Not every career path for law school graduates is a cookie-cutter experience.Esoteric Magazine caught up with Bill Allman, one of our venerable course instructors for entertainment law at UBC, to get the scoop on his wayward career roadmap and parting advice.
Eosteric: How did you get your start in the business?
Bill Allman graduated with an LL.B. in 1991 from UBC after completing a B.A. in history. Unlike most law students entering the profession, however, he didn’t initially follow the prescribed professional route. Instead, he held numerous positions in the entertainment industry, ranging from band manager to concert promotion; one of his main clients was a re-unified Vancouver legend, the Seeds of Time (which had morphed into Prism during the 70s and 80s). After a stint in concert production for a well-renowned hippie festival, he subsequently moved in-house at the Vogue Theatre as operations, house, and later general manager. Over the course of his four years there, A the Vogue brought in top acts such as No Doubt, Sheryl Crow, and “Weird Al” Yankovic’s first tour; indeed, Bill oversaw some of the theatre’s best years, where it debuted the Vagina Monologues in Vancouver and held the first appearance of ‘Stomp’ after its debut at the Academy Awards.
Following his (enviably exciting) management and production stints, Bill finally decided to grow up and into his legal career, and in 1997 articled at a small firm whose principal he met through a psychedelic poster artist connection (!). A He worked on files in areas such as family, immigration, and a bit of criminal while bringing in entertainment law clients. His heart wasn’t really in the work, though, and finding articling a wholly unsatisfying experience, Bill subsequently took a wayward route again and joined the board of Theatre Under the Stars. This proved to be an excellent career move, for under his ever-pithy motto “we can’t afford to suck any more,” Bill revamped the company’s programme and within the year, became President of the company. In the years he stayed on at the company, Bill also juggled work teaching at private career colleges, producing live events, and providing legal contract services. He subsequently ended up at Infinity Films as unit manager and in-house counsel; Infinity, a mainstream, broadcast and feature film production company, produced critically-acclaimed work such as the Gemini Award-winning documentary on Ben Johnson the sprinter, “Race of the Century: Ben Johnson, Drugs and the Quest for Gold.” A Proving to be a true multitasking master, Bill continued to juggle additional work in title and script clearance research, contract work for Convergent Entertainment, spec script writing from comedies to dramas, writing and producing a short film showcase, and producing a popular model contest made for TV known as “How Far Will You Go?” which focused on Vancouver’s Search for the Next Gay Top Model.
Esoteric: How did your J.D. help you in the business and what advice would you provide J.D. students seeking a similar career path?
Amongst his many talents and career accomplishments, Bill realized very early on that writing was his great passion. While the practice of law didn’t directly correlate with this passion, it led him to become a better writer. He found the process of law, essentially distilled, a profession where “we get to make stuff up”! But seriously, the very mission in front of judge and opposing counsel is to keep them engaged, be concise, and determine the best way to construct your client’s story much as with good writing. While the traditional practice of law did not prove to be his destiny, Bill found his legal background often provided him with useful contacts in the entertainment business and gave him that extra boost of credibility in the realm of managers and lawyers for all of the diverse positions he has held throughout his career. Outside of this realm, however, when it came time to engage with talent, he didn’t always find it useful to drop his credentials to artists whose focus was on the creative process. Nevertheless, negotiating between different styles when dealing with legal professionals and clients is an acquired art form learned through experience, irrespective of which area one ends up practicing in. If his personal story reveals anything, the chief advice Bill has for J.D. students is not to believe the oft-beaten path is the only way to go with your law degree. As he puts it, always pursue something you’re passionate about, rather than buying into someone else’s story and in turn you’ll “excel as a star and not a bit player” in career and life.