When I researched female lawyers in pop culture to talk about today, the third search-engine result detailed the “25 hottest,” with the website finding them “guilty of being gorgeous.” Ugh, no! The great thing about being a lawyer in real life is that if you don’t know your job—you know, the law—then you aren’t going to be doing it for very long. And being great at lawyering has absolutely nothing to do with how attractive you are, thank goodness. TV’s Clair Huxtable and Diane Lockhart may make the gig appear effortless, but today, we shout, “All rise!” for the real-life lady lawyers who discern some serious legalese in order to be our voice in the courtroom.
WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 14
Speaking of lists, The Hollywood Reporter recently published its list of Hollywood’s Top 100 Attorneys for 2017. There’s one big problem. Out of the 100 lawyers ranked, only 14 women made the list. As you scroll through the list, noting satin tie after satin tie, it’s astounding and upsetting to see just how few women are being acknowledged as power lawyers in La-La Land.
WOMAN TO WATCH: Nina Shaw, Entertainment Lawyer
One woman who did make the cut on that Hollywood Reporter list is the intrepid Nina Shaw. She’s been labeled a “key dealmaker,” a “trailblazer” and a “badass”—and rightfully so. Nina represents some of Hollywood’s most prominent artists of color—many of them women—masterfully ensuring her clients are treated with respect and afforded their proper due. She has no fear when it comes to going to bat for her clients, not only for them, but also to further advance the representation of artists of color in Hollywood.
Nina—who these days reps such clients as Misty Copeland, Ava DuVernay and John Legend—has long been advocating for justness in entertainment. She grew up in Harlem, N.Y., and was drawn to TV legal dramas as a kid, even then having a strong appreciation for the lawyers who righted wrongs and acted as advocates for their clients. It was a penchant that stayed with her into adulthood, when her career led to her work on history-making shows like The Jeffersons and Facts of Life. In fact, she’s spent nearly four decades as an entertainment lawyer, and is known for offering sage, straightforward advice.
But as a woman of color working in hardly diverse Hollywood, she’s faced her fair share of prejudice. Even though Nina hailed from the esteemed Columbia Law School, law firms weren’t exactly open to hiring her. Yet, she persevered. And after rolling up her sleeves and gaining more experience, Nina opened her own firm, where about half the lawyers are female, a significant difference compared with most entertainment-law practices.
And she definitely practices the diversity she preaches. For instance, when one of her celeb clients needs a new agent, Nina works to convince her of the power of due diligence. A male agent might have a killer record and may very well be a great fit, but, as Nina urges, clients should look beyond the shiny accolades, asking that male agent how many women work at his firm, whether any are owners and so on. Seeing how he does business within his own company can clue women in to how he’d likely do business with them. As Nina says, “You have the right to ask. When you ask, it makes people think. And when people start thinking, they go from thought to action.” Spoken like a real advocate!
QUITE THE QUOTE
Let’s finish with one of our all-time favorite quotes. This one comes from Nina Shaw herself, and was part of a speech she gave while being honored at Essence magazine’s 2016 Black Women in Hollywood event. She said:
“If you want to be a woman in power, then empower other women.”
This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.