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Jeff Becker is Chair of Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP’s Entertainment and Media Law Practice Group. Among his clients are Grammy Award-winning musicians, producers and songwriters, publishers and record labels, professional athletes, authors, independent filmmakers and other creative individuals and entertainment-related businesses. For these clients, Jeff provides comprehensive representation in the transactional and litigation aspects of their businesses. In doing so, he counsels clients in the preparation, analysis and negotiation of various issues, including licensing and distribution rights, royalty negotiations and disputes, rights acquisition and clearances, talent agreements, production and performance agreements, music publishing and licensing agreements, recording contracts and master license agreements, sponsorship and endorsement agreements, and artist management agreements. Jeff strives to find the most cost-efficient way to help clients secure and protect their rights. He is an Adjunct Professor at DePaul University College of Law, where he teaches Music Law, and has guest lectured on entertainment-related topics at various colleges, law schools and conferences across the country.

Jeff also previously served as Chair of the Swanson Martin & Bell, LLP’s Community Service/Pro Bono Committee. He proudly volunteers his time to Lawyers for the Creative Arts and is a founding member and former President of the Associate Board.



How did you learn about Lawyers for the Creative Arts and what led you to apply to join the Associate Board?
I first learned about Lawyers for the Creative Arts over coffee with former LCA President, Andy Goldstein. Andy told me about the amazing work LCA provides to the Chicago creative community, and how young lawyers can get involved to help these artists. Within a few days, I applied to become a volunteer attorney, and soon thereafter, had my first case assignment. I am one of the founding members of the Associate Board, so I have been involved since the very beginning. 


What’s your favorite LCA memory? 
Having the opportunity to present the Distinguished Service Honoree award to our client, Josephine Lee and the Chicago Children’s Choir, during the LCA benefit luncheon in 2018. 


What do you enjoy about being an Associate Board member? 
I most enjoy the community the Associate Board has created and fosters for our volunteer lawyers.  In doing so, the Associate Board provided me with an opportunity to form lifelong friendships with some of the most passionate entertainment attorneys in Chicago.


Which LCA or Associate Board events have you participated in?
My primary contribution to the Associate Board has come in the form of educational programming.  I co-chaired the Associate Board’s education sub-committee with Jessica Bahr for several years, during which time we organized some very exciting CLE events in collaboration with the Goodman Theatre, The Music Garage, Tribeca Flashpoint, Leo Burnett and the Steve Harvey Show (thanks to our good friend, Jed Enlow). More recently, I helped LCA collaborate with our friends at the Recording Academy and 2112 to organize educational programming concerning the Music Modernization Act, new legislation that will significantly impact how our music community is compensated for their work. I am extremely proud of these presentations, and the opportunities they have provided to both our volunteer attorneys and artists to enhance their understanding of complicated legal issues impacting their business. 


What types of LCA matters have you taken on?
I vividly recall my first LCA matter ever.  I represented a gentlemen who was in a dispute with his uncle over who owned the rights to his mother’s publishing catalogue.  She was a songwriter that had recently passed away, and her family could not agree on how to handle the administration of her music.  I stepped in to resolve the dispute on behalf of my client, and was excited to help him do so in a manner that allowed him to start collecting much-needed income while also repairing his relationship with his uncle.  

Since that time, I have taken on many film and music-related matters, including, for example: assisting producers in claiming their rights to royalties, extricating artists from toxic management agreements, cleaning up the catalogues of legacy artists, addressing disputes among band members and helping clear rights for filmmakers.  I have also worked hard to strengthen the relationship between LCA and our firm, and in doing so, have expanded our volunteer team to several attorneys who take on matters in film, music, television and literary fields.   


What advice would you give to an attorney who is considering taking an LCA matter?
Don’t bite off more than you can chew, especially with your first matter. LCA has an amazing network of lawyers, and excellent educational resources, to help guide you through the process. So feel free to reach out for help to assure that you are providing your client with top-notch legal services. 


Do you have any personal background in the arts?
In high school, I was in all the plays and musicals, as well as show choir. I also played a decent guitar and piano. While I would have loved to make a living as an actor, I was too risk averse to take a run at “making it” as an artist. Thus, when I saw the opportunity to work with the creative arts community from a lawyer’s perspective, I was thrilled to merge my love of the arts with my chosen career path. 


Do you participate in or follow the arts here in Chicago?
I closely follow what our local artists are up to here in Chicago.  From the local theatre scene to intimate music rooms, there is amazing art being created that needs to be recognized. I also love walking the city and taking in the astonishing creations by our local muralists. Some of the most beautiful art in Chicago can be found on the sides of its buildings and in its alleys.

What about the arts in Chicago strikes you as unique?
The resilience of our artists is second to none. 


How does LCA support the arts in Chicago and why do you think this work is so vital to the arts?
Obviously the amazing network of volunteer attorneys that LCA provides to the Chicago arts community is vital to the success of our creatives.  Access to legal services is essential, but so many artists starting out in the business simply cannot afford it. This, of course, places these artists in a position to be taken advantage of by third-parties that swoop to take ownership or control over their creations. Thus, by the time an artist finally reaches the stage of his or her career where he or she can afford a lawyer, it’s too late. LCA provides artists with the support they need to make sure they are not building their business on a house of cards.


You have recently been quite active in building awareness of the difficulties that the arts community is facing during COVID-19 on social media. How did you get involved in these efforts?
Many clients started reaching out soon after state governments started implementing orders that restricted (and in some cases, entirely prohibited) live performances from taking place. Once South by Southwest was cancelled and Coachella rescheduled, there was a rush of concern as to what was going to happen with respect to the live music industry over the coming months. Thus, we spent a considerable amount of time working through force majeure clauses in our client contracts and working with various interested parties to reach commonsense resolutions that address both sides’ concerns without focusing too heavily on what the contract required. I then started focusing on identifying other opportunities available to artists to help them offset some of the losses they were experiencing due to the pandemic, and to create opportunities that would not have existed but for the pandemic.  For example, as a member of the Board of Directors for the Recording Academy, I know how essential the MusicCares program is to so many artists around the country, but also realized pretty quickly after the onset of COVID-19, there are many artists who had no idea that MusicCares even existed. Thus, I reached out to as many artists as I could to let them know that, through MusicCares, the Recording Academy created a relief fund designed to quickly send financial support to artists who lost income due to COVID-19.  

A few weeks ago, I created a weekly concert series called “Concerts from My Couch,” where we invite artists to perform in a closed “digital venue” comprised of audiences from around the world (who, of course, are all joining us from the comfort of their living room).  We have been able to raise thousands of dollars for these artists, and have provided a much needed break from the monotony for our audience. It is extremely gratifying to see so many people coming together during a time when we are supposed to be staying apart.


Finally, which tv-show/movie/song/book have you recently finished that you would recommend? 
On the literary side, I just finished (and really enjoyed) “They Call Me Supermensch,” the autobiography of legendary manager, Shep Gordon.  He is a monster of a figure in the music industry, and some of the lessons pulled from that book are amazing. On the television side, I am about halfway through this season of “Ozark” and cannot wait to see where this story goes.  I also recently finished “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” which is one of the most effective shows I have ever seen at addressing stigmas around issues of mental health, all while paying homage to around 100 different Broadway shows. 


Thank you to Jeff for taking the time to answer our questions! Visit Jeff's profile at Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLC to learn more about his remarkable career and continue to check social media and this website for future Featured Members from our Associate Board.

I'm a Sole Proprietor, Independent Contractor, or Freelancer. Should I Apply for both PPP and Unemployment as a worker at my own business?

We do not have guidance on this question from the state or federal government, and so our response is somewhat speculative.

PPP loans are intended to help businesses keep their workers on the payroll. Unemployment benefits are intended for workers who are no longer working and being paid. You may very well run into legal issues if you receive a PPP loan based on payments to yourself from your own business, and receive unemployment benefits for being out of work at the same time.

Another approach might be to apply for a PPP loan first, use the payroll benefits for the applicable 8 weeks to pay yourself, and then apply for unemployment benefits once the PPP funds are exhausted. But again, no government agencies have provided any guidance with regard to this course of action. LCA will continue to update these FAQs as the situation continues to develop.

 

Unemployment Benefits and the CARES Act

Before the federal CARES Act was enacted, a W-2 employee in Illinois was entitled to 26 weeks of benefits after losing their job. The CARES Act lengthened the period that an eligible worker can obtain benefits from 26 to 39 weeks. It also provided an additional $600 in weekly benefits for those receiving regular unemployment benefits, and provided an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits for those who had previously exhausted their unemployment benefits.

The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) portion of the CARES Act recognizes the plight of laid off workers who are not employees, and provides certain benefits through the unemployment compensation system. 

 

I’m a Sole Proprietor, Independent Contractor, or Freelancer. Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

Yes, but it's complicated. The PUA portion of the CARES Act provides benefits to workers not typically eligible for unemployment benefits, primarily, sole proprietors (SPs), independent contractors (ICs), and freelancers, who were laid off or lost work as a direct result of COVID-19.

The Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) is mandating that all SPs, IPs and freelancers apply for benfits using the existing application that is intended for W-2 employees. According to IDES, workers must receive a denial for regular unemployment benefits in order to be eligible for PUA benefits.

You may ask: "Why is IDES mandating that I apply for unemployment as a W-2 employee, if I'm an SP, IP or freelancer?" The answer is: We don't know for sure, but it may be because the IDES takes a very expansive position on who is an employee, and that position may be inconsistent witht he practices of both employers and employees. The key language in IDES's most recent guidance is: "Workers who are employees covered by the unemployment insurance system are sometimes told they're not. Even if an individual's employer does not consider the worker to be covered and doesn't pay unemployment taxes on the individual's wages, the individual can qualify for benefitsif IDES determines he or she is covered under state law." In other words, the IDES takes the position that it is not bound by the company's (or the worker's) view on who is an independent contractor and who is an employee. They reserve the right to make that decision based on the facts of each case, and they may well allow a worker paid as a 1099 independent contractor to receive unemployment benefits the same as a W-2 employee.

The Bottom Line is This: If you are an SP, IP, or freelancer, and your work has been reduced or eliminated because of the Coronavirus pandemic, you should apply for unemployment benefits through the existing IDES application for employees. The IDES will review your application, and if they decide that you should have been categorized as an "employee," they will grant your application under the existing law. If they decide that you are not a covered employee, they will deny your application, and that denial will allow you to apply for PUA benefits through the new portal.

 

I work a number of jobs. Most of my income comes from 1099 independent contractor work, but I also work a couple of hours a week as a W-2 employee. I hear that I will only be eligible for unemployment benefits based on the small amount that comes from my W-2 work. Is that true?

Unfortunately, that appears to be the way the CARES Act is currently being interpreted. Right now, everyone applying for unemployment beneefits must start by filing for standard W-2 unemployment benefits. If enough of your income during the relevant period is from W-2 work, the IDES will grant your application and calculate your benefits based entirely on your W-2 work, even if that is a small part of your income.

 

Okay, but why can't I then apply for PUA benefits based on my 1099 income?

The PUA provides benefits to workers not eligible for standard W-2 unemployment benefits. On the first page, the PUA application asks whether you've applied for and been denied standard W-2 unemployment benefits. If you were not denied benefits entirely (due to your W-2 employment), you would have to answer "No" to that question, and your application will automatically be denied.

 

But, that doens't make any sense! The purpose of PUA is to give benefits to Independent Contractors, Sole Proprietors, and Freelancers. Why should a small amount of W-2 income lock me out of PUA benefits?

That very question was posed to Governor Pritzker at his press conference on May 12, 2020. He noted that his office is aware of the issue and is pursuing a fix.

 

So, what do you recommend?

It is possible that Congress or the federal Department of Labor will address this issue through amendment or waivers. In the meantime, we recommend that you apply for benefits through IDES, include all your sources of work-related income, including 1099 work. You should receive benefits based on your W-2 work, as well as the additional $600 in weekly benefits provided by the CARES Act. You should then file an appeal with IDES within 30 days of the benefit determination, arguing that you're entitled to additional benefits based on your 1099 work. Two of our fellow Chicago legal services organizations, CARPLS and Legal Aid Chicago, can assist you with the appeals process.

 

What unemployment benefits are available to Sole Proprietors, Independent Contractors, and Freelancers?

PUA provides up to 39 weeks of benefits to workers, including SPs, ICs and freelancers that were not previously eligible for unemployment benefits. Benefit payments under PUA are retroactive, providing benefits for weeks of unemployment, partial employment, or inability to work due to COVID-19 reasons starting on or after January 27, 2020, and continuing until December 31, 2020.

The calculation of benefits requires a calculation of the weekly base benefit by reference to the two highest pay quarters during the four quarters preceding the application. The earnings during those two highest quarters are added together, and the sum is multiplied by 47%. Finally, that product is divided by 26 to yield a weekly payment.

To take an example, Worker A earned $13,000 (Q1), $12,000 (Q2), $11,000 (Q3), and $13,000 (Q4) during the four quarters before filing for unemployment benefits. The two highest quarters are Q1 and Q4, during which Worker A brought home $13,000 (approximately $1,000 per week), and so they are used to calculate the base benefit, using this calculation:

  • Add Q1 earnings + Q4 earnings: $13,000 +$13,000 = $26,000.  
  • Next: 47% x $26,000 = $12,220
  • Finally, $12,220 ÷ 26 = $470

Worker A would be entitled to the weekly base benefit of $470.

The maximum weekly base benefits are as follows: $484 for individuals, $577 for an individual with a spouse they support, and $669 for an individual and child.

 

I’m a Sole Proprietor, Independent Contractor, or Freelancer. Am I eligible for an SBA Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan?

Yes.  The CARES ACT states that SPs, ICs and freelancers are eligible for PPP loans, so long as they certify that the loan is needed to pay workers during the COVID-19 crisis. The Small Business Administration has issued various clarifying comments as SBA lending banks seek to implement the statute through their loan application portals.

Applicants for PPP loans need to document their payroll history to calculate an average weekly payroll during specified periods. In the case of SPs, ICs and freelancers seeking benefits based on the loss of their own income, the application must document payments to yourself for work you performed. Form 1099s can substantiate your payment history. Without that documentation, you may need to show your business income, less business expenses, from your personal tax returns. In any case, you’ll need to work with your SBA lender bank for more guidance, at least until the SBA provides specific procedures that apply to SPs, ICs and freelancers.

 

What loan amount is available to Sole Proprietors, Independent Contractors, and Freelancers through the SBA Paycheck Protection Program?

The PPP program looks at the history of payments to your workers during various periods specified under the CARES Act.  Typically, for businesses with a substantial history of payroll, the relevant period is the calendar year 2019. For businesses (such as seasonal businesses) without a standard 2019 payroll, the SBA has specified alternative timeframes that can be used to calculate average weekly payroll (See Answer to Question 14 on the SBA’s PPP FAQ)The amount of the PPP loan is determined by calculating the average monthly payroll during the relevant period. Payments to workers exceeding $100,000 have to be excluded from the calculation of average monthly payroll, as do other payments under federal employment laws, although state unemployment taxes can be included.

The PPP permits loans up to 2.5x the average monthly payroll during the relevant period. The maximum loan amount is $10 million.

 

Are SBA Paycheck Protection Program loans forgivable?

Yes. The PPP loans are intended to keep workers employed. Therefore, the SBA will forgive the loan if the employer:

  • Expends the funds over the covered period of 24 weeks;
  • Maintains levels of compensation; and
  • Uses at least 60 percent of the loan for payroll. Up to 40% of the loan may be used for rent, utilities, or mortgage interest.

The amount forgiven will be reduced if the employer:

  • Reduces full-time employee headcount;
  • Decreases salaries and wages (under $100,000) by over 25%.

Employers can regain forgiveness eligibility if they restore their full-time employment and salary/wage levels before December 31, 2020.

 

What are the terms of the SBA Paycheck Protection Program loans?

If it is not forgiven, the loan must be paid back over two years (five years for loans obtained on or after June 4, 2020) at an interest rate of 1.0 percent. Loan payments are deferred until the amount of forgiveness is established.

No collateral or personal guarantees are required to receive a PPP loan. Neither the government nor lenders will charge applicants any fees.

The economic effects of business closures are taking a harsh toll on the performing arts community. Lawyers for the Creative Arts is committed to helping the Illinois art community understand the legal issues arising from performance cancellations.

We've created our Brief Service Response Center to provide general advice by telephone on issues relating to cancellations. The Response Center is open for individual artists and managers of arts organizations affected by the Coronavirus crisis. The application form is short, and we will attempt to respond to you in a timely manner. We ask that you please be patient as we work through the requests.

For those needing representation by an attorney for any arts-related matter, please continue to use our normal Legal Referral Service, which remains fully operational. Additionally, LCA's Patricia Felch Arts Mediation Services are ready and able to provide neutral mediators to assist with all kinds of arts disputes.

If you live outside of Illinois, you may want to contact the Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts organization in your state. A list of these organizations can be found here.
 

Visit Our Brief Service Response Center                               Unemployment Benefits and PPP FAQ


Coronavirus Resource List

This list gives those in the arts community access to sites and services that may be of assistance in navigating the challenges created by the Coronavirus pandemic.  Please refer back to it periodically for new or supplemented entries.

 

Resources You May Need Now

Resources for Reopening Arts Organizations

Restore Illinois - Illinois Government Guidance

Be Safe Chicago - Reopening Guidelines

Guide to Reopening Theatrical Venues

  • Information and guidance on reopening theatres and performing arts venues.

How effective are liability waivers in the age of the novel coronavirus?

  • Discussion of the efficacy and limits of liability waivers as businesses begin to reopen

 

Discussions of Available Resources

Lawyers for the Creative Arts / Perkins Coie Webinar on Business Interruption Insurance

  • Information on availability and structure of Business Interruption Insurance for performing arts organizations

Unemployment Relief and Related Benefits

Rent and Mortgage Assistance

Paycheck Protection Program

Assistance with State Unemployment Benefits
     (Please be patient in case of high call volume)

CARPLS

  • Call (312) 738-9200

Legal Aid Chicago

  • Call (312) 341-1070

 

Federal and State Financial Relief Programs

Paycheck Protection Program (SBA)

Local Banks Serving PPP Loan Applicants

COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Application

 

 

Additional Resources and Assistance

Private Assistance

Artist Relief

  • Fund created by small to mid-sized national arts grantmakers
  • $5,000 grants available to artists facing dire financial emergencies due to COVID-19

 

Chicago Artists Relief Fund

  • Fund created by Chicago-area artists intended to support area artists facing financial hardship due to Coronavirus related cancellations
  • Donate to the fund
  • Applications for assistance - temporarily suspended -  reach out to chicagoartistsrelief@gmail.com with questions

 

Goverment Assistance

Illinois Department of Employment Security

  • Apply for Unemployment Insurance

 

City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events

  • Resources for Artists and Arts Organizations

 

U.S. Small Business Administration

  • Disaster Assistance Loans for Small Businesses Impacted by Coronavirus
  • Eligibility Requirements
  • Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Declarations

 

National Endowment for the Arts

  • News and Resources for Artists and Arts Organizations

 

Area/Industry COVID-19 Impact Surveys

Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity

Arts Alliance Illinois

Americans for the Arts

Association of Performing Arts Professionals

Dance USA

Theatre Communications Group

 

Public Health Resources

 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

  • Specific updates on nature, extent, risks, and treatment of Coronavirus
  • Establishing Infectious Disease Outbreak Response Plan

 

Illinois Department of Public Health

 

Chicago Department of Public Health

  • Specific guidance for Event Organizers, Community-based Organizations, Businesses and Employers, and others.

 

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Zahra Zavari is one of three LCA interns this semester. Zahra is currently a 3L at Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Before LCA, Zahra served as a student attorney at the Children’s Legal Center and as a Law Clerk at Meltzer Hellrung. At Chicago-Kent Zahra was also an Entrepreneurship Research Assistant with supervising attorney Heather Harper. Zahra also currently serves as a legal extern with Saper Law.

Many of our interns come to us with unique backgrounds in the arts. Do you have any personal background in the arts?
I played violin as a child and have always loved clay sculpture and glass art. As I got older, I grew interested in fashion and its intersection with the law. It’s a very interesting area that comprises of various types of intellectual property including copyright, trademark, and design patents. I also find the entrepreneurial aspect of building a brand incredibly interesting from a legal standpoint.

How did you hear about LCA?
I was looking for opportunities in the arts in the Chicago area. I actually learned about LCA from Thomas Key (a former intern) and later talked to one of my professors about getting involved in the arts community. Both strongly encouraged me to pursue an opportunity at LCA.

What did you expect? Did anything here surprise you?
What’s most surprising is the scope of the work and number of matters that we accept. I expected there to be artists and musicians, but so many of our clients are documentary filmmakers or people who are working on forming a nonprofit. It’s been wonderful to see how much business can intersect with the arts, which happens to be a major interest of mine.

How has your experience at LCA connected with what you’ve been learning in law school?
There has been the most overlap in trademark and copyright. I’m also finding some parallels with the work I’ve been doing at Saper Law this term. The work here is slightly different; at Saper Law I draft contracts and motions, whereas here, I have the opportunity to speak directly with the clients to understand and identify their issues. Working at both LCA and Saper Law simultaneously, I’ve had a chance to see both sides of the process.

Do you have any favorite moments or projects from your time with us? 
It has been really interesting learning more about the needs of the arts community in Chicago. Some of my favorite projects have been working with documentary film makers and entrepreneurs of all kinds to get their ideas in motion. Intakes have allowed me to learn so much about the growing stages of artists.

I also really loved the lunches we shared as a team. Towards the beginning of my time here we managed to get all of the interns and staff together for a lunch. It was a great opportunity to talk about what to expect in this internship and in the legal world generally.

Everyone on staff is incredibly kind and encouraging. I’ve learned a great deal from the research projects I have been assigned and I love that much of our work is very hands on.  Not all legal institutions have those opportunities.

What’s next for you? Has your time at LCA helped you to narrow your options?
I’m hoping to work in Intellectual Property, especially as it relates to fashion or entertainment. In general, I think my work here at LCA led me to explore other areas that I’m now even more interested in. Initially, I was mostly focused on fashion; I had thought about film and music, but now I think about these areas so much more.

Most people don’t realize how much Arts law integrates so many of these different areas of law. You mostly hear about the copyright and trademark issues, but there are so many areas that all intersect. It’s important to think of Arts law in this more holistic way than as just an area dominated by Intellectual Property.

Do you plan to volunteer with LCA once you have your degree?
Yes, definitely! And even if I don’t end up in Chicago, then I’ll probably look into volunteering with a local VLA wherever I end up.

What value does an organization like LCA add to the arts community?
Besides providing legal services, I think organizations like LCA are important because they expose the fact that so many smaller artists are being exploited by larger organizations. We have to do everything we can to minimize this exploitation and raise awareness. I don’t think most people see the arts as an area where people are particularly vulnerable to such abuses and oppression, but it is a huge issue. LCA and organizations alike are essential components to protecting the rights of artists.   

What's a fun fact about you? 
I’m from Singapore! My mom and I moved to Chicago when I was 8 years old. It has been a pretty big culture shift growing up here. Many of my aunts and uncles are attorneys in Singapore and they have definitely played a role in my interests in the law. 

Which tv-show/movie/song/book have you recently finished that you would recommend?
I have always been obsessed with crime TV shows. Some of my favorites include Broachchurch, Seven Seconds, and Law & Order. More recently I’ve been hooked on Safe and The Fall.

Thank you for telling us more about yourself! Do you have anything else that you want to add?
I’ve really enjoyed working here and I truly appreciate the immense value LCA contributes to artists all over Chicago.


 

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Kenneth “Kenny” Matuszewski, pictured at the Chicago Bar Association's "Spring into Service" Event with fellow Associate Board member Myka Bell, is an Associate Counsel at Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg LLP, where he focuses his practice on patent prosecution. Currently, he is the Treasurer of the Associate Board. Before taking on that role, Kenny was a Volunteer Attorney for LCA and a general member of the Associate Board. A firm believer that learning is a life-long process, Kenny obtained a B.S. in Computer Science from Oregon State University in December 2019. Previously, he attended the University of Notre Dame, where he double-majored in Biological Sciences and Spanish and received his J.D. from Chicago-Kent College of Law. 


How did you learn about Lawyers for the Creative Arts and what led you to apply to join the Associate Board?
I learned about LCA in law school, after hearing members of the organization speak at an Intellectual Property Law Society meeting. Since childhood, I have believed in giving back to my community and using my gifts to help others. As a fellow musician, I realized I could connect with LCA’s clients on a deeper level and use my unique background to solve their legal problems. Therefore, it was an easy decision for me to serve as a volunteer for the organization and apply for membership to the Associate Board shortly after my law school graduation.  

I joined the Associate Board in 2017, and have served as the Treasurer since 2019, so I’ve been a member for 3 years and part of the Executive Board for almost a year now.

What’s your favorite LCA memory? 
A few years ago, I drafted an agreement to transfer the copyright interest in several illustrations to an author of a young adult novel. My client was an up-and-coming author with the ambition to create a book series that would empower young and middle-grade girls. Helping her make an agreement that was clear and fair to both parties was incredibly rewarding. 

A few months later, I received a copy of her book. This was especially meaningful, because, through our discussions, I learned just how hard it is to publish a book, especially when legal issues are involved. In my own small way, I helped an artist accomplish her goals. The fact that she personally signed my copy and acknowledged me in the book was the cherry on top. 

What do you enjoy about being an Associate Board member? 
We have a unique group of members that all share a common connection with the arts. Everyone is also passionate about their work and talented, but most importantly, they are kind. I have incorporated advice that other Associate Board members have given me into my own practice, and they have broadened my artistic horizons. 


Which LCA or Associate Board events have you participated in?
I have participated and helped organize several events. First, I gave a presentation about esports and IP at 2112 in 2017. A year later, I developed a program with fellow Executive Board member Michael Reed that discussed the artistic merits of video games. Since then, I have served as one of the Co-Chairs for the Education Committee. Currently, we are planning an educational program titled “From Student to Master: What You Need to Know About Copyright Litigation,” that will take place on March 25th. The goal of the panel is to give attorneys who do not practice copyright law the resources they need to succeed if they take on such a matter. 

Outside of educational events, I try to attend as many of the socials and signature LCA events as possible, such as the Holiday Party, Annual Luncheon and Shindy. I haven’t missed most of these events in years!  


What types of LCA matters have you taken on?
I have taken on a wide variety of matters, including copyright, trademark, and patent registrations; copyright ownership agreements; trademark and copyright litigation; and LLC formations.


What advice would you give to an attorney who is considering taking an LCA matter?
Take on matters that interest you, even if it’s outside your comfort zone or practice area. There are so many resources available to LCA volunteers, such as LCA’s Video Law Library and LawSmarts, and the broad network of volunteers. LCA Board members have taken the time to talk through issues with me and give advice on more than one occasion. Further, working hard, being empathetic and listening to your client is often the most important thing you can do. For many clients, this is the first time they are able to share their story, so providing a safe and comforting environment is crucial.  


What has it been like working with our clients? How does it differ from your job at your firm?
At both of my firms, I have focused my practice on patent law: litigation at my first, and prosecution at my current firm. While I have given advice on the patenting process to some of my clients, more frequently, I find myself helping out with other intellectual property matters. This has allowed me to apply my knowledge and skills in new settings, which has only helped me become a better lawyer.  

Working with LCA clients is always a treat. I am continuously impressed by their creativity and passion for their work. Their enthusiasm is infectious, so I am always happy to help them. It also allowed me to immediately develop client counseling and management skills, which can be difficult to obtain right away. I have even formed personal connections with a few of my clients. Some have added me on social media, while others have sent me holiday cards. 


Do you have any personal background in the arts?
I have been a musician since I was 9 years old, when I first started playing the trumpet in the 4th grade concert band. Since then, I have also learned to play the tuba, euphonium, and harmonica. I also dabble in the mandolin and ukulele and am looking to begin learning the bass guitar. 

This musical background has allowed me to play in a wide variety of settings, including wind ensembles, jazz bands, marching bands, brass bands and even mariachi bands. I have taken away something from each group I have joined over the years, which has only helped me become a better musician and develop a greater appreciation of music. 


Do you participate in or follow the arts here in Chicago?
I currently play tuba and euphonium in the Chicago Bar Association’s Barristers Big Band and Symphony Orchestra (“CBASO”). We had the chance to play at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (“CSO”) Concert Hall and live out one of my childhood dreams. I never would have thought that being a lawyer would give me the chance to achieve some of my other dreams, yet the CBASO allowed me to do that. Joining forces with hundreds of chorus members to play the Fourth Movement of Beethoven’s Ninth and the “Hallelujah” Chorus of Handel’s Messiah was incredibly moving and inspiring. I’m pretty sure I had goosebumps for the last half-hour of the concert. 

In the past, I have played trumpet in the Union League Club’s Brass Band. When I have the time, I try to catch as many music shows as I can at bars and smaller venues. People are often surprised when they find out I know my way around a mosh pit as well as a symphony hall. 

I also write a lot. These days, most of my writing is related to my practice area and the legal profession. Luckily, there’s an abundance of topics in those areas, which helps prevent writer’s block, and allows me to write a diverse array of articles. Currently, I am one of the Head Editors for the Chicago Bar Association’s @theBar blog. I have served in that position for the past two years, right around the time the blog started. 

As a Head Editor, I have worn many hats, including Editor, Publicist, Manager, Writer, and even Recruiter. Doing so has allowed me to shape the image, content, and style of the blog, and develop high-quality content for our readers. It’s also given me a greater appreciation and understanding of writing and content creation that several of my LCA clients experience every day. 


How does LCA support the arts in Chicago and why do you think this work is so vital to the arts?
LCA has a huge role in supporting the arts in Chicago. Without LCA’s help, artists would be bogged down by legal quagmires. That prevents them from doing what they do best: creating and making social change through their works. LCA is the lifeboat that rescues the artists from the bog. 

LCA also plays a critical role in helping artists live out their dreams and enabling them to focus on their work. In its own way, LCA sets artists free to live out their truths, without having to worry about legal issues, costs, or other barriers to entry. The law is often considered a roadblock, and a tool to imprison or suppress artists’ expression. LCA turns that way of thinking on its head. Instead of being an instrument of oppression and suppression, the law can be a force for good and help artists. 


Finally, which tv-show/movie/song/book have you recently finished that you would recommend? 
Mozart in the Jungle, on Amazon Prime, is the perfect show for LCA volunteers. Tracking the journey of a young oboist in New York City, the show captivated me with its strong characters and storytelling. It also discusses the unique challenges that classical arts, such as the symphony and opera, face today, such as relevance, fundraising, and engaging the next generation. Knowing the various classical songs sprinkled throughout the show is not necessary to enjoy the show, but it definitely made the show even more enjoyable for me! 


Thank you to Kenny for taking the time to answer our questions! Continue to check social media and this website for future Featured Members from our Associate Board.



Katie O'Brien is an Associate at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP and focuses her practice on general litigation, dispute resolution, and intellectual property litigation matters, including defamation and trademark disputes. Prior to joining Katten, Katie received her JD from Vanderbilt University Law School and served as a Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) Fellow at Lawyers for the Creative Arts.

We spoke with Katie to learn more about her background and work with LCA.

How did you learn about Lawyers for the Creative Arts and what led you to apply to join the Associate Board?

I learned about LCA during my first summer with Katten as a 1L Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD) scholar. During that summer, I worked with an IP associate on one of LCA’s cases, assisting with a review of a recording contract for a young Chicago rapper. I joined the associate board because I wanted to continue staying involved with LCA and meet other attorneys passionate about the organization’s mission. I became a member in February 2019, so I have been with the Associate Board for exactly one year now. 

Which LCA or Associate Board events have you participated in?
I have participated in the LCA Shindy, the annual benefit luncheon, the annual holiday party, and will be joining the Associate
Board at Legal Prep Charter Academy this spring to assist the students with completing an indoor mural beautification project at the school.

Do you have a favorite LCA memory?
My favorite LCA memory is experiencing Mary Lane sing the blues at the 2019 Annual LCA Holiday Party.

Can you give an example of an LCA matter that you've worked on recently?
I assisted a visual artist by drafting a cease and desist letter relating to defamatory statements being published about him on the internet.

What advice would you give to an attorney who is considering taking an LCA matter?
Regardless of your daily practice, you are capable of helping a local artist overcome their legal issue, and doing so is so rewarding. 

You previously served as one of LCA’s PILI Fellows. How did that experience serve you as a young lawyer?
My experience as an LCA PILI Fellow provided the opportunity to interact directly with clients on a daily basis. Developing this skill is vital, as it can be difficult for a young associate to have much client interaction at a large law firm. 


What has it been like working with our clients? How does it differ from your job at your firm? 
LCA clients are passionate and grateful. If you are in big law, it is especially refreshing representing an individual instead of a corporation.

Do you have any personal background in the arts?
I have studied vocal jazz since high school. I continued my studies at the University of Miami where I studied music business and jazz voice. 

Do you participate in or follow the arts here in Chicago?
I have not been able to catch as many shows as I used to, but any time I can go to a concert or live performance I jump on the opportunity. The most recent show I went to was a live storytelling at Lincoln Hall put on by WBEZ and The Moth podcast. 

What about the arts in Chicago strikes you as unique? I think the Chicago arts community is unique because it is a community of support. The community is home grown and unpretentious, and works to provide inclusive opportunities for everyone to engage.

How does LCA support the arts in Chicago and why do you think this work is so vital to the arts?
LCA ensures that a legal problem does not take away from an artist’s ability to engage in or profit from their talent and craft. Ensuring access to top-notch lawyers for low to no cost means the average artist does not need to be overwhelmed by a legal issue, and can instead trust that their legal advisor will handle it for them. 

What's a fun fact about you?
A photo of myself and President Obama was featured in Rolling Stone Magazine. 
Note: The photo can be found in the article "Ready for the Fight" from the 2017 Special Edition of Rolling Stone, The Obama Years: Inside a Historic Presidency. The full article can be found here (sadly, without a photo).

Which tv-show/movie/song/book have you recently finished that you would recommend? 
I finally watched Fleabag. Go [binge] watch it.  

Thank you to Katie for taking the time to answer our questions! Continue to check social media and this website for future Featured Members from our Associate Board.

 

Claire Henleben

Claire Henleben is one of two LCA interns this semester. Claire is a 3L at Loyola University of Chicago Law School and holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Missouri in history and political science. Before LCA, Claire was a research assistant for Professor James Gathii at Loyola and interned for the Clerk of the Court in the Dirksen Federal building and in the Chicago Field Office for the Department of Homeland Security. In addition to her assistance with client intake, Claire was especially helpful in helping us prepare for a lecture about legacy in the arts community with the Chicago Women’s Caucus for Art. 

 

Start by telling us a little about yourself. What led you to pursue the law?

I’m one of those people who always knew law was what I wanted to do. I was usually on speech and debate, so law seemed like a natural fit. Outside of being a law student, I am a lifelong artist and performer. I learned acrylic painting from my grandmother and I also performed in a ballet company all the way through high school. After some time away from the arts, I wanted to bring the arts back into my life, which is what brought me here to LCA.

 

How did you hear about LCA?

I actually learned about LCA through a Google search! I knew that I wanted to do an internship in the Fall and I wanted to do something in an area that I’m passionate about. LCA showed up as the premier—really the only organization of its kind in this area—so it’s been a good fit.

 

What did you expect? Did anything here surprise you?

Before LCA, I had never worked in a legal aid context before, so I looked forward to working more closely with clients in a way that I’ve never done before. Most of my previous internships were research and writing based. This has been much more hands-on with personal interactions with people who I know are directly benefitting from the work that we do.

It has been especially gratifying to see the whole process unfold—from the initial call and referral, and then eventually seeing that the case has been closed and we’ve helped resolve another case. Something else that has surprised me has been the level of gratitude from our clients. Most are just looking for some validation for their concerns, some respect. The fact that I’ve been able to hear some of these people’s stories has been incredible.

 

Do you have a favorite experience from your time with us?

The benefit was definitely a highlight because I hadn’t really done anything like that before. I loved being involved in some of the planning process and eventually being able to go and see the number of people who care about the work that LCA does. We’re based here in the office most days, so seeing how many people are invested in this organization was exciting.


What’s next for you? Has your time here impacted your plans for your legal career?

Passing the bar exam is the most immediate hurdle, but I eventually hope to go into estate planning. I would like to stay in the area and continue doing pro bono work with LCA. I definitely don’t see the end of my internship here as the end of my involvement with this organization.

 

How has your experience at LCA connected with what you’ve been learning in law school?

I’ve had several opportunities involving estate law, which is one of the areas of law that I’m most interested in. These opportunities have come both in the work I’ve been doing with some of our clients, but also through some of the research I was able to do for our educational programming.

Besides the practical experience I’ve gained from working on matters related to estate law, I also had several opportunities to learn more about Intellectual Property, which I didn’t know as much about before this semester. On top of this exposure to IP, I’m also taking my first courses in IP this semester, so what I’m doing here has lined up very well with those courses.

 

Do you have any more comments about your time here?

I’ve adored the spectacular view from my office! Honestly, it’s wonderful to share an office with other people. In most of my earlier internships I was the lone intern, but it’s been such a great atmosphere here with the staff and Thomas, our other intern.

My experience here at LCA really showed me that I do want to continue working for artists and performers in such a meaningful way.

 

Thomas Key

Thomas Key is our second Fall 2019 intern. Thomas is a 3L at Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology and holds an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in Political Science and History. Before LCA, Thomas served as a compliance intern at Upright Law and also interned with Chapekis Chapekis & Schmidt. Thomas contributed to several LCA research projects and was always eager to take on new and interesting issues. We wish Thomas the very best of luck as he completes his JD and continues his journey in the law.

 

Tell us a little about yourself. What led you to pursue the law?

I was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan and then moved around a lot with my family. Now I’d say that I’ve found my home on the Great Lakeshore.

After undergrad, I went to law school because I wanted to apply my skills in research, argumentation, and writing to helping people and solving problems. Outside of school I’m a hockey player, hiker, cyclist and history buff.

 

I understand that you also DJ?

Yes! In high school I became interested in DJing because of how it allows you to blend hip-hop and electronic styles. It all started with my first deck, which was handed down to me by my brother, and a couple of speakers in my dorm freshman year—but I eventually expanded to DJing formals and larger parties.

These experiences led me to see how law connects with music, especially when it comes to copyright. I remember asking myself several times “is any of this even legal?”

 

How did you hear about LCA?

I learned about LCA through one of my Professors who worked with LCA’s counterpart in New York, VLANY. He described his experiences working with a Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts organization (VLA) as one of the best experiences in his early career and strongly recommended finding a way to get involved.

 

What did you expect? Did anything here surprise you?

I expected to be involved with clients directly, but not so directly. But I mean that’s been one of the best parts. You get to see the whole process –dive right in and really help a lot of people. I guess I also didn’t expect the level of joy and gratitude from our clients. I am amazed to see the instincts that so many of our clients have about what is just and what is unjust. Despite imprecision and lack of knowledge of some of the specifics, there’s a strong sense of what is right and wrong, which I find so refreshing.

 

Thomas, the ever-hardworking intern, pauses our interview here to answer the phone and work with a client on intake.

 

Do you have a favorite experience from your time with us?

This happened several times, but probably those circumstances where something I had just learned in class happened to be the key to unlocking this person’s problem and getting them out from under a substantial amount of liability. I’ve also had some great opportunities to continue doing research in areas I love, including projects involving the DMCA and, of all things, choreography.

 

What’s next for you?

I’d like to be working primarily in copyright, trademark and litigation in the Arts and Entertainment industry, but I also have some interest in commercial litigation. I intend to continue to research and write about emerging developments in law and continue to educate people about the law. Longer term, I would like to go back to school for an LLM and ultimately work toward a professorship.

 

Has your time at LCA helped narrow the areas of law you plan to pursue?

One of the reasons why arts law is such an exciting area of the law is that every issue is unique and draws from different areas of laws. Because we work in so many different areas, my time at LCA has actually broadened some of my interests. I already had an interest in copyright, but I had much less experience in labor, contract, and landlord-tenant issues, all of which I’ve had some more exposure to during my time here.

 

How has your experience at LCA connected with what you’ve been learning in law school?

For all the joy that you get out of studying law, there is nothing comparable to actually applying it in this type of setting. One of the most valuable things I’ve learned is to recognize the distinction between what the law provides and what people want from it. I’ve seen how it’s often the case that the law won’t efficiently provide people with a sufficient remedy. In some cases this has been disheartening, but just knowing the level of help that we are able to provide really underlines the importance of considering these legal rights from the perspective of those with less access to legal resources.

 

What has it been like to work with the LCA Staff?

It’s been wonderful. It’s amazing to see what such a lean staff can do year in year out. There’s a real hands-on culture here that I love. Everyone is such a pleasure to work with and I can’t emphasize enough what a joy it is to work with people who are so dedicated to a common goal. You don’t always see that.

In general, I’d say that providing education and seminars is one of the most invaluable resources out there. After you get out of school it’s hard to find opportunities to continue to educate yourself, so the fact that LCA can provide this legal groundwork to so many can’t be understated. That education component is all the more important because it can potentially put people in positions where they might not even need assistance. It’s very proactive of LCA and its staff to be thinking so much about that.

 

Do you hope to volunteer with LCA once are admitted to the bar?

Yes, undeniably. Even if I don’t end up in Chicago, I would find another VLA to work with—I even have a spreadsheet of other VLAs around the country.

 

Finally, I understand that you contribute to an IP blog involving cats! Can you tell me more about that?

I am a “GuestKat” at IPKat, a law blog out of London that has been rated as the world’s Most Popular Intellectual Property Law Blawg by Justia. The sight mostly features discussions of Intellectual Property from a European perspective, but it’s still an interesting blend of European and American issues being discussed by academics who are passionate about all things IP--and who regularly adorn cat photos to their posts. That last bit gives some degree of levity to some pretty heavy topics.

Eleanora Rosati, one of the blog’s key contributors, lectured for one of my classes and I have been contributing regular articles ever since. The first piece I wrote addressed sampling in Europe from an American perspective. (check it out here) and I’ve continued to write about other IP developments in the US.

 

Do you have any other comments that you would like to share?

Even very early in your legal career there are ways to be involved with LCA and benefit the arts community in Chicago. We have this unbelievable arts scene here that needs the legal community. The amount of clients who have emailed me links to all kinds of events after we’ve finished intake is proof of this. The level of immersion in the arts that you get in the city is unbelievable. There’s more of it than you could ever consume and it deserves our attention.

It is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of William E. Rattner on March 16, 2019. Bill came to LCA in 199

9 following a successful 38-year career in commercial litigation, and served as Executive Director from 1999 to 2014. He brought with him his passion for the arts, especially opera, and a drive to make a difference. Bill led the organization through a rough period and rapidly helped the organization regain its standing in the legal and arts communities.

 

Among Bill’s many accomplishments while at LCA was his Non-profit and Tax Exempt Workshop, which has run for more than 15 years, five times a year. The Workshop became a “must” for managers of many hundreds of start-up organizations, folks with great ideas but often little business experience. Bill helped them navigate the daunting application for non-profit status and provided valuable advice on how to run their businesses efficiently and with integrity.

The Staff and Boards of LCA, our many volunteer lawyers, and thousands of clients will remember Bill with great affection. He was a true original -- smart, perceptive, with a sharp sense of humor that was always good-hearted. We extend our deepest condolences to the Rattner family.

 

Obituary and funeral details are here. The Rattner family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Lawyers for the Creative Arts.