Today we’d like to introduce you to Marissa Crespo.
Marissa, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My journey within the entertainment legal space has been quite an arduous, transformative journey. I knew I wanted to work in entertainment, but initially thought I would establish myself on the creative side of the business. Admiring authors such as Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Langston Hughes, I started my path as a writer studying English and African-American literature at Villanova University.
During my educational journey at Villanova University, I began shaping my interest not only in writing, but in social justice advocacy centered around race, gender, and immigrant rights. It was during my educational tenure at Villanova that I learned from some of the greatest professors who, unbeknownst to them, planted the seeds of my legal career within entertainment law: Dr. Crystal J. Lucky, Dr. Lawrence Little, Professor John King, and the late Professor Harrison Ridley, Jr.
Whether I was studying Classical Black Cinema with John King, pouring over the texts of Toni Morrison’s cannon of literature in Dr. Lucky’s class, or discussing the ethnomusicology of Jazz music in Dr. Ridley’s African-American music class, I developed and nurtured my flourishing desire to fuse together my passion to incorporate social advocacy work within the world of entertainment. By my second year in college, I knew that I wanted to go to law school to further focus on gender and racial justice within the entertainment industry.
In the fall of 2010, I embarked on my legal path by attending Columbia University. I took various courses in entertainment law, worked as an Articles and Notes Editor for Columbia Law School’s Journal of Gender and Law and Columbia’s Journal of Law and the Arts, and interned at several boutique entertainment firms. Even though I soaked up as much knowledge as I could regarding entertainment contracts in the classroom, I knew I needed to understand the business and immediately focus on the art of practicing law.
So I worked throughout law school for little or no pay as a paralegal preparing artist visa petitions for foreign entertainers coming into the United States. I focused on working at boutique entertainment law firms to understand the entrepreneurial path, interned in the legal department at SAG-AFTRA representing actors, and worked as a line producer on small indie film projects. When I graduated from law school three years later, I knew that entertainment law was going to be my ultimate path.
When I graduated and started my career officially as an attorney, I started off at a major law firm practicing real estate law as an associate. Despite the smattering of entertainment across my resume, the firm chose my initial practice in real estate, based upon the firm’s need. It baffled me that the firm chose this area of practice for me, but it was purely based upon the firm’s need at that time. Quite frankly, it was a blessing in disguise.
For a little over two years, I worked as a Real Estate associate handling transactional work and land use and zoning on behalf of major real estate developers. The work chiseled my legal skills, but it didn’t feel like I was truly helping my communities. It was certainly great money, but it was nowhere near to my passion. I was miserable and felt like I didn’t fit my environment. So after a couple of years working at the firm and twisting in the wind to figure out my next career move, I decided it was time for me to leave and take my career into my own hands by starting my own boutique firm.
Now for the last several years, I have been the principal at my own entertainment, corporate and real estate law firm, Crespo Law Office, P.C. I have been able to successfully intertwine my legal practice within my own mission of race and gender justice in my representation of content creators across all facets of the entertainment industry, who are also pushing for more diverse voices and narratives in Hollywood. As a self-proclaimed “Legal Brand Archivist,™” the energy and focus of my firm is in creatively crafting and curating culturally diverse content creators’ intellectual property assets through copyright and trademark protection and strategic licensing strategies.
Having my own practice allows me to not only push my mission in advancing culturally diverse content creators/entertainers as a lawyer, but to operate as an educator, speaker, and author on race and gender issues within the entertainment industries. My firm’s tagline “Where Law, Culture and Identity Collide” is a pithy phrase that summarizes how my firm distinguishes itself from other law firms, and is a concise statement of my purpose. I absolutely LOVE what I do and would not change it for the world.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Let me tell you, transitioning into my own practice was NOT EASY! Everyone wants to call themselves a CEO or a boss in starting their own company. It is one thing to set up a company and a bank account. It is a whole other thing in learning how to drum up business and hear the PayPal ring, okay! So networking was key. I was constantly travelling back and forth between New Jersey and New York at music events, film festivals, and contacting film distribution companies to drum up business.
I took on clients whether or not they could pay within the entertainment space, just to build a marketing base of clients who may refer me to others (with the hope of referring others who could pay)! I waivered back and forth between being my own boss and working for a steady, comfy check to make sure I could make ends meet. I knew who I wanted to be and who I wanted to represent, but still fought to have that financial cushion. There sometimes comes a point in your career, however, when you are forced with the decision of whether to be bold and pivot into new territory. For me, it was the conscientious decision to walk away from job offers of employment to 100% commit to growing my own firm and brand.
We’d love to hear more about your work.
In my firm, Crespo Law Office, P.C. I handle contracts predominantly in the areas of entertainment, corporate and real estate. My practice also consists of copyright and trademark protection, with a focus on copyright and trademark licensing in film, television, literary, music, and fashion.
What I am known for is not only my practice areas, but more so the personable approach as a lawyer who is business savvy, and truly takes the time to understand her clients’ creativity in their respective art forms. I am proud of my accomplishments in what I have been able to secure for my clients, and the aligning my purpose with my profession. I am even more proud of how I make my clients feel genuinely understood and taken care of on the business side of their creativity.
Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Oh yes, absolutely! There are sooo many mentors and supporters I have had, whether they individually realized their influence in my career or not. Some of them to note are Dr. Crystal Lucky, Dr. Lawrence Little, Prof. John King and the late Prof. Harrison Ridley, to name a few I mentioned earlier.
My family, fiance and friends are also some of my greatest cheerleaders who constantly cheer me on and remind me that I come from a great community of creatives. And of course, my clients! I cannot thank them enough for trusting me with their careers each and every day with the known confidence that I will always have their back. They inspire me every day to push even harder in my mission and goals, and I know my work here on this earth is just beginning.
- Website: www.crespolawoffice.net
- Phone: (646) 770-0235
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @clo_entertainment