Summary: UCLA Law is now offering a free documentary film clinic to provide legal assistance to filmmakers.
The University of California – Los Angeles is continuing its tradition of offering clinics for those in the entertainment industry. UCLA School of Law will be offering a free Legal assistance Clinic for those making independent documentary films.
Ziffren Center for Media, Entertainment, Technology and Sports Law launched the Documentary Film Legal Clinic this month, according to the Daily Bruin. The clinic will help documentary filmmakers with legal issues they might face like public records access and copyright law. This will give law students firsthand experience with real cases.
The clinic founder and director Dale Cohen said, “We really haven’t offered anything that was specific to the television or film industries that provided this kind of training.” He further explained why UCLA is an ideal school to offer the program. The location of the school is close to the film industry and many of the UCLA Law students are interested in entertainment law as their practice area.
The law students involved will meet once a week to discuss practical skills like interviewing clients and the general legal issues that filmmakers would encounter like access to public records and copyright law. The students will then apply these skills to the cases with real clients with real problems. There are 15 students enrolled in the clinic this time. They are divided into teams of three and paired with a filmmaker. The students will then work with that client to ensure their documentaries are factually correct and help them deal with defamation and copyright claims. They will also write the public records requests for the clients.
Cohen noted that first-hand experience is invaluable and cannot be learned in a classroom. He admits that he struggled out of law school with building client relationships. Cohen continued, “I believe that I came out of law school with an extremely strong skill set in terms of identifying issues and being able to think about what the law is or should be. What I didn’t have is enough experience in how to learn the client’s objectives and help the client achieve those objectives.”
UCLA also offers a Patent Law Clinic, Trademark Law Clinic, and a Music Industry Clinic, which enable their students to gain experience while in school working on real cases. The Documentary Clinic is available for all documentary filmmakers of any level, even UCLA students.
Second-year law student Blake Leeper will be part of the clinic. He is excited to be part of the clinic because documentary films are meant to raise awareness and educate viewers on certain topics. He said, “Documentary filmmaking typically has a point, a news element. When we’re doing pro bono work we look for clients who are doing something cool and a lot of these filmmakers are doing really interesting work.”
Fourth-year film student Mira Takamura believes the clinic will be extremely beneficial for student filmmakers because they are just learning about the legal issues involved in making a film. She said, “As students it’s easy to just focus on that creative vision that you have for your narrative rather than the legal obstacles that come your way. I think documentaries have the potential to delve into very controversial topics, and if you’re a student it’s really hard to navigate that world if you don’t have professional guidance.”
Leeper added, “I was most excited for the actual client interaction – and that’s what I’m doing. That’s the part that’s most enthralling to me … because you see the real world effect.”
Do you think a higher priority should be placed on providing hands-on experience for law students? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.
To learn more about legal clinics offered by law schools, read these articles:
- UCLA Law School Opens Music Industry Clinic
- John Marshall Law School Opens More Spacious Legal Clinic for Veterans
- University of Minnesota Law School Creates Legal Clinic for Immigrants