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BURBANK : Black Lawyers See New Opportunities

African Americans have climbed to the upper reaches of the sports and entertainment worlds, but few are entering the legal profession to represent high-priced celebrities, according to a professional organization of black attorneys.

The challenges of breaking into the sports and entertainment fields of law will be one of the issues raised during a summit for black attorneys and law students to be held in Burbank on April 9. Up for discussion will be why the number of black lawyers representing black celebrities is so low at a time when some say the opportunity to represent African American star clients is so great. Also to be addressed is what the term free agency means for athletes.

“The hope is that we can get vital information to lawyers in the industry . . . and give more students an idea of what’s happening,” said Gary Watson, an attorney for Motown Records and this year’s conference chairman for the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Assn.

“Yes, there are opportunities, but we’d like to see more,” he said. “That’s one of the major points of our organization.”

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When the nonprofit group convenes next week, Watson said, the most important topics will include future opportunities in a multimedia society and factors in choosing legal representation.

African Americans make up just 1% of lawyers nationwide, according to the American Bar Assn., and number even fewer in the entertainment and sports fields.

Among the more than 300 members of the Black Entertainment and Sports Lawyers Assn. are Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., who represents pop star Michael Jackson, and Frank Wheaton, attorney for L. A. Laker James Worthy.

“They’re trailblazers,” Watson said, “because there are very few of them.”

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