By Samar Khoury
Heidy Vaquerano is a partner in the nationwide Entertainment & Sports Law Department at Fox Rothschild LLP.
She has more than 16 years of experience handling entertainment law and intellectual property matters for actors, Grammy-nominated musicians, global merchandise companies, film and television producers, writers, production companies, independent record labels, tech startups, and consultants. In 2020, she was selected for inclusion in Billboard‘s “Top Music Lawyers” list.
Outside of her legal practice, Vaquerano is a professor at local Los Angeles universities, where she creates a curriculum that incorporates her passion for all aspects of entertainment, tech and new media and its associated legal components. She has lectured at various prestigious entertainment and tech industry events, including MIDEM in Cannes, France, on behalf of the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers, Silicon Beach Fest for Digital LA, Techweek LA, and Innovate LA. Vaquerano is the managing director of the Los Angeles chapter of Girls in Tech, a nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating the gender gap in tech, and serves on the advisory board of SXSW Pitch and Mayor Garcetti’s WiSTEM LA initiative.
Vaquerano spoke about her career journey.
Why did you pursue a career in law?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a lawyer. As the child of immigrant parents, I envisioned lawyers with the power to right wrongs. I often saw my parents work the early shift, and sometimes two jobs, so that they could send me to the best schools. This inspired me to make the most of my education and become an attorney to one day help others. I found my passion as a sophomore in college when I first learned about music law at an LSAT prep event. That day changed my life and led to my first job at an entertainment law firm where I worked for 11 years.
What are your advice and tips to others who are interested in pursuing a career in law?
The best piece of advice I can give to potential law students is to study hard and have fun. We have the rest of our lives to work, so enjoy the time you have to learn about the different areas of law as they are fundamental to our everyday life. One of my favorite classes in law school was constitutional law.
For those of you who know what area of law you want to practice, use it to your advantage and choose classes around that field. Since I knew I wanted to become an entertainment attorney, I chose entertainment and intellectual property law classes like copyright and music publishing in law school. This gave me a leg up when I was working at my first job, as I was able to understand the legal concepts better. If you want to become a transactional attorney, use this time to take classes that teach you how to draft contracts. This will help you become accustomed to the language used in legal agreements. Whatever internship or externship you have, make the most of it. Do everything with care and intention. To this day, I still come across attorneys that remember me from when I was in law school and who are happy to see me and help with anything I may need. These relationships have proven to be invaluable.
How did having a mentor help you?
I’ve had a lot of great mentors in my life, including attorneys or colleagues who I have worked with throughout the years. These mentors helped keep me motivated and taught me a lot about what is not learned in law school, like industry politics. Relationships are important in all areas of life, but particularly in the entertainment industry. As I progressed in my career, I found mentors for different aspects of my life.
Did you have any challenges while pursuing a career in law? How did you overcome them?
The greatest challenge I had in law school was balancing school and work. I made the decision to go to school at night, so I could work at an entertainment law firm. Since I had broken into the entertainment industry, I knew I did not want to take three years off for school and lose the relationships I had worked so hard to build. It was stressful, but ultimately it was the best decision. I was able to get invaluable experience drafting and negotiating agreements under the supervision of attorneys before I officially passed the bar.
What do you like most about your job and why?
One of my favorite things about my job is representing artists. You get to build a friendship and bond with your clients while helping to protect them. I love educating clients about their deals and helping them build strong careers. It has been an incredible experience to watch the entertainment industry change since I first got my start in 2002. I am excited to see where it goes as technology transforms how we discover and listen to new music or watch television and films.