Client Profile: Dina LaPolt
Please tell our readers about your business.
LaPolt Law, P.C. is a boutique transactional entertainment law firm that specializes in representing creative people in the fields of music, film, television, fashion, radio and book publishing industries.
Tell us about the project you’re currently working on.
We are working on several record albums that are scheduled for release this year as well as agreements relating to concert tours, merchandising, sponsorships, and endorsements. We are also negotiating various agreements relating to TV, both scripted shows and reality.
Why did you become an entrepreneur? Is starting a business something you always wanted to do?
Yes, I have always been an entrepreneur. I only became a lawyer so that I could develop a certain skill set that would enable me to continue being an entrepreneur but at the same time establish my credibility within the entertainment community as a business person and deal maker. To that end, I chose to have my own law firm instead of joining a bigger law firm because it enables me to run my own business. Running my own business is creative and allows me to do a bunch of different things each day as opposed to just reading and negotiating contracts.
What is the number one thing you wish you could learn more about, and how will you learn about it?
I am learning more about the touring industry and how it works from soup to nuts. As an entertainment lawyer, touring is the one area we are never really involved in besides handling the promoter and tour sponsorship agreements. Currently, I am learning about how tours are routed by selecting the appropriate markets for the act you are representing. There are a lot of factors that need to be considered like how the artist did in that market the last time they performed, how music sales have been that market, and what the current industry customs are. It’s challenging and fascinating at the same time.
How has technology impacted your business?
Yes, in the beginning technology impacted us in a negative way because of all the Internet piracy. Overall, I think the entertainment industry has a “love-hate” relationship with technology. The good part about technology is it enables the music artist to really have an intimate one on one relationship with his or her fans in a manner that has never been explored before which makes that relationship special, unique, and authentic.
In addition, advances in technology and new social media tools are revolutionizing the way we consume, produce, distribute and discover music. There are more ways than ever to expose an artist’s art and music to billions of people, but making it equally as difficult to rise above all the noise.
How do you use social media in your business?
We use Facebook and Twitter to send out information pertaining to new types deals and new laws in our industry that will affect our clients and how business is done. Also we follow all our clients on Twitter which has enabled us to be more connected to them and their talents in a more meaningful way. Being connected 24/7 has revolutionalized the way we do business and how we seek to achieve results.
We also encourage our clients to embrace these social media tools as well. A quick tweet from the road or the recording studio (even better if it has a picture attached!) gives fans a look into the world of their heroes. Facebook allows for the quick spread of important press or ticketing links. Sites like Ustream.tv enable artists to reward fans with video chats or to stream their concerts live
Did you have a business plan when you started your business, and, if so, how much did you vary from it?
My business plan was simple: develop my lawyering skills, keep my overhead low, and build my brand. I lead with my heart and think with my head. It was this way of thinking that catapulted my law career from a solo practitioner with three clients to one of the most premier boutique entertainment law firms in Los Angeles.
What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?
My biggest mistake in the beginning of my career was not establishing firm boundaries with clients and business colleagues. Being in the entertainment industry is confusing because it can appear to be super casual and fun all the time but we still need to be cognizant of the fact that it is a business. Once you allow someone to bully or walk on you it’s very hard to change that dynamic once established.
What advice would you offer to a first-time entrepreneur?
Be the tortoise, not the hare. The hare may win race but the tortoise paces itself and eventually makes it across the finish line but not exhausted and out of breath. In addition, keep your expenses low and prioritize what expenses you actually need to have. For me specifically, my first priorities were insurance and office space. Everything else had to wait until I was bringing in enough money on a regular basis to sustain additional expenses like employees and a parking space!
Have you received funding from an outside source, and how has funding (or the lack of funding) impacted your ability to achieve your objectives?
No. Early on I decided that I am my own best asset and I did not want to feel encumbered or have to incorporate someone else’s suggestions and ideas when I knew they were not good suggestions or ideas. In addition, if my ideas fail I didn’t want to be responsible to anyone other than myself.
How do you spend your workday?
As soon as I get up, I grab a cup of coffee and my blackberry. I love what I do and it’s always exciting. Because we have business overseas there are always emails from colleagues in Europe that need to be addressed in the morning because it is the end of their workday over there. Once I get in the car and start driving to work, I start making calls. I live in Los Angeles so driving to work can sometimes take an hour because of traffic! Once I get into the office I usually have to approve various agreements or deals that the other lawyers in my office are handling or we have to discuss various strategy on how to handle certain sticky situations. Most of my day consists of me being on the phone talking to clients, managers, other lawyers, business managers, agents and other entertainment related executives.
Who do you rely upon in your business most, and what does he or she do for you that is so invaluable?
I rely on everyone who works for me because we are a team. I could not do what I do every day unless I had my team behind me backing me up. They handle a lot of the day to day work that needs to be done in order to service the clients and keep all their needs met.
Do you believe that “luck” played any role in the success of your company?
No. Luck never played a part for me. It was all hard work, consistency, studying, and finding mentors that I respected and emulated.
If you had an extra $25,000 to spend on your business, what would you spend it on?
If it were a loan, I wouldn’t use it. If it was profit, I would put it in the firm’s profit share. If it were a gift, I’d go to Gucci
How neat or messy is your desk?
Always neat and organized. Otherwise I would not be able function
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