Ted Baer: Solo Practitioner Of Counsel, LaPolt Law, P.C.
LAWCROSSING THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH LAW STAR www.lawcrossing.com 1. 800.973.1177 Ted Baer: Solo Practitioner Of Counsel, LaPolt Law, P.C. [by Regan Morris] Entertainment lawyer Ted Baer has worked in virtually every area of show business: production, financing, distribution, writing, and even acting. LawCrossing talks with Baer about his expertise in the business of film and why he loves balancing his legal practice and the creative process of writing.Baer started his legal career with the Navy When the law firm split up, Baer decided transition, Baer realized his best bet wouldduring the Vietnam War. Like many of his he wanted to work more in the business be to start his own firm, working in businessgeneration, Baer was constantly concerned affairs of movie and television production, so affairs and representing writers.about getting drafted. So he joined the he accepted a job with CBS EntertainmentNavy Reserve after graduating from Duke in New York, handling negotiations for “I really wanted to be working with the talent.University Law School and served four-and- programming, which included parades and That’s where my passion was,” he said.a-half years as a judge advocate, or JAG, movies of the week. At that time, CBS was His first client had the rights to Rod Serling’srepresenting sailors. optioning American classics to turn into movies, and Baer was in charge of acquiring Twilight Zone; and Baer negotiated allBaer says that he handled about 400 cases in the contracts for the new series, which rights to the books.that time and the experience taught him that introduced him to a new pool of writers.he didn’t want to be a litigator or a judge. A An entertainment career for many meansscholar of constitutional law, Baer said he moving west; and for Baer, that opportunity “The second opportunity was one of thosewas always on the lookout for an AWOL sailor came in 1981, when he was promoted to Vice rare synchronicities. I was introduced to akeen to make a constitutional case against President, Business Affairs, in Los Angeles. guy who needed a lawyer because his lawyerthe war. Even though he encountered dozens In 1983, he moved to MGM/UA Television. had a conflict of interest. And he ended upof AWOL sailors, he never met one morally being a really talented and really giftedopposed to the war. Generally, they were just And then Baer had an epiphany. He realized writer named David Warfield, who was datingyoung men breaking the rules for an extra he was working more and more on his own a young writer named Callie Khouri,” he said.day with a girlfriend. writing than concentrating on other people’s “She had a script she was trying to get made scripts. He realized he wanted to interact called Thelma & Louise.”After serving his time, Baer spent a year in more on the creative side with the writersNew York City as a “vagabond” songwriter, and directors, not just when negotiating their Baer represented Khouri, who eventuallyrecording fifteen songs and selling one. Baer contracts. won an Oscar for Thelma & Louise.said he knew then that he wanted a career inthe arts; so after a year, he joined Columbia Baer left business affairs in 1984 and started “From the beginning, I’ve always readPictures as a junior attorney. A year later, he a production company. He negotiated with material from writers I work with, and Imoved to a law firm, joining Arrow, Silverman MGM and kept an office on the lot. have to understand the material and like theand Parcher as an associate specializing in material,” he said. “It’s hard for me to takemusic law. “I decided that I would try my hand at the time I do with all clients. Whether I loved optioning screenplays and trying my hand it or not didn’t matter that it got sold; it got“[The firm] represented people like Paul sold. It was such a joy to work with her, and I at that because I love the creative processSimon and Art Garfunkel, the Rolling Stones, worked with her for many years.” and because I was always writing and alwaysand a bunch of really big acts—although I writing late at night or early in the morningdidn’t work on any of that work. I got the Those first few writers helped Baer expand and lawyering most of the time,” he said.junior kind of work, but it was an interesting his practice, and now he represents dozensintroduction into music contracts and music of artists. More recently, he assisted the But Baer says he was somewhat naïve aboutnegotiation,” Baer said. “I was the only Tupac Shakur estate in the financing and the time it would take to set up and produceassociate for 10 lawyers in the areas that distribution of the documentary Tupac: deals in Hollywood. He was soon wooed backdealt with contract negotiations. So that was Resurrection, which is based on the late by MGM to set up a new business affairs unita challenge, and it was fun.” rapper’s life. for United Artists Television. During thatPAGE continued on back
LAWCROSSING THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH LAW STAR www.lawcrossing.com 1. 800.973.1177Baer, who lives in Santa Barbara and he worked in business affairs. He worked back office for a while and helped produce agenerally commutes to Los Angeles from an office in his backyard in West L.A. television series out of my back office.”several times a week, is on the board of while he built up the firm.the Santa Barbara Film Festival. He urged The television series was a kids program,entrepreneurial attorneys interested in “I studied for three months, which was a which starred a very young Juliette Lewis.blending law with creative arts to start their task,” he said. “Of course, I had three kidsown firms. When Baer first started, he had to running around as I was doing this. They’d “The parents would come to the back, andstudy for and pass the California bar 20 years come home from school and want to play we’d be signing deals in my backyard with aafter passing the New York bar, because he basketball or read or something. But I took bunch of kids running around,” he said. “Itdidn’t need to be a member of the bar when the bar, I passed the bar, and I stayed in my was never dull.”PAGE