Lawyers, Agents, and Managers

Everybody has heard of the three major types of talent representatives: lawyers, agents, and managers. Not everybody is familiar with exactly what these representatives do, how they get paid, and how they interact with each other. 


Entertainment attorneys are lawyers licensed by the state who focus on entertainment. The term “entertainment attorney” is broad but generally means a lawyer who works in an area of entertainment (film, tv, music, social media). An entertainment attorney can work at an agency, studio, production company, or firm. Like managers and agents, it's common for lawyers to negotiate deals on behalf of their clients or at the very least work with managers/agents to negotiate deals for their shared client. Aside from representing individual talent, lawyers also work as production counsel where they handle every single deal on a television show or movie on behalf of a production company (financing, cast, crew, rights, music, chain of title, etc.).  Lawyers are adept at spotting the legal pitfalls of a deal that an agent or manager might not be aware of. Lawyers know how to negotiate key deal points (money, credit, bonuses) and complex legal language (reps and warranties, indemnification, force majeure). At the end of the day, the lawyer is there to make sure that the client's rights are protected. Lawyers can do anything that managers and agents can do but tend to focus their time on negotiating deal terms and papering deals, rather than pounding pavement to find clients gigs, like agents, or walk the client through their day-to-day schedule, like managers. If a lawyer is representing individual talent, they either get paid an hourly rate or 5% of the client's earnings. The standard rate for production counsel is somewhere between 1%-2% of the total budget, unless the budget is extraordinarily small in which case it might be a higher percentage. 


The number one trait that sets talent agents apart from managers and lawyers is that talent agents actively attempt to procure employment for their clients. Managers and lawyers do find gigs for their clients, but they're not supposed to under The Talent Agencies Act (TAA). The TAA was originally written to govern talent agencies, but it has also been broadly interpreted by the courts such that ONLY talent agents are permitted to procure employment for creative artists. It's a strange subject because managers and lawyers do procure employment for their clients from time to time, even though they're not really supposed to. If a manager or lawyer finds a gig for a client, they risk the TAA being used against them to stop the manager or lawyer from receiving any kind of commission. Due to the legal interpretation of the TAA, agents have taken over the employment procurement space. As such, agents seem to have the most access to studios, casting charts, and casting directors which they use to find their clients roles and eventually negotiate the best possible deal for their client. In the event an artist has a deal but a production company or studio isn't holding up their end of the bargain, a talent agent will raise hell to get their client what was agreed to. The standard rate for a talent agent is 10% of their client's pay. Most production companies and studios don't take unsolicited submissions or in other words, won't even bother looking at an actor or script if they're not represented. It's become common for talent agents to operate in teams. For example, an actor can have multiple agents at the same agency for each area of their work (TV, Film, and Social Media Brand Deals). 


Managers were traditionally used to help clients strategize their careers and provide day-to-day support (the client has to be at X place or Y meeting at this time). Managers, unlike talent agents and lawyers are not licensed by the state. Managers can be anyone: friends, family, or someone who worked their way up at a management firm. Recently the line between manager and agent has become quite blurry because managers are constantly procuring employment for their clients, essentially acting as unlicensed talent agents. In the past, managers were able to get themselves “producing” credits and the contingent compensation that comes with it, but that trend seems to be fading. Managers typically take somewhere between 10%-15% of what their client's earnings. 

Combo (Lawyer, Agent, Manager) 

It's common for creative artists to have some combination of these professionals on their team. However, if an artist has a manager they will certainly have an agent or a lawyer. If a client has a lawyer they will usually have an agent or manager unless the client is so popular that they're constantly being offered deals. 

If you have a deal on the table, it should be reviewed by an attorney. Call the office today at (424) 202-4239, send an email to [email protected], or visit the website at to set up your free consultation.  

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Pitt Entertainment Law is a law firm representing independent creators (Production Companies, Producers, Writer, Directors, Physical Production Crew, Actors, and Social Media Influencers) across Film, Television, and Social Media.

I'll gladly discuss your legal matter with you at your convenience. Contact me today to schedule an appointment.