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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 experiences at Jim Henson Pictures and Dustin Hoffman’s Punch Productions, Inc. 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.
While representing many individuals, including actor-director Dustin Hoffman and writers of theatrical productions, she also handles entertainment matters for companies such as Heirs of Rube Goldberg and Toho Co., Ltd. (the owner of Godzilla). Ms. Smith has an acute understanding of production, making her sensitive to its demands and unique business and legal challenges. Among other projects, she recently handled production legal work on “Hell or High Water.”
Ms. Smith also has an in-depth knowledge in the world of unscripted (“reality”) television. She has negotiated deals for creators and production companies of series for a wide array of networks including A&E, Amazon Studios, Discovery Channel, History, Lifetime, Netflix, Spike, and SyFy for shows such as “The Rap Game” and the upcoming “American Beauty Star.” Ms. Smith transitioned her depth of knowledge and experience in the entertainment arena to represent a professional motorcycle rider in the negotiations of his agreement with a MotoGP team further demonstrating Ms. Smith’s breadth of experience.
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 Henson and then Punch, she returned to her private practice roots in 2003 to start Barkin Smith LLP. After a successful 10-year run with Barkin Smith, she accepted Kleinberg Lange’s offer 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, 2017, 2018 and 2019 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.” She lives in Los Angeles with her two children.