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Actors, producers, directors, screenwriters, authors and production companies frequently seek Jill Smith’s strategic counsel in all facets of sophisticated and complex entertainment transactions. From Academy Award-winning celebrities to rising entertainment industry stars, Ms. Smith’s clients recognize and benefit from her attentive personal service and vast knowledge of the development, production and monetization of media.
A true industry veteran, Ms. Smith is a strong advocate for her clients when handling elaborate acquisition of rights agreements, first-look contracts and all forms of talent agreements. She combines her extensive private practice experience with in-house experience to provide a 360° industry perspective. She structures, negotiates and documents all forms of agreements relating to the development, production, financing, distribution and exploitation of motion pictures and television series.
Ms. Smith has an acute understanding of development and production, making her sensitive to its demands and unique business and legal challenges. Her breadth of practice in various facets of theatrical and television productions includes representation of above-the-line individual talent including actors (such as her longstanding representation of Dustin Hoffman), writers, directors and producers as well as rights holders and production companies such as Heirs of Rube Goldberg and Toho Co., Ltd. (the owner of “Godzilla”). Ms. Smith’s expertise is not limited to features and scripted television; she also has an in-depth knowledge in the world of unscripted (“reality”) television, having negotiated deals for creators and production companies in that arena for a wide array of networks including A&E, Amazon Studios, Discovery Channel, Hulu, Netflix and TLC, among others. Ms. Smith’s recent involvement in unscripted productions has included work on shows such as “The Final Table,” “The Rap Game” and “American Beauty Star” as well as the upcoming “Next in Fashion.”
Ms. Smith began her career in 1986 in Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP’s Entertainment Department, where she became the youngest partner in the firm’s history. After leaving private practice to serve as in-house counsel (at Jim Henson Pictures and Dustin Hoffman’s Punch Productions, Inc.), she returned to her private practice roots in 2003 to start Barkin Smith LLP, a two-partner boutique entertainment firm. After a successful 10-year run with Barkin Smith, she moved her practice to Kleinberg Lange in 2013 to incorporate her practice into a larger, complementary firm.
A 2015-2019 “Southern California Super Lawyer,” Ms. Smith was also selected for inclusion in the 2016-2020 editions of “The Best Lawyers in America,” which ranks her among the top lawyers in the country, and was named one of American Lawyer Media’s “Women Leaders of Law” in 2015. She has also earned the highest rating (“AV Preeminent”) for legal ability and ethics by Martindale-Hubbell. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a cum laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Law School. From 2011-2012, she was an Adjunct Professor at University of Southern California Gould School of Law, where she and Gary Barkin taught the upper level law school class “Legal Issues in the Motion Picture Industry.” Ms. Smith is a member of the State Bar of California, the Los Angeles Copyright Society and the Beverly Hills Bar Association. She lives in Los Angeles with her two children.