent. 

However, you’ll find salary data varying from site to site. For example, in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for lawyers in 2021 was $127,990 with an hourly rate of $61.54. 

The same website also cites that the rate of employment of lawyers is projected to grow by 9% between 2020 and 2030. This shows that a career in entertainment law is promising for aspiring lawyers. 

What does an entertainment lawyer do?

Entertainment lawyers specialize in representing the legal rights of busy actors, directors, producers, musicians, and authors in all areas of the entertainment industry. They help their clients manage legal affairs in entertainment as well as protect their interests. 

The following is a summary of roles entertainment lawyers usually undertake in their practice:

  • Advise clients on contracts they have with their agents, managers, or other representatives. These can range from recording contracts and agreements for promoting and distributing movies and music records 
  • Drafting contracts and overseeing negotiation processes for entertainment fees, movie royalties, television, and music production
  • Defending and protecting copyrighted material 

How to become an entertainment lawyer

For you to become a successful entertainment lawyer, you need to be well conversant with matters surrounding the entertainment industry. 

There are requirements aspiring lawyers and attorneys should meet to become entertainment lawyers. Some of them include:

  • A bachelor’s degree in law with specialization in entertainment law, intellectual property, and contracts 
  • A Juris Doctor (JD) degree which usually takes seven years to obtain one
  • Two to three years experience in the entertainment industry
  • Proficiency in analytics, research, and communication skills
  • Good experience with securities investments, immigration laws, employment, insurance, and intellectual property laws

Specializing in one area of entertainment law, like filming, theater, publishing, and media works, makes it easier to succeed as a celebrity lawyer in entertainment.  

How to become an entertainment attorney

Entertainment attorneys are one of the most highly-paid lawyers. To become one, you should of course understand the entertainment industry. You can do this by working in a music, film, or television production company representing them in legal affairs. 

You can also work for a law firm that specializes in entertainment law and transition to a successful career as an actor or television producer. Some celebrities like Rebel Wilson, John Cleese, Jerry Springer, and Hill Harper started off as lawyers and then transitioned to acting. They’re now successful celebrities in the film industry.

Top 10 richest celebrity lawyers in the world

  1. Wichai Thongtang
celebrity lawyer salary

Wichai Thongtang is an influential billionaire lawyer who represented powerful figures during his career as a corporate lawyer. His current net worth stands at $1.9 billion dollars.  

Some of his clients included the prime minister of Thailand, Thaksin Shinawatre, who was successfully represented in an asset concealment lawsuit in 2001. This particular case is what made him famous thus becoming a wealthy celebrity lawyer.  

His wealth also streams from strategic investment interests he’s accumulated over the years. He’s invested in hospital assets like medical supplies and equipment distributed by E and L Aim, and TWZ, a company that supplies and distributes cell phones and related accessories.

  1. Charlie Munger 
celebrity lawyer salary

Charlie Munger is a well-known philanthropist and business partner (or right-hand man) for Warren Buffet at Berkshire Hathaway. 

After graduating from Harvard Law School, magna cum laude with a J.D., he joined the Wright and Garrett law firm (later Musick, Peeler & Garrett). He later founded the Munger Tolles & Olson LLP legal firm which started in 1962.

He later gave up his law career to begin managing investments in real estate alongside Otis Booth. Over the years, he formed investment partnerships that multiplied his wealth and earned him positions in high-profile companies. 

He’s now the chairman of the Daily Journal Corporation in Los Angeles, CA, and director of Costco Wholesale Corporation. His current net worth stands at $2.2 billion

  1. Bill Neukom 
celebrity lawyer salary

Bill Neukom of net worth $850 million, was Microsoft’s former legal representative. He completed his law degree at Stanford in 1967 and became Bill Gates’ legal advisor in 1978. At the time, he worked with a team of 12, but after 25 years in the corporation, his team expanded to 600 employees. 

He defended Microsoft’s intellectual property for many years, representing the corporation in several cases including against the rival company, Apple. After retiring from the company, he became CEO of the major San Francisco baseball team in 2012. He eventually retired from employment to focus on philanthropy. 

  1. Judge Judy 
celebrity lawyer salary

Judith Sheindlin is a famous television personality hosting the popular show Judge Judy as a judge prosecuting family law cases as well as domestic violence and abuse cases. 

She’s been a judge presiding over courtrooms on The People’s Court on TV Land since 1996. She’s also a regular panelist on the CBS courtroom show Judge Judy. Her stunning performance on the show earned her an accolade on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006. Her net worth is estimated to stand at $480 million

  1. Robert Shapiro 
celebrity lawyer salary

Robert Shapiro rose to fame while handling the famous O.J. Simpson trial in 1995. He was the first lawyer to defend Simpson in the public eye on cable news networks refuting all claims and evidence staged against the accused. 

In the course of the trial, he retracted as Johnnie Cochran took over the case, but still sided with the accused till the end. 

Other notable celebrities he’s represented are Johnny Carson, Phil Spector, and several players of the major baseball league. His net worth currently stands at $120 million.  

  1. Willie E. Gary 
celebrity lawyer salary

Famous for the title “Giant Killer”, Willie E. Gary has taken on major cases against high-profile organizations like Disney and Microsoft. He has represented and won his clients’ lawsuits worth millions of dollars against major companies. 

For example, he successfully won the $240 million lawsuit against Disney for stealing ESPN’s concept of the Wide World of Sports Complex. In 2019, he won a $23 billion case against R.J. Reynolds which stemmed from Micheal Johnson’s death in 1996. However, the case was overturned on appeal. His current net worth is $100 million. 

  1. John Branca 
celebrity lawyer salary

John Branca remains to be one of the most trusted yet richest entertainment lawyers in American history. He’s the co-executor of the late Micheal Jackson’s estate and the chairman of the Michael Jackson Company. 

His legal career spun off from a band he was part of that opened The Doors at a Los Angeles Club in the 1960s. From then, he’s served clients in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame via the Ziffren Brittenham LLP firm including The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Backstreet Boys, Fleetwood Mac, Carlos Santana, Limp Bizkit, and Aerosmith. 

For each of his clients, he earns 5% equity from the sales of their music record contracts. Most of his clients have sold more than 20 million records that built his net worth that now stands at $100 million. 

  1. Roy Black 
celebrity lawyer salary

Roy Black is a well-known criminal defense attorney who successfully won William Kennedy Smith an acquittal. William Kennedy was a physician charged with rape against Patricia Bowman in 1991. 

He’s also represented a number of high-profile figures including Rush Limbaugh, a conservative radio commentator; Kelsey Grammer, an actor; Joe Francis, a creator of Girls Gone Wild; Helio Castrovenes, a racer; and Justin Bieber, a famous pop musician. He’s currently worth an estimated $85 million

  1. Alan Dershowitz 
celebrity lawyer salary

Net worth: $25 million.

Alan Dershowitz is one of the top entertainment lawyers famous for being part of the defense team that successfully represented former NFL star O.J. Simpson in the 1995 murder trial of his ex-wife and her friend. He joined Julian Assange’s legal team as WikiLeaks’ founder in 2011.

He’s also famous for representing Claus von Bulow, a socialite convicted of attempted murder of his ex-wife Sunny von Bulow in 1980. He won von Bulow’s appeal and the case got overturned. 

He’s been a professor at Harvard law school for many years and has published several books and articles. Some of them include the book Reversal of Fortune: Inside Von Bulow Case (1985) whose concept was adopted in a film in 1990. His other well-known published works include Chutzpah, the O.J. Simpson Case, and The Case for Peace.

Other celebrity clients he’s represented include Mike Tyson, Julian Assange, Patty Hearst, and Jim Bakker. He’s also defended former US president, Donald Trump during his 2020 impeachment trial, and was part of Harvey Weinstein’s defense team in 2018.  

  1. Gloria Allred 
celebrity lawyer salary

Net worth: $20 million.

Gloria Allred is an American attorney branded “the most famous woman attorney practicing law in the nation today”. She handled cases that made headlines including the O.J. Simpson case in which she represented the family of the late Nicole Brown Simpson, the accused ex-wife. She’s now part of the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Allred is known as a fierce civil rights activist defending lawsuits involving women’s rights, sexual harassment, unfair dismissal, and employment discrimination. She’s represented clients who’ve filed lawsuits against celebrities like Tommy Lee, Scott Lee Cohen, R Kelly, Herman Cain, and Arnold Schwarzenegger

Cities with the highest entertainment lawyer salaries

There’s an ever-increasing demand for entertainment lawyers due to the rising Hollywood talent and celebrities in the United States. The current celebrities also constantly seek to hire top-notch attorneys to handle their legal affairs or represent them in case of conviction. 

The table below highlights approximate salaries entertainment lawyers earn based on cities with high demand for lawyers. 

CityAverage Annual SalaryWage per hourCost of Living Index
New York City, NY$99,000$47.58168.60
San Mateo, CA$96,500$46.39270.60
Daly City, CA$94,400$45.36213.00
Boston, MA$94,300$45.34111.40
Berkeley, CA$94,300$45.33103.50
Bend, OR$94,000$45.19131.30
Green River, WY$93,900$45.1397.60
Santa Monica, CA$93,100$44.75219.00
Renton, WA$93,000$44.70139.00
Juneau, AK$92,400$44.45121.50

Table 1: Average Annual Entertainment Lawyer Salary based on ZipRecruiter.com statistics

Cost of living index in cities with entertainment lawyer jobs

It’s good to consider the cost of living in a city in case you want to move where entertainment lawyers and attorneys are paid well. Some cities have numerous entertainment law opportunities with good salaries but the living standards are equally high. 

For example, California state has many opportunities for lucrative entertainment attorney jobs. The booming entertainment industry in the area commands such high salary rates. However, the cost of living is high within the state. Good examples are Los Angeles and San Francisco. 

Cities like Dallas and Huston in Texas have good job opportunities and the cost of living is affordable for most entry-level entertainment lawyers. 

FAQs about entertainment lawyer salaries

How much money does an entertainment lawyer make on the average?

The average annual salary range of an entertainment lawyer is approximately between $10,000 and $187,000. These are labor statistics based on comparably.com website. These values vary and can go way higher depending on the celebrity clients or high-profile companies represented.

How much do lawyers make in Hollywood?

From sources gathered at Glassdoor salaries, the estimated salary of a celebrity lawyer in Hollywood is approximately $118,000, particularly around California. 

What kind of lawyers are the richest?

Patent lawyers are among the richest kinds of lawyers with over $265,000 median annual salary, followed by family lawyers ($213,000), real estate attorneys ($125,000), Intellectual Property (IP) lawyers ($116,000), and Medical lawyers ($108,000).  

These are only approximate figures as experience and location influence the earning potential of the lawyer. 

What do celebrity lawyers do?

The primary role of celebrity lawyers is to defend and protect the rights of iconic personalities in the entertainment industry. This also includes representing them in court cases and protecting their interests in filmography, theater, music, and publishing. 

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