Los Angeles, CA – Imagine attending a graduate school class while traveling on a business flight from Los Angeles to New York. That’s what attorney Michael Campolo often did while completing his LL.M. degree at Southwestern Law School. As Vice President of Labor Relations at Fox Group Legal, he wanted to obtain as much knowledge related to entertainment and media law as possible in a short duration of time. At Southwestern’s 2012 Commencement ceremony in May, he was a member of the first class to graduate from the new Entertainment and Media Law LL.M. Online Program.

In a world of mass market entertainment, globalization and 24-hour news cycles, it has become essential to meld traditional education with technology, both on and off campus. Through its Donald E. Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute, Southwestern was the first law school in the United States to establish an LL.M. in Entertainment and Media Law in 2002. The program is designed to prepare the next generation of effective and talented entertainment, media, and intellectual property lawyers. The 2010 launch of the Entertainment and Media Law LL.M. Online Program provides the opportunity for students to attend these classes from anywhere in the world. In partnership with Kaplan Legal Education, Southwestern’s  LL.M. also became the first online program in entertainment and media law.

San Diego-based solo practitioner Brandon S. Sand knew he made the right choice to pursue his LL.M. degree online. “I chose Southwestern because of its reputation for having a fantastic entertainment law program,” he said. “My interest in intellectual property and entertainment law was initially piqued while attending law school for my J.D. After researching programs to further my studies, there was no competition. Southwestern was the right choice.”

The program gives attorneys worldwide the opportunity to benefit from the talent and expertise of Southwestern’s Los Angeles-based faculty. With the diverse and evolving challenges of the Digital and Information Age, the entertainment and media industries  are more complex and exciting than ever before and present a myriad of opportunities for attorneys who practice – and aspire to practice - in these fields. 

Campolo’s Southwestern experience exceeded his expectations. “I have enjoyed the fact that I use some pieces of information from the program on a daily basis in my professional work,” he said. “I had no idea how much relevant information I would receive in the program nor did I fully appreciate how I would immediately apply the knowledge I gained.”

Online courses are broken up into 15-week modules. While they are encouraged to stay on the most current module, students have the option of doing course work at their own pace. This creates significant flexibility, especially when one strives to keep ahead in the program. Each module has reading assignments, lectures, and often extra resources such as video clips, web resources, etc. Additionally, many modules have some form of quiz/written exam.

Periodically, live classes are scheduled where students have the opportunity to interact with professors in a chat room with live sound. “I have found these sessions valuable since they always provide additional insight and more in-depth analysis of the current topics,” Campolo said. But he also appreciated the chance to get ahead or catch up when he needed to. He explained, “Having the ability to log in at any time of the day to listen to lectures and receive feedback was of critical importance to me.”

The chat room also functions as a whiteboard so that the professor may bring in course materials. If a student cannot participate in a particular live class due to scheduling conflicts, the class is available as an audio/visual presentation for viewing at a later date.

Drawing on the resources and activities of the Biederman Institute, Southwestern has an outstanding entertainment and media law faculty. Students in the Entertainment and Media Law LL.M. Online Program interact with these professors in a virtual classroom in which materials are more quickly updated, and the array of visual and audio works used by professors help make the online classes directly relevant to the issues. “My favorite class was Internet and E-Commerce Law with Professor Michael Scott,” Sand said. “I found the course material to be extremely enjoyable and valuable. No matter what area of law an attorney may practice, Internet issues will arise. This course covered a broad range of stimulating topics that have already benefited me in my practice.”

Southwestern has partnered with Kaplan Legal Education (KLE) for the optimal online law student experience. The KLE proprietary Learning Management System (LMS) is an online delivery system developed specifically to support a robust and interactive legal education. Each student receives a customized home page to access their courses and connect with all the people, services, and administrative offices in Southwestern’s virtual hallways.

Now that these lawyers have completed their Online LL.M. programs at Southwestern, they hope to take their respective careers to the next level. “I hope to transition from solo practice to an in-house position where I will have the opportunity to work on the diverse entertainment issues that the program has trained me for,” Sand said.

Although Campolo is quite satisfied in his current work situation and would simply like to grow and learn more, he also wants to help aspiring independent documentary filmmakers work their way through the complexities of the industry. “I think that law school certainly provides for the nuts and bolts required for the practice of law,” Campolo said. “Whereas, an LL.M program provides for a much deeper concentration and understanding of a particular area of law, and I think it is worth every bit of effort.  I give the program an A+.”