Darrell Miller Is the Entertainment Lawyer to Know

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( ENSPIRE Entertainment ) Entertainment Lawyer Darrell Miller Hope to Make an Impact

ENSPIRE Contributor: Jacara Watkins

Darrell Miller is the Founding Chair of the Entertainment & Sports Law Department of Fox Rothschild LLP. He has over 20 years of experience as an entertainment lawyer, influencing and shaping career-advancing projects for Black Film, TV, and Music, and working with A-list talent in Hollywood accompanied by a range of experience working in the entertainment business and TV networks in transactional law, literary book publishing, motion pictures, and merchandise.

He later worked with a variety of television networks like NCIS, Law & Order, Friday Night Lights, Dancing with the Stars, etc. Darrell also played a role in getting the NAACP involved in creating diverse programming for the CBS network. As a former singer and performer, he understands the creative talent he represents. Miller’s clients consist of diverse people from all backgrounds giving an introspective of his promise to build intermedia opportunities in today’s media.

Before partnering with the law firm, Darrell created his own company in 1996, as the role of a production counsel on television, cable, and film projects. Soon the firm grew into Miller & Pliakas LLP in 2001, as Darell was both a partner and co-founder. He started his legal practice with Lord Bissel and Brook, a national law firm where he studied litigation and general corporate law to represent domestic and international companies.

Darrell Miller is an entertainment lawyer who has a range of experience working in the entertainment business and TV networks in transactional law, literary book publishing, motion pictures, and merchandise, as well as communicating and negotiating with high-level clients. The Hollywood Reporter and Variety Magazine’s Legal Impact Report named him the Top 100 Power Lawyers.

Because of his experience with the entertainment business and knowledge of transactional law, Darrell can assist his client to support and negotiate as he comes with an understanding of how the business operates and can provide the best possible service.

Here are some of his latest client announcements:

-Longtime client Angela Bassett’s deal, announced in April 2022, to star in Netflix’s film “Damsel” opposite Millie Bobbie Brown. He also helped her get a record-setting salary to appear in Fox’s 9-1-1 which was announced in 2021.  As you know, she is getting awards and nominations for her role in Black Panther. 

-Chris “Ludacris” Bridges’ 2022 deal with Google to promote Black-owned businesses in its Black-Owned Friday campaign, and with DraftKings to appear in yesterday’s Super Bowl commercial with Kevin Hart.

-Teyonah Parris’ deal, announced in August 2022, to star in “Dashing Through the Snow,” for Disney+ opposite Chris Bridges and comedian Gina Brillion, two clients whose deals Darrell also negotiated.

-Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s deals to star in “On the Come Up,” released in September 2022; “The Idol,” a new HBO Original Series co-created by Sam Levinson and The Weeknd; and Lionsgate’s film “Shadow Force.”

How do you find your clients, or do they find you?

At this point in my career, I primarily find clients, or they find me, through referrals. However, I am always open to discovering new clients through my network of relationships, speaking on panels, and periodically writing articles. There are many ways that I connect with the actors, directors, writers, producers, executives, companies, organizations, and an array of creators that I represent, including simply by working alongside some of them on projects, causes, or organizations.

However, the most gratifying way that I find clients is through word of mouth. It’s humbling when an existing client or colleague recommends me to a friend or person in need of help because that means they trust me based on my track record and dedicated service to my clients. 

What are some characteristics of a good client?

A “good client” should be meaningfully engaged in the business side of their careers or brands and are focused on long-term success over short-term gains. They are respectful and courteous to my support staff.

How do you help your clients find, protect and secure these deals?

Day-to-day, I work with talent agents who take on the job of “finding opportunities or work” for my clients. Other clients use “managers” or are self-starters who find their own deals. When given the opportunity, I diligently protect my clients on deals by knowing their key concerns, negotiating the best deal possible every time, and making the deal and papering the Long-Form Agreement for my clients.

Opening doors for my clients is built into my attorney/client relationship. My firm has 29 offices, 1000 attorneys, and a network of key industry relationships that I can utilize to help my clients with deals and in finding solutions to a variety of legal challenges. Once a deal is on the table, I ensure it gets done and the client gets paid on time.

What is the difference between an entertainment lawyer and an agent?

The agent’s job is to “find the deal” or “find the opportunity.” The attorney’s job is to negotiate and paper the deal. The agent and attorney work together on deals, sometimes among other client representatives such as managers, accountants, publicists, and others.   

As a former singer and performer, what is some knowledge about the industry that is valuable or similar to an entertainment lawyer?

There are some important similarities that apply both to performing and being an entertainment lawyer: Preparation beats smarts every time. Do the work and know your leverage. Know your value in the current marketplace. As a former artist, I understand the pressures on creators and content owners to retain their controls and approvals.

As an attorney, I understand the pressures of closing the deal. All parties are generally focused on the same goal — closing the deal or financing the project to commence a start date. This knowledge is critical for negotiating agreements that leave everybody feeling that they got a “win” upfront and, where possible, a piece of the derivative works that might be exploited. 

With over 25 years of experience, what do you like the most about your job?

My clients. Their works. Our victories. Every day, I work with some of the most celebrated people, businesses, and organizations in the world. I also enjoy working with young, emerging talent to help build long-term careers and businesses. It’s an honor to be a trusted advisor to my clients as they scale their careers and businesses to new levels.

As an entertainment lawyer, how do you handle difficult clients?

With a laser focus on “solutions” and identifying the client’s number one concern. The key is establishing and relying on a relationship of trust and respect with all clients. I have many clients with different problems.

“Difficult clients” commonly need to resolve misunderstandings about some component of a deal or project. Difficult clients are often facing difficult problems, crises, or odds, and can often be turned around if you help them see solutions and a way forward.

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