Robert Darwell

Robert Darwell Photo by Ringo Chiu.

The Business Journal raises the curtain on the legal stars who work in L.A.’s entertainment industry.


FIRM: Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton

LAW SCHOOL: Georgetown University

CLIENTS: Disney, Focus Features, Pathé, Screen Gems, City National Bank, ABC Cable, Comcast, L.A. Clippers, Amgen, Juilliard School.

Robert Darwell’s career as an entertainment lawyer started with a term paper in his second year as a law student at Georgetown University. As a new father, he decided to write his assignment for entertainment law class on show business kids. The article was picked up and published in a legal journal and within weeks, several law firms came recruiting, looking for someone to fill their burgeoning entertainment practices.

“I went into Georgetown wanting to specialize in international trade law,” said Darwell. “But the response to that term paper changed everything. Once I saw the need for entertainment lawyers, I decided to make that my career.”

In 22 years as an entertainment lawyer, Darwell has certainly made his mark, working on some of the industry’s biggest deals, such as Comcast’s acquisition of a majority interest in NBC Universal, Disney’s sale of its Miramax art house film unit and representing USA Networks in the sale of its entertainment assets to Vivendi Universal.

Darwell has also helped put together financing deals or provided other legal services for numerous films, including “21 Grams,” “Milk,” “Brokeback Mountain,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and “The Men Who Stare at Goats.”

Beyond the film industry, Darwell has expanded Sheppard Mullin’s sports practice; for the past two years, he’s served “of counsel” to the Los Angeles Clippers. And he launched the firm’s fashion and apparel practice, bringing in such clients as Gucci, Chanel, Versace and Cavalli.

He works in the firm’s Century City office and its New York site. Plus he spends a few weeks every quarter in an apartment in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that he and his family bought about five years ago.

“When we traveled there several years ago, we loved it so much that we decided to buy an apartment,” he said.

The Darwells have also traveled to some other exotic locales, including a trip to Iceland a couple years back.

“I’d like to get to Alaska sometime soon,” he said.

He also recently started to learn how to play polo. And he still loves music, a passion retained from childhood, when he was always urging friends and family to listen to certain hits on the radio.

“If I weren’t an attorney, I’d love to be a disc jockey in various locales around the world,” he said.

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