MICHAEL R. MORRIS, 56
FIRM: Valensi Rose PLC
LAW SCHOOL: University of Arizona
CLIENTS: La Toya Jackson, Alice Cooper, Monte De Oro Winery, Dr. Zein Obagi
Tax law and rock ’n’ roll peacefully co-exist in the practice of Michael Morris.
Based in the Century City offices of Valensi Rose, Morris has crafted a career that mixes his skill in dealing with the Internal Revenue Service and his passion for music.
His favorite case was the sale of Six Palms Music and Third Story Music to Fuji Media Holdings. The transaction involved such well-known tunes as the ballad “Hey Joe” and Tom Waits’ “Till the Money Runs Out.”
“It was an excellent combination of tax issues, music publishing rights and songs of cultural importance,” Morris said.
Morris is one of those people who saw the direction of his life at an early age. He joined Future Lawyers of America as a 14-year-old in Livingston, N.J. After graduating from law school at the University of Arizona in 1978, he worked as a trial lawyer at the IRS for five years before making the jump to private practice.
During law school he managed a jazz club in Tucson. When he moved to Los Angeles, it was natural to find clientele among the city’s record labels, promoters and performers.
Morris called himself “a closet rock singer” because clients occasionally invite him to jam sessions, where he takes the microphone and “rocks out.”
But the highlight of Morris’ career came when he represented the investors in a winery.
The case started when a client called about the deal. He had already put his money into plans for a Temecula winery, but when Morris read the documents, he grew suspicious. More research uncovered that the project was fraudulent and Morris then wound up representing 60 investors.
Morris settled the case and had the land that was involved transferred to the investors. After Morris read the settlement in a meeting with the plaintiffs at the Temecula Valley Inn, all 60 investors stood up and applauded. They later turned the land into the Monte De Oro Winery. They’re now waiting for their first grape harvest.
“It was a very gratifying moment that you don’t see often in the legal profession,” Morris said. “You hear all these lawyer jokes, but I’ve done a lot of good for people.”
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