Matthew Miller was working for a boutique estate planning firm in Chicago when he packed up his car and drove to Los Angeles with aspirations of working in entertainment law.
“I took a snapshot of where I wanted to be in ten years. I was a huge film and music guy—movie theaters and concerts were my escape,” he remembers. If he was going to put in the hours and expend the mental energy necessary to be a lawyer, he wanted to practice in an area that sparked his passion. To Miller, that meant he needed to be in Los Angeles.
Mission accomplished. Today Miller is corporate counsel at Amazon where he heads up the legal group supporting the day-to-day operations of MGM Studios’ global consumer products and experiences business. When the young estate planning attorney arrived in Los Angeles in 2006, he had one entertainment law class under his belt and no job prospects. “I was not dialed in by any means,” Miller says of the city and industry where relationships are king. In hindsight, it might have been a bit reckless.
“I’m confident my parents thought I was absolutely crazy,” Miller reflects. “It was such a good position I left . . . the partners were great lawyers and even better human beings, and I felt they were grooming me to lead the firm one day.”
To establish a safety net, Miller enrolled in an LLM program in entertainment and media law and worked remotely for the firm he’d just left. But a series of informational interviews yielded no jobs and few leads. “These are coveted positions,” Miller notes. It didn’t matter that he got his JD from Northwestern or that he worked for reputable firms in Chicago, instead it came down to one fact: Miller did not have the experience to offer entertainment legal services immediately.
With his savings waning, Miller thought he would have to head back to Chicago and resume his work in estate planning. Feeling he had nothing to lose, Miller emailed the managing partner of the first firm he worked at—someone he hadn’t spoken to in years. “His background was in civil litigation, so I’m not certain what I was expecting in terms of a response, or that he’d respond at all, but he once told me to reach out if I needed anything, so I did.”
To Miller’s surprise, he received an immediate response and was connected to a former Paramount attorney, who in turn got him another informational interview, only this one was with an MGM attorney who’d become his boss for the next sixteen years. “A month later, and I would have been back in Chicago,” Miller adds.
In his current role, Miller is the head attorney responsible for structuring, and overseeing the contracting process and operations for, all initiatives related to MGM Studios’ global consumer products and experiences business, including video games and integrations, digital collectibles, traditional merchandising, publishing, and location-based entertainment. Miller is particularly fond of the work he does in the video game space, where he negotiates complex licensing arrangements for the use of MGM’s IP in fully branded video games, like the recent Creed VR game and the rerelease of GoldenEye 007, and for integrations into existing third-party games, like when you see RoboCop appear for a limited time in your child’s favorite battle royale game.
Such deals tend to be heavily negotiated. “I love them,” Miller says. “It’s cool to be able work on these world-renowned franchises that I’m also a huge fan of personally, like James Bond, and to help bring to market new products and experiences featuring the IP that keep fans engaged beyond the film release window.”
While working to help his business clients get products and experiences to consumers quickly, Miller notes that protecting MGM’s IP remains front and center.
“Because consumer products and experiences represent only a subset of rights for an individual film or franchise, you need to be careful that you don’t end up compromising to get a particular deal done and then come out of that deal with lesser rights in the overall IP than when you went in,” he explains. “It sounds simple in theory, but when you are negotiating a video game deal that involves the intellectual property of multiple parties, you need to be on your A game. The last thing you want is for your video game deal to prevent the creative executives from being able to do something in the franchise’s next film.”
Luck played a significant role in Miller fulfilling his dream, but his well-honed networking skills shouldn’t be discounted. “Networking didn’t always come natural to me,” he admits. “I’m a personable guy, but I’m also not comfortable asking people for things. I realized over the years that if you don’t ask people for things, they won’t know what you want or how to help.”
When mentoring younger lawyers, Miller stresses the importance of networking, which he describes as a “never-ending process,” seeking out mentors and asking for help when you need it. Miller also notes that the practice of law often feels like a fear-based profession.
“As a lawyer you’re expected to have answers and be right. There’s not a lot of room for ‘I don’t know,’” he says. He advises young lawyers to balance that fear by taking calculated risks and believing in their own capabilities. “Practicing law can be humbling. Don’t give yourself too many high fives, but don’t kick yourself too much either. No matter what, just stick it out.”
InfoLawGroup is built on client relationships, like our longstanding partnership with MGM. We are proud to work alongside Matt Miller and the entire MGM legal team.