100 years + of collective legal malpractice experience

Legal malpractice potential in the attorney-musician relationship

On Behalf of | Mar 18, 2024 | Conflict of Interest, Contractual Mistakes, Duty of Care, Entertainment Malpractice, Fiduciary Duty, Legal Malpractice |

Sound legal advice, skilled negotiation, vigorous advocacy, uncompromised loyalty and airtight contracts are all key to meeting the complex legal needs of a professional singer or musician. When an entertainment lawyer fails to fulfil their duty of care to a musician-client, the financial fallout for that client could be substantial – or even devastating.

The professional representing the musician could also be an agent or manager. These nonattorney professionals have many of the same or similar duties requiring vigorous, fair and skilled representation.

The Herbo lawsuit

In late 2023, rap artist G Herbo (Herbert Wright III) sued his former manager and record company for $40 million. He alleged that his agent failed to represent Herbo’s best interests and caused financial losses, according to Baller Alert. G Herbo reportedly asserts that his manager presented “unfair and one-sided deals” to him when he was a trusting minor.

Reportedly the manager also “controll[ed] [Herbo’s] recording rights.”

The singer says that because of the manager’s deception, G Herbo owes his former recording label $8.4 million. But G Herbo challenges this debt based on “years of financial mismanagement and insufficient accounting transparency.” Baller Alert quotes G Herbo’s lawyer explaining that the manager and recording label completely control Herbo’s funds, requiring him to request they make personal purchases on his behalf.

The parties also dispute the circumstances and enforceability of a 2023 release agreement. If valid, the contract would void past contracts and transfer the musician’s intellectual property rights back to him.

Legal malpractice in the entertainment industry

G Herbo’s allegations of negligent or unethical representation are reminiscent of types of malpractice that can arise in entertainment law. Conflicts of interest can interfere with the duty of loyalty inherent in any such fiduciary relationship. A lawyer’s or agent’s fiduciary duty directs that they protect the client’s interests above those of all others – including their own. This requires monitoring transactions and making smart, fair financial decisions for the client even when the client is not looking.

Client loyalty may not be compromised. For example, the attorney or manager must not have an interest that could prevent them from advocating as vigorously as possible or acting with unobstructed loyalty. Conflicts of interest could arise from representation of other musicians that compete directly with the client in a certain genre or location. Or the agent might have monetary interests in or represent a third party such as a record label with which the client negotiates or does business. The manager or lawyer may not unscrupulously tie their own financial benefit to the client’s professional success.

A lawyer may also commit malpractice if they draft, recommend or negotiate contracts for the client that are deficient. For example, an agreement may be missing important terms, be ambiguous, have provisions out of sync with industry standards or that benefit the agent unbeknownst to the client-musician.

This only scratches the surface of potential malpractice scenarios in professional representation of a musician or singer. Consultation with a legal malpractice lawyer is advised for any concerned musician.