For much of this month, we watched as, for better or worse, NBC dismantled its late-night programming schedule, when it attempted to move Conan O’Brien and "The Tonight Show" to 12:05 a.m. from its traditional slot at 11:35 p.m. in order to move "The Jay Leno Show" from 10 p.m. to 11:35 p.m.
As everyone knows now, O’Brien would not agree to move "The Tonight Show" to a later time, and his final show aired last Friday night. According to media reports, NBC paid O’Brien a total of $45 million; he will get approximately $33 million and the balance will go to his 200-person staff for severance payments.O’Brien can return to television on September 1 when his non-compete expires. After the Winter Olympics end, NBC will air Leno’s show in the 11:35 p.m time slot.
I am particularly pleased today to share a brief interview I conducted with Patricia Glaser, name partner and litigation department co-chair at Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard & Shapiro, LLP in Los Angeles, who represented O’Brien in his negotiations with NBC.
Patricia is a native of Charleston, West Virginia, and attended Rutgers University Law School. She clerked for United States District Judge David W. Williams of the Central District of California, after which she practiced at Wyman, Bautzer, Christensen, Kuchel & Silbert until 1988, when her current firm was formed. Patricia was kind enough to agree to answer a few questions, and I thank her for her time.
Q. How did you get into entertainment law?
A. I don’t consider myself an entertainment lawyer. I’m a business trial lawyer. If you’re in Los Angeles, and you don’t do some matters related to entertainment, it’s surprising. The studios are here, TV is here, production companies are here, and artists are here. So you’re going to touch on it in your practice.
Q. How would you describe your practice, both in terms of what you do and the composition of your client base?
A. When you litigate in entertainment cases, the jargon is distinct, but a contract is a contract, antitrust and securities law principles are the same no matter in which industry one is litigating. Those things don’t change. In my practice, I would say I touch on entertainment matters in about 40% of my cases.
Q. In your most recent high-profile case, you represented Conan O’Brien in his dispute with NBC. How long have you represented Conan?
A. I represented Conan regarding potential litigation with NBC. I am not his transactional lawyer, and he’s not particularly litigious.
Q. Can you provide any specifics on the terms of Conan’s settlement beyond what have been reported?
Q. When your client is a celebrity, does his or her status or fame affect your representation — or are the issues in a dispute the same regardless of who your client is?
A. It depends on the client and the context of the dispute. Some celebrities in some cases are so concerned with public perception and therefore how a conflict is perceived is an important consideration in the overall strategy of a case. In cases where a celebrity is involved, public relations is more often a factor than in other types of business disputes.