Tenacity, a stubborn nature, a thick skin, a desire to learn and creativity.
The legal field is known to be extremely competitive. Lawyers are often smart, ambitious, and highly educated. That being said, what does it take to stand out and become a “Top Lawyer” in your specific field of law? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law”, we are talking to top lawyers who share what it takes to excel and stand out in your industry.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Reena Sehgal.
Reena Sehgal (principal, Sehgal Law PC) is a rising star in the entertainment law field. Sehgal has been selected twice to the prestigious Super Lawyers Rising Stars list (an exclusive list of top-rated attorneys in specific practice areas) — in 2019 and again in 2020. Her firm specializes in representing independent filmmakers, and in fact, will soon launch a legal app designed specifically for their legal needs.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law? Did you want to be an attorney “when you grew up”?
As a child and a young adult, I always had a passion for helping people. Originally, I wanted to be a pediatrician. However, during college, I realized that I could not stand the sight of blood! So, I found another outlet for my desire to help people — law. My passion grew to helping others advance their careers and helping them see their projects come to life.
Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your practice and what you focus on?
Sehgal Law PC has a focus on Film, Television, Live Stage and Music law. We work with individuals and companies. I’m here for any transaction needed for my clients. Anything from an individual contract to full production legal on a major motion picture.
You are a successful attorney. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? What unique qualities do you have that others may not? Can you please share a story or example for each?
The three character traits I have that have been instrumental to my success are being stubborn, persistent, and upbeat. I always try to maintain a positive attitude. I do not allow setbacks to keep me from moving forward on projects.
I would like to share an anecdote of mine that encompasses all of these characteristics. I once worked on a film where my clients were having difficulty coming up with financing — a common occurrence in the independent film business. We were hitting many roadblocks and were facing a shutdown of production. I called an investor I knew personally, and was eventually able to find the necessary finishing funds. My clients were pleased and the film ended up being a success. Morale: If you put an obstacle in my way, I’ll find a way around it.
Do you think you have had luck in your success? Can you explain what you mean?
The only luck I had was my incredible family, which I was blessed to be born into and (thankfully) the genes they gave me. My family provided me with good education and the opportunity to learn entrepreneurship firsthand. They taught me to work hard and help others. They showed me how a combination of those things can ensure that dreams come to fruition.
Yes, I’m blessed. However, luck isn’t what makes success, but rather it’s a combination of hard work, persistence, patience and a kind heart.
Do you think where you went to school has any bearing on your success? How important is it for a lawyer to go to a top-tier school?
I do not think that the school that you went to has ANY bearing on your success. Many professors at non-ABA schools were very experienced and very well educated.
Law school gives you many tools regardless of the status of the school. Law is a grey area — it isn’t black and white. The most important thing that a law school can provide you is critical thinking skills(you can always research case law). It teaches you how to think outside of the box, how to problem solve, and how to protect those who need protection.
Based on the lessons you have learned from your experience, if you could go back in time and speak to your twenty-year-old self, what would you say? Would you do anything differently?
If I could go back in time and speak to my 20-year-old self, I would say to myself “take the time to appreciate those around you. Work and school are not everything.” I lost my brother in 2019 and would like to have appreciated my time with him a bit more. And to be honest, I also would tell myself to abandon the pursuit of medicine; it was never going to work out!
This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?
Ultimately, what drives me is the desire to give the world joy. An escape from reality. Music and films can change lives. My drive is to help create enjoyment for individuals, help see their dreams come true, and provide the world with quality entertainment.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
My most exciting project at the moment is a digital CRM and automation platform that allows all entertainment professionals to quickly have access to top of the line production documents, quickly and efficiently complete tasks, and organize and maintain their businesses.
And now switching fully to my entrepreneurial hat, I’ve also recently created a drug detecting cup and stir straw that will, hopefully, reduce the number of date-rape victims and possibly even impact the number of victims of sex trafficking.
Where do you go from here? Where do you aim to be in the next chapter of your career?
The next chapter of my career includes expanding Sehgal Law PC to include civil litigation. I also intend to advance my CRM platform to include additional fields outside of entertainment, such as real estate, estate planning and litigation services.
Without sharing anything confidential, can you please share your most successful “war story”? Can you share the funniest?
I once worked on a film where the financiers and production staff could not get along. They were filming internationally, and the disputes between members on the production were quite extreme. Despite having to work all hours of the day, I was able to “wrangle” the production crew and financiers and obtain some civility on set — at least enough to complete the film.
I honestly don’t know what would be the funniest story — but one that I can share: I was on set for a fashion commercial, and while in the dressing room the lead model slipped on her dress and tore the inseam all the way up to her hip (luckily she was not injured). We all had a good laugh. The designer loved it so much that he changed the design of the dress to incorporate the high slit. Indeed, necessity is the mother of invention
Ok, fantastic. Let’s now shift to discussing some advice for aspiring lawyers. Do you work remotely? Onsite? Or Hybrid? What do you think will be the future of how law offices operate? What do you prefer? Can you please explain what you mean?
Currently, as I’m writing this, my office is both remote and in the office. I, personally, prefer to work remotely. I have a feeling that the world will continue to move in that direction. Remote working during the pandemic has proven once and for all that office workers are capable of working efficiently from home. This reduces the costs and expenses for commercial real estate and allows employees some flexibility when they have children or family members that need their presence.
How has the legal world changed since COVID? How do you think it might change in the near future? Can you explain what you mean?
I think that we are going to see a lot of changes in contracts — specifically the “Acts of God” or force majeure clause that is typically incorporated into entertainment agreements. We have already begun implementing these changes, since it has been a very, very long time since we’ve experienced a global pandemic, and clearly, COVID was unexpected. This event will alter the way that attorneys draft contracts moving forward.
These new modifications that are being incorporated into contracts are not likely to change. As we say, hope for the best but plan for the worst. I say this because it is my ultimate desire to protect my client(s) from any foreseeable and unforeseeable event.
We often hear about the importance of networking and getting referrals. Is this still true today? Has the nature of networking changed or has its importance changed? Can you explain what you mean?
In the COVID world that we live in now, networking is vital in getting referrals. In particular, social media networking has taken on a pronounced role in securing new business. Being easily accessible on a social platform is not only good for business, but also gives your current clients the assurance that they have another means of communication with their counsel. Of course, for the younger generations all this is second nature, but we all need to adapt with the changing times.
Based on your experience, how can attorneys effectively leverage social media to build their practice?
One must consistently post about topics of relevance, and as importantly then interact with followers on the leading platforms, notably Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Attorneys can build their practice and drive traffic to their websites by staying engaged with the social media universe. More website traffic equates to more business — it’s really as simple as that.
Excellent. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law?” Please share a story or an example for each.
The top five things that one requires to become a top lawyer in entertainment law is tenacity, a stubborn nature, a thick skin, a desire to learn and creativity.
One story that encompasses all of these is the very first independent film that I was hired to do production legal (this took two years to fully complete). It was a multi-million-dollar movie, and it was the first time that I had taken lead for production legal. I spent numerous hours researching and learning about each of the types of agreements required to make a film successful (desire to learn). I found myself constantly in the position of having to serve as a mediator for arguing employees and financiers (thick skin). I battled with agents and managers over contract terms (stubborn nature), and was often insulted in the process (thick skin/tenacity). I also had to discover unorthodox ways to work around the terms requested by agents and managers to satisfy my client’s needs and protect them efficiently (creativity).
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Kamala Harris — I would love to meet her because she is the first Indian/Black American vice president. I’m proud to be Indian myself. She has come a long way in her career, starting as a simple attorney, becoming a senator, and eventually vice president of the United States. I would like to learn more about her path to becoming such a success and also congratulate her for her hard-earned, unprecedented success. Finally, I would like to thank her in person for opening doors for many women.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!