A Different Kind of Law Firm
With creative personnel in locations as diverse as Los Angeles, New York City, Washington DC, London, Derry/Londonderry Northern Ireland, Mysore India, and Asheville North Carolina, and with over 400 film, television, and other media clients on either side of the Atlantic and the Pacific, SmithDehn LLP is an international law firm that delivers top-tier service, while meeting the needs and budgets of companies and individuals in ways that few large firms can. We are the only media and entertainment law firm that provides legal advice regarding both US and UK law. We also are one of only four law firms in the US that also operate a film/TV production and financing company. Our thriving film/TV company, Convergent Media, has deepened our understanding of the needs of our clients. It also gives us and our clients opportunities to collaborate together creatively and financially.
Our team includes Russell Smith (former partner of Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz and current CEO of Convergent Media), Frank Dehn (former broadcast news journalist), Laura Farina (former VP for Legal Affairs at Discovery Communications, Inc.), Mike Cleaver (Managing Director of Convergent Media), Jeff Holmes (former VP for Business Affairs at Twentieth Century Fox), Chris Matson (former Senior Counsel at Netflix, Director of Business Affairs at HBO, and Head of Business Affairs and Production at Magnolia Pictures), international media transactions specialists Alex Hannell and Andrew Baker (former head of business affairs at the leading UK commercial broadcaster ITV), UK media content/compliance expert Philip Wheeler (from the BBC, where he was a top in-house solicitor for over 11 years), US media/entertainment immigration law expert Priya Kumar, veteran Hollywood film producer Zak Kilberg (who is our Head of Film/TV Packaging and Sales as well as Creative Director at Convergent Media), US/UK-law-trained-but-India-based legal professionals Vidya Devaiah and Padma Shanthamurthy, as well as the outstanding US/UK trained lawyers at our Northern Ireland office: Niamh Hargan, Dermot Desmond, Tony Doherty, and Mark O'Connell.
We are among the counsel of choice for the film and television production industries, from Hollywood to New York, London, Dublin, Belfast, and Mumbai. Our attorneys have been chosen to handle the legal work on over 60 current television series, and several of the most significant and/or legally challenging motion pictures in recent years (including, for example, "CitizenFour," "Virunga," "Searching for Sugar Man," "The Imposter," "Dirty Wars," “Borat,” "The Yes Men Fix the World," “Bruno,” and “Death of a President”). Our clients have included Paramount Pictures, HBO, Sony Pictures, ITV, 20th Century Fox, Channel Four Television, the BBC, BBC America, Media Rights Capital, Raw TV, All3Media, Lightbox Entertainment, October Films, Darlow Smithson Productions, Passion Pictures, Fremantle Media, Lion Television, Tiger Aspect Productions, and nearly 400 other media companies. We also have been libel defense counsel for several newspapers, and counsel for many other clients in the television, motion picture, music, publishing, fashion, information technology, and other industries.
Although we are a general practice law firm, our areas of special expertise, in addition to US/UK television/film production counseling and business affairs, and media litigation and libel defense, include copyright and trademark counseling, and immigration processing for companies and individuals in entertainment and other fields.
At the Forefront of a Paradigm Shift in the Way Legal Services are Provided
The growth of our practice confirms our belief that in reaction to mega-firms and mega-fees, there is a virtually unlimited market for top-tier, responsive legal assistance at more reasonable rates. In our successful drive to dramatically increase quality, responsiveness and efficiency, we are the only Western law firm that has established legal support operations in India, and we are the only US law firm with an office in Northern Ireland. In those locations in particular, we leverage the latest and best in communications and other information technology, as well as outstanding, US/UK-law-trained talent, to operate around the clock in four different time zones for our clients around the world. The financial advantages that accrue to our clients readily can be seen not only in the well-known costs savings from sourcing talent in less expensive locations, but also in the price of office space, which of course is ultimately paid by a law firm's clients. Many traditional firms locate all or most of their personnel in palatial offices in the most expensive real estate markets in the United States and the UK. As a result, much if not most of each dollar or pound that these firms charge their clients goes to pay for office rent. By contrast, most of our office space is located in Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, and Mysore, India, where our lawyers and legal professionals work in state-of-the-art facilities at a fraction the cost of our comparable space in the Los Angeles, London, or New York. This is how we fulfill our promise to clients that they will pay for legal services, not real estate. We believe we are at the forefront of what promises to be a paradigm shift in the way legal services will be provided in the twenty-first century.
Billing That Makes Sense
Our firm is also known for its innovations in billing methods. Indeed, we were founded in part because of our antipathy to the typical hourly billing structure that so often leads to unnecessary friction between attorneys and clients. Many lawyers still are wedded to hourly fees, in part because the less efficiently they work, the more their clients pay. Worse, each monthly bill can be a surprise or even a shock, after the client opens the envelope to discover the mystery number of often unnecessary or inflated billable hours that have been tallied.
We prefer a different approach: fee for service. We discuss with you the various steps that your matter may require, and tell you the cost for each step. You then can make your decisions with intelligence, without fear of surprise.
A More Effective Approach to Litigation
Many law firms, especially very large ones, promise their litigation clients "lean staffing" of cases, to address well-founded fears of compounded hourly fees running amok. Because we prefer not to bill by the hour, but rather for the service provided, we can take the opposite approach when needed. Our aim in litigation is to obtain the desired result for our clients as quickly as possible, through the appropriate and unstinting application of concentrated legal pressure. Often that means having multiple attorneys working on the same case in multiple time zones around the world every day until that result is achieved, if that is what is needed to get the job done. We have found that in using this approach, we often run circles around the so-called "lean staffing" of mega-firms. With our Northern Ireland and India offices, we can provide massive, high-quality, low-cost litigation support, 24 hours a day.
If and when a case goes to trial, it is also important that your advocates be trial lawyers, not paper lawyers. The demands of a trial are often harrowing for a client. As the old saying goes, sometimes a bad settlement can be better than a good trial. Sadly, however, trials often result because one side hardens its position, based on a perception that its adversary will avoid trial. Such a perception may arise because the adversary's lawyers are known to be prohibitively expensive, or have a reputation for being paper litigators, rather than experienced trial attorneys. By contrast, we boast about our reasonable fees, and having handled multiple, high-profile trials in various courts, we are known by our adversaries to be willing to go the distance for our clients. This lessens the chances that an opportunity for an appropriate settlement will be missed.