The law firm of Williams & Connolly, from Washington, has made its name recently in the handling of entertainment and sports stars. For instance, the co-host of the ‘Today’ show, Ann Curry, recently hired the firm to help her negotiate her exit from the show after it was reported last week that NBC wanted to replace her. Jeremy Lin, the point guard for the New York Knicks, also hired the firm to help him negotiate a contract as an NBA free agent.
Curry hired Robert Barnett, a media-industry lawyer at the firm, to represent her. Lin hired Jim Tanner, a sports lawyer, to represent him. Tanner’s other NBA clients include Tim Duncan, Shane Battier and Grant Hill. The firm was created in 1967 by trial lawyer Edward Bennett Williams. The firm represented Bill Clinton during his impeachment trial and Oliver North during the Iran-Contra scandal.
The firm has taken the entertainment and sports industries by storm by undercutting their competition. Most firms that represent entertainment stars and sports stars take a cut of their clients’ income, which amounts to 10 or 15 percent. Instead, Williams & Connolly charge their clients by the hour. For example, a profile of Barnett in the New York Times from 2004 said that a fee for an agent representing an author on a book advance of $2 million could total $300,000. The fee Barnett might charge would be around the $30,000 range.
Barnett is a corporate lawyer but has been representing journalists in D.C. and government officials for almost three decades as a literary agent. Barnett has represented three presidents; Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Barnett describes his assignment of representing Curry as a ‘side job,’ in which he represents television journalists. In fact, Barnett recently represented Christiane Amanpour when she left ‘This Week’ from ABC News.
Tanner joined the law firm back in 1997 after he left Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom after four years. Tanner joined Williams & Connolly under Lon Babby, a firm partner who was putting together a practice representing players from the NBA. Babby exited from the firm back in 2010 in order to take the position of president of the Phoenix Suns. Experts have said that Tanner pulled off a coup by signing Lin as a client because Lin could sign to a contract worth $5 million per season or more.
The firm’s connections to the world of sports do not end with the NBA as former partner Larry Lucchino is the chief executive of the Boston Red Sox from Major League Baseball. The firm’s founder, Edward Bennett Williams, was the owner of the Baltimore Orioles and served as the president of the Washington Redskins for 20 years.