In a novel twist, introducing yet another facet of globalization in legal services, a Hollywood entertainment lawyer and client of an Indian legal process outsourcing company has joined the LPO's parent law firm and is helping that firm expand its practice. This is another example of how offshore legal outsourcing has helped a Western law firm grow, rather than decrease the firm's headcount or revenues.
India-based SDD Global Solutions is already known for the legal work it does for major Hollywood film and television studios and other entertainment clients, thanks to its involvement in high-profile projects like "Borat" and "Bruno," and the much-publicized Los Angeles court victories the LPO helped win. SDD Global already has received 14 screen credits in films and television series. Most of the company's work involved sophisticated legal research and the drafting of legal memoranda and court papers. The high-value nature of the work may be one reason the company has been ranked the #1 outsourcing company in India, the UK, and the US, ahead of 2,700 other providers, according to the most recent survey of 6,547 clients by the Black Book of Outsourcing.
But behind the accolades and headlines, SDD Global has been developing a strong capability and track record in yet another arena: the drafting of a full range of contracts for film, television, and other media and corporate clients.
Now, SDD Global's offshore legal process outsourcing work in these sectors is getting a major boost, as one of its clients, veteran Hollywood entertainment lawyer Jeff Holmes, has joined SDD Global's parent law firm, SmithDehn LLP, allowing the firm to open an office in Los Angeles for the first time. The addition of Holmes complements the work SmithDehn and SDD Global have done for an already growing Hollywood clientele, which has included many of the largest players in the entertainment business.
Abhinav Chandan, head of SDD Global's Commercial Transactions Department and a key member of its contract-drafting team in the film and television industries, speaks about this development as follows: "Adding our client Jeff Holmes to our parent law firm in Los Angeles helps us get and perform more work for Hollywood. We look forward to working closely with Jeff as he helps further expand our already growing transactional capabilities."
Indeed, parallel with this latest move, significant television and film production companies already have reached out to SmithDehn LLP to obtain low-cost, high-quality, contract-drafting work relating to deals with U.S. broadcasters and distributors, using the offshore legal outsourcing services of SDD Global. Says Chandan: "This adds to our confidence that Jeff's involvement will increase the variety of media and entertainment related work we do."
Credentials of Holmes Are Impressive
Holmes brings to the table considerable experience in every aspect of legal work for television and film production companies and projects. As Executive Vice President of MGM Worldwide Television, Vice President for Business Affairs at Twentieth Century Fox, and COO and Executive Vice President of Skouras Pictures, and in the course of his later private practice, Holmes has become an expert in the field.
At MGM, where the Chairman of the Board publicly described Jeff as the company’s “superstar," Holmes reported directly to the President and was responsible for all legal aspects of the company's television division. In particular, Holmes negotiated and oversaw the administration of TV output and volume licensing agreements (including such deals as the renewal of the MGM/Showtime pay-TV output agreement in the United States — one of the largest deals in MGM’s history). Holmes also helped establish and supervise the administration of MGM's interests in basic and pay TV channels in Latin America (CineCanal, Telecine, and MGM Networks Latin America), Portugal (Telecine Portugal), Japan (Star Channel), Australia (Optus), Israel (TelAd), India (Zee), and Turkey (Digiturk). Holmes also negotiated co-production and acquisition agreements for films and TV series, supervised and resolved the day-to-day issues of MGM's TV and advertising sales offices in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Toronto, London, Sydney, and Hong Kong, and handled issues involving MGM’s Technical Services, Rights Clearance, and Contract Administration departments.
At Twentieth Century Fox, Holmes created and implemented a program to acquire distribution rights to independent feature films, negotiated and drafted TV output agreements throughout the world, negotiated and drafted co-production and format agreements, administered acquisition of third party libraries (involving a wide variety of contract, collection, and agency issues), and supervised in-house counsel.
At Skouras Pictures, the distributor of acclaimed films such as “My Life As A Dog,” "The Comfort of Strangers," and "Blood Simple," Holmes reported directly to the CEO, and managed all aspects of production, acquisition, distribution, financial planning, business affairs, and legal functions. Holmes also was a member of the Board of Directors, participated in taking the company public, and negotiated and implemented a wide variety of agreements, including pay, pay-per-view, syndication, and basic television agreements, international sub-distribution licenses, an acquisition and distribution agreement with Paramount Pictures (under which about 30 first-run films were acquired and distributed), a series of joint venture acquisition and distribution agreements, financing agreements, and an asset purchase agreement for the sale of the company's film library. Holmes also oversaw motion picture production (including the negotiation of interparty agreements, talent negotiations, and budget review), and prepared and implemented significant overhead reductions, while liaising with outside counsel, auditors, producers, sub-distributors, and lenders.
SDD Global's Wide Range of Transactional Services
As discussed above, SDD Global has been developing its contract-drafting and other business transactional capabilities for years, especially in the areas of film, television, and other media. As production budgets have shrunk due to cost-cutting pressures, offshore legal outsourcing with SDD Global has become a welcome means of reducing legal expenses. In some situations, the role of SDD Global has made the difference in allowing otherwise too expensive independent film and television projects to go ahead. Below is a list of the types of legal services that SDD Global provides (sometimes with Western lawyers at its parent law firm stepping in where legal advice is necessary):
- research/reports on US compliance issues
- litigation and/or litigation support
- out-of-court resolution of claims
- AccuMark title searches/reports
- title opinions
- other legal opinions/clearances
- trademark and copyright registrations
- production agreements
- commissioning agreements
- talent agreements
- writers' agreements
- director's agreements
- actors' agreements
- music producer's agreements
- cinematographer's agreements
- casting agreements
- location agreements
- appearance consent agreements
- deal memos in advance of agreements
- insurance agreements
- soundtrack agreements
- all types of licensing agreements
- music/composition agreements
- stills/clips agreements
- online channel streaming agreements
- same for other 3rd party platforms
- sales/acquisition agreements
- chain of title searches/reports
- distribution agreements
- financing agreements/PPMs
- agreements for live shows/performances
- first look agreements
- option agreements
- U.S. work permits/visas
- crew deal memos/agreements
- presenter's agreements
- shareholder agreements
- completion bond agreements
- E&O and other insurance applications
- lab access letters
- bank mandates
Many people in the Western legal world associate offshore legal outsourcing exclusively with lower-level, lower-value work such as document coding, contract review, and the like. The expansion of SDD Global into new areas of high-end work, even beyond the sophisticated legal research and the drafting of court papers by which the company first made its mark, is yet another reason for the legal industry to take notice of how "LPO" can move, and already is moving, up the value chain.