23rd Annual Entertainment Law Initiative
GRAMMY Week 2021 Recap: 23rd Annual Entertainment Law Initiative Honors Black Entertainment And Sports Lawyers Association, Discusses Future Of Music Industry Diversity
The Recording Academy continues with ongoing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts within the organization and beyond by honoring BESLA with the 2021 ELI Service Award and hosting a compelling roundtable discussion about leadership and expectations moving forward to achieve widespread music industry diversity.
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the Entertainment Law Initiative event took place virtually in its 23rd year. But despite the digital format, the annual GRAMMY Week event once again provided a platform for current leading practitioners and the next generation of entertainment attorneys to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the music industry today.
Not long after its inception, the Entertainment Law Initiative grew to include a legal writing competition that gives Juris Doctorate (JD) and Master of Laws (LLM) candidates enrolled in U.S. law schools the opportunity to win up to $10,000 in tuition-based scholarships. The competition challenges students to pinpoint a compelling legal problem in today's music landscape, then write a well-researched 3,000-word essay that proposes a solution to the central idea.
The Recording Academy was pleased to recognize this year's winner, Sophia Sofferman, Esq., an LLM candidate at the University of Miami School of Law, for her paper, "It's My [Recapture Right], And It's Now or Never…". Sophia received the winning $10,000 scholarship, a mentor session with an ELI Executive Committee member. She will have her paper published in the American Bar Association's Entertainment and Sports Lawyer journal.
ELI Writing Competition Program Chair Ken Abdo additionally presented $2,500 scholarships and mentor sessions to runners-up, Evan Biegel, a JD candidate at St. John's University School of Law in Queens, and Alberto Vargas, a JD candidate at the University of Chicago Law School. You can view Biegel's paper here and Vargas's piece here.
The event also celebrated the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Association (BESLA)'s many achievements by honoring them with ELI Service Award. This award is presented annually to a legal professional for their abiding commitment to the entertainment community's betterment through service to others. 2021 marked the first year that an organization received the Service Award.
BESLA advances the excellence of Black professionals and is a nationally recognized leader in legal education and professional development, and promotes diversity, equity, and inclusion in the entertainment, sports, and media industries. ELI Chair Laurie Soriano presided over the segment, with Debra L. Lee (former Chair/CEO, BET Networks, Honorary Chair, Black Music Collective) presenting the award. Accepting on behalf of BESLA was Chairwoman Khadijah Sharif-Drinkard, who is also the SVP of Business Affairs at ABC News, and longtime music lawyer and co-founder of BESLA, Louise West.
Rounding out this year's ELI program was a roundtable discussion between GRAMMY-nominated artist/songwriter MAJOR., President of BESLA and Partner at Fox Rothschild LLP Leron E. Rogers, and Dr. Maurice A. Stinnett, Global Head of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion at Warner Music Group. The Academy's own Chief DEI Officer, Valeisha Butterfield Jones, moderated the discussion.
The engaging dialogue included participants' viewpoints on the impact of what the music industry has done thus far to stand with social justice movements and which actions and initiatives they feel are crucial for success in the future. See below for a clip of this riveting and timely conversation.
The Recording Academy would like to thank all the supporters who made this program possible, especially our Platinum Presenting partners Fox Rothschild LLP and Universal Music Group and our Platinum-level partners First Horizon/IBERIABANK, Greenberg Traurig, LLP and Spotify.