California Lawyers Association

CLA Sponsors Legislation to Remove Unnecessary Restrictions on Your Ability to Practice Law

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By Michele B. Brown and Saul Bercovitch

On February 16, 2024, AB 2989 (Wallis) was introduced. The legislation would exempt an attorney licensed under the State Bar Act from the requirement of being licensed under the Talent Agencies Act (TAA). California Lawyers Association (CLA) sponsored the legislation and will work on getting it enacted this year. 


The TAA, Labor Code Section 1700, et seq., is California’s statutory scheme that governs the licensing and regulation of talent agents. Under the Labor Commissioner’s interpretation of the TAA, a licensed attorney is not authorized to negotiate an employment contract on behalf of an “artist” (as defined under the TAA) without also being licensed as a talent agent, even though the attorney would be authorized to provide these exact same services for any other client. Limited exceptions apply if the attorney is 1) acting in conjunction with, and at the request of, a licensed talent agency in the negotiation of the employment contract, or 2) engaged in activities of procuring “recording contracts” for an artist.

The Labor Commissioner’s interpretation of the TAA is contrary to the legislative history indicating that licensed attorneys were not required to be licensed under the TAA, which was aimed at unlicensed individuals, and that regulating the conduct of attorneys under the TAA would be unnecessary duplication.

AB 2989 would eliminate unnecessary licensing and regulatory requirements for attorneys. The bill would also benefit consumers (artists) by expanding their options and potentially reducing costs. An artist could still choose to hire a licensed talent agent to negotiate their employment contract, but that choice would no longer be limited and the artist would have the option of hiring an attorney to perform that service, without the need for the attorney to act in conjunction with a licensed talent agency. There is no sound reason to single out artists as a unique class of clients who are restricted in making this choice. There is no sound reason to add a second layer of licensing to California attorneys—who are already required to pass the California Bar Examination to obtain a license to practice law and are then subject to an extensive regulatory and disciplinary scheme—simply because they are negotiating an employment contract for an artist. 

Current Law

In 2013, the Labor Commissioner issued a decision in Solis v. Blancarte, TAC-27089 (Cal. Lab. Comm’n. Sept. 30, 2013) finding that an attorney who negotiated the terms of employment agreements for his client attempted to procure and procured employment for the client within the meaning of the TAA and, because the attorney did not have a talent agency license, he was in violation of the TAA. The Labor Commissioner further found that the TAA does not contain or recognize an exemption for duly licensed attorneys. In 2017, the Labor Commissioner followed the reasoning of Solis v. Blancarte in Doughty v. Hess, TAC 39547 (Cal. Lab. Comm’n. April 4, 2017).

The Solis decision has been criticized. (see, e.g., Tyler J. Emerson, Litigators and Dealmakers: A Comprehensive Critique of the California Labor Commission’s Solis Decision and the Talent Agencies Act in the Context of the 2018-2019 WGA-ATA Packaging Dispute, 43 Hastings Comm. & Ent. L.J. 1 (2021)). The decision has also created uncertainty about the ability of licensed attorneys to negotiate agreements for artists without also being licensed as a talent agent or acting in conjunction with, and at the request of, a licensed talent agency.

The Solution

AB 2989 would resolve the uncertainty created by the Labor Commissioner’s interpretation of the TAA and eliminate an unnecessary licensing requirement by creating an explicit statutory exemption in the TAA for attorneys licensed under the State Bar Act.

What You Can Do to Assist

If you are interested in supporting CLA’s efforts to get AB 2989 enacted, getting involved in other ways with CLA’s advocacy efforts, or obtaining additional information on those efforts, please contact Saul Bercovitch, CLA’s Associate Executive Director, Governmental Affairs.

If you would like to have a front-row seat to advocate in favor of AB 2989, explore other pressing issues facing the legal profession, interact with key decision makers regarding legislative changes on the horizon, and add your voice to make a difference, join us in Sacramento on April 3 for CLA’s annual Legislative Day. Last year’s event SOLD OUT! Register now so you don’t miss this opportunity. 

Michele B. Brown is Chair of CLA’s Governmental Affairs Committee and serves on CLA’s Board of Representatives for the Family Law Section. Saul Bercovitch is CLA’s Associate Executive Director, Governmental Affairs.

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