Zoom conference with three people on the screen.

The Fashion and the Law panel featuring Demeka Fields, counsel for global sports marketing at New Balance; Kai Reevey, counsel for the talent and media agency Endeavor Group Holdings; and  Olivier Labossiere, a junior real estate attorney with Louis Vuitton.

Symposium highlights trailblazing black attorneys and executives in the entertainment industry

From fashion to the sports world, and from trademark law to media law, UB Law’s Black Law Students Association cast a wide net with the group’s inaugural Entertainment Law Symposium.

Held on Feb. 25, the virtual symposium was a chance for UB Law students, and their peers nationwide, to get a taste of the breadth of opportunities in entertainment law.

As lead organizer Petra Holness ’23, a third year UB Law student and BLSA’s event coordinator, points out, entertainment law is not a singular body of law, but rather a sprawling set of industries affording opportunities to practice all sorts of legal specializations.

“There are people in the industry doing employment law, real estate law, intellectual property,” she says. “We wanted to provide exposure to the different areas that are available in the entertainment industry.”

Their particular focus is to expand the range of possibilities for future lawyers of color, Holness says, so that “people can see other professionals out there who are doing things that we want to do, and to know it’s achievable.”

Holness and her co-organizer, second-year law student and BLSA’s pre-law director, Jéla M. Paul ’24, moderated the symposium.  Both have career aspirations in the field: Holness eventually to do civil rights work in sports and entertainment, Paul to concentrate on the ever-changing field of IP law, an interest that stems from her talent for graphic design.

The Entertainment Law Symposium, which the organizers hope will become an annual event, included three panels with industry leaders:

  • Fashion & the Law, with Demeka Fields, counsel for global sports marketing at New Balance; Olivier Labossiere, a junior real estate attorney with Louis Vuitton; and Kai Reevey, counsel for the talent and media agency Endeavor Group Holdings.
  • Sports & Media Law, featuring Maya Day, counsel at BET Networks; Allison Gordon, vice president of business and legal affairs for the newly revived XFL football league; Michelle Nahmias, senior counsel for Mastercard; and Jordan Thompson, legal counsel at TikTok.
  • IP & Academia, with UB Law faculty members and intellectual property experts Professor Mark Bartholomew and Professor Amy Semet.
  • And a Keynote Speaker presentation featuring alumnus Mason P. Ashe ’89, a well-known business attorney and founder of Ashe Sports & Entertainment Consulting.
man sitting in leather office chair in front of a window with curtains.

Mason P. Ashe ’89

Ashe, recipient of a 2016 Distinguished Alumnus Award for Business presented by the UB Law Alumni Association, is a current member of the UB Law Dean’s Advisory Council and the UB Foundation Board of Trustees. And he is well accustomed to making his case before students. Weekly he rides the train from his Washington, D.C., base to Philadelphia to lecture on sports law at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. In addition to his boutique consulting enterprise, he is of counsel with the D.C. office of Blank Rome LLP, an Am Law 100 firm.

His career in entertainment and sports law is its own survey course in the field: as an attorney, talent manager, contract negotiator and industry consultant. His clients include professional basketball, football and esports stars, and extend to television personalities, celebrity chefs, authors, film producers and social media influencers.  

In considering how best to guide and inspire law students drawn to the field, Ashe says he always counsels them that you can’t wait around—you have to make your move. “For anyone who wants to break into a field that they don’t have a natural entry point for, you have to study what’s out there and learn as much as you can about the people who are doing what you want to do, and then try to meet them,” he says. “You have to put your priorities in place, get hired somewhere and learn how to be a lawyer for a couple of years. But then you may have to go and strike your own path—you can’t sit around and wait for someone to hire you in the entertainment industry.

“Ultimately you have to decide to bet on yourself. And once you decide what your passion is and write your focused business plan, the aura that you carry with you will attract people to help you and persuade clients to give you a chance to prove yourself.”

two women sitting in chairs on a stage, behind them large blue screen that says UB - University at Buffalo.

Read more about Dean Aviva Abramovsky’s conversation with Sherrilyn Ifill, civil rights attorney and former president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

BLSA’s Entertainment Law Symposium was one of several events held during the law school’s celebration of Black History Month. Other events included:

  • An address by Jaribu Hill, founder of the Mississippi Workers’ Center for Human Rights, also organized by BLSA;
  • A conversation with civil rights attorney and former president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Sherrilyn Ifill moderated by Dean Aviva Abramovsky, part of UB’s Distinguished Speaker Series; and
  • An evening with Hon. Trini E. Ross ’92, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York addressing diversity in prosecutorial offices and its impact on prosecutorial discretion.