Finding an attorney when you need to prepare or review a writing or publishing contract is not always easy, especially if you live and work outside most major cities. Often, it isn’t that there are no literary attorneys in a particular state, but that they practice publishing or literary law under other names.
Keep in mind that an attorney who reviews or prepares writing and publishing related contracts might not include the word “literary” in the description of their law practice. Attorneys who handle literary matters include those whose advertised expertise might be described as business law, contracts, trademark and copyright as well as entertainment, publishing or intellectual property.
So how do you find them?
- First, decide what state to search in. If your agent or publisher is located in Missouri and you live in Oklahoma, you might want to consider retaining a Missouri attorney.
- Second, if you know other writers who live or work in that state, ask them for a referral.
- Third, do some online research under the practice categories I mentioned above—most attorneys have an online presence.
- Fourth, contact the state bar association in the relevant state. Most bar associations maintain lists of attorneys under their respective practice areas. Many also have panels of attorneys in particular practice areas who will review the contract either free of charge, i.e., pro bono, or for a reduced fee.
Be aware, though, that attorneys who offer to work for nothing sometimes do so because they are looking for more experience in that subject area. Thus, be cautious but also appreciative. Even an attorney who has little contract experience is going to know more about contracts than the average author and should still be of value to you.
- Fifth, contact a law school in the state and ask an intellectual property or contracts professor on the faculty to identify local attorneys who handle literary matters.
- Sixth, if you’re not ready to retain an attorney yet, pay attention to those who are quoted about copyright and publishing issues on TV, the radio, in print and online news articles. Jot down their names. They might not be located in the preferred state but they might know others who are.
- Seventh, contact both local, state and national writers’ organizations.
The Authors Guild is one such national organization. They maintain a referral list of attorneys (including me!) from various states. Located in New York City, you can review their website at https://www.authorsguild.net or phone (212)563-5904.