The Five Most Legendary Lawyers of 2024 (2024)

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Once a THR Legal Legend, always a THR Legal Legend. We’ve been publishing this special feature for six years, honoring entertainment attorneys whose careers have had enduring impact on both the entertainment industry and the law. Each year, a new group is inducted, and those chosen retain their title for life. Here are the 2024 honorees.

DAVID FOX

MYMAN GREENSPAN

David Fox didn’t want to be a lawyer. Before becoming an attorney, he ran a thriving lifeguard business and had blue-sky dreams of spending his days as a surfer. “Law school was just a way to delay a decision about my life,” he says. Turned out to be a pretty auspicious delaying tactic. Today, he represents some of the biggest names in the business: filmmaker James Wan (Saw), producer Dan Lin (The Lego Movie), David Koepp (Presence), Thomas Bezucha (Fargo), and Jon Cryer (Two and a Half Men). “The best part of all this is that if you hang around long enough,” he says, “you get to see the people you believe in achieve their dreams.”

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MICHAEL KUMP

KINSELLA HOLLEY

He’s represented everyone from the duch*ess of Sussex to the Kardashians, handling everything from trademark disputes (a Florida cosmetics company vs. Kim, Kourtney and Khloe) to defamation lawsuits between sisters (that’d be Samantha Markle’s complaint against Meghan over some unkind words during an Oprah interview). Kump also defended Evan Rachel Wood against Marilyn Manson’s defamation suit (after she accused the singer of abuse) and repped House of Cards producer MRC in its sexual misconduct investigation of Kevin Spacey. He seems pretty sure his defamation caseload isn’t going to get any lighter any time soon, thanks to social media. “There’s just an immediacy that lends itself to people saying stuff that if they maybe stopped a beat, they might not say.”

PETER NELSON

NELSON DAVIS

The Five Most Legendary Lawyers of 2024 (3)

If all he had done was represent Peter Jackson — for 35 years, starting with Heavenly Creatures and continuing on with the director’s latest deal for yet another Lord of the Rings movie for New Line and Warner Bros — he might still make this list. But Nelson has been a go-to litigator for scores of stars. When David Duchovny wanted to renegotiate his deal for the X-Files, he hired Nelson, who made him the highest paid one-hour TV star of his time. He also negotiated substantial pay raises for West Wing clients Allison Janney, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford and John Spencer. Then he renegotiated more raises for them, and then did it yet again.“I can’t be intimidated,” he says of his bargaining table manner. “In a meeting, the head of a studio literally threatened to punch me, and it worked to my benefit. Not only did we close that deal, but I was referred another client who needed a lawyer willing to stand up to the studio.”

RON NESSIM

BIRD MARELLA

Nessim was happily working on white-collar criminal defense cases and specializing in health care fraud when, in 1997, he was approached for help by two transactional lawyers representing author Danielle Steel in a profit participation dispute with NBC. There was no turning back. “I started getting into it,” he says of his first taste of entertainment law. In the decades since, he’s repped NCIS creator Don Bellisario in a 2011 breach of contract suit with CBS, as well as Dick Wolf in numerous cases, JJ Abrams on Lost, Shonda Rhimes on Grey’s Anatomy and Robert Kirkman on The Walking Dead. “These are hard fought cases and they evolved to be even more hard fought,” Nessim says. “You really have to go in with your eyes open.”

KELLI SAGER

DAVIS WRIGHT TREMAINE

She’s a warrior for the First Amendment and for the fourth estate’s right to access information, especially in America’s courthouses. Virtually the minute she was recruited to her current firm, Sager began fighting for media organizations. During the OJ Simpson trial, she worked to make sure his trial was (even) more accessible to the press. In the years since, she’s helped open up courts in other noteworthy cases, including her groundbreaking argument that allowed press access to the 1996 fraud case between Clint Eastwood and former girlfriend Sondra Locke. That case went all the way up to the California Supreme Court. “Former Chief Justice Ron George wrote a great decision for the media,” she says. “It’s used by people every day to argue for access to court proceedings and records.”

.LEGAL LEGENDS HONOR ROLL Ivy Kagan Bierman, Daniel Black, John Branca, Skip Brittenham, Harold Brown, John Burke, Joseph Calabrese, Melanie Cook, Jay Cooper, Scott Edelman, Patti Felker, Sam Fischer, John Frankenheimer, Michael Gendler, Cliff Gilbert-Lurie, Patricia Glaser, Allen Grubman, Tom Hansen, Barry Hirsch, Jim Jackoway, Craig Jacobson, Neville Johnson, Dale Kinsella, Ken Kleinberg, Linda Lichter, Mickey Mayerson, Kenny Meiselas, Sky Moore, Marcy Morris, Bob Myman, Jeanne Newman, Don Passman, Daniel Petrocelli, Lee Phillips, Bruce Ramer, Ira Schreck, Robert “Bobby” Schwartz, Marty Singer, Larry Stein, Alan Wertheimer and Ken Ziffren.

This story first appeared in the June 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

The Five Most Legendary Lawyers of 2024 (2024)

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