This Entertainment Lawyer Started Her Own Firm To Help Black Creatives

Workin’ Girl

Entrepreneurship ain't nothing new, but more and more people are opting out of a 9-5 to become entrepreneurs and with information becoming more accessible, it makes it easier for people to act on it.


Social media has also played a significant part in the entrepreneur lifestyle. To an audience of entrepreneurs and non-entrepreneurs alike, this certain lifestyle looks sexy and glamorous while not only enticing others to want that way of life, but actually try to achieve it right away, overlooking the proper steps necessary to take in order to have success as a business owner. But in order to make sure you don't make those common mistakes, we have enlisted some professional assistance.

Meet Desiree L. Talley, Esquire, attorney and founder of The Talley Law Group in NYC.

After working for major corporations, such as Turner Entertainment Network, Pandora, and Viacom, Desiree opened up her own law firm with the primary goal to help creatives of color protect their work.

Growing up in the Bay area, Desiree never really saw many successful African-Americans and so it was television that gave her a glimpse into her future. Watching characters from prominent Black TV shows like "Joan" from Girlfriends and "Teri" from Soul Food introduced her to law, but an episode of My Super Sweet 16 made her want to be an entertainment lawyer. "There was a Black man on there and he was an entertainment attorney. And he worked with celebrities and had this big flashy house and that's when I made the connection that I could become a entertainment lawyer and combine my true passion," she shared with xoNecole.

After graduating from Hampton University, Desiree moved to New York City, attended law school and began a successful law career. Along with her law practice, she is also the co-host of the PopLaw podcast where they discuss celebrity legal cases and breakdown the laws around it. Being that African-Americans only make up 7% of lawyers, she also makes it a point to mentor younger lawyers of color by being that person that she didn't have in law school.

Recently, Desiree opened up to xoNecole about starting her law practice and gave some advice for black creatives who want to start their own businesses:

What inspired you to start your own law firm?

I decided to open my own law firm because I was feeling a little stagnant and I wasn't getting a lot of work that I wanted to get at my job. I knew I had a lot more to contribute but I wasn't getting the opportunities and the chance so I found myself not being happy going to work and [I began] dreading to go and I found myself not liking the work I was doing. So with different groups that I'm involved in in NYC and having a lot of friends on the creative side, I just started seeing that a lot of them needed help and they didn't know how to start a business or protect their work.

From being on the corporate side, I saw how when you create something, companies just take it because you just put it on social media and then they get inspired by what some Black creatives create. That's when I knew it was time for me to leave my job and start my own law company and to help my friends.

Instagram/@Desiree_Talley

"I saw how when you create something, companies just take it because you just put it on social media and then they get inspired by what some Black creatives create. That's when I knew it was time for me to leave my job and start my own law company."

What services does your firm provide?

I help register different trademarks and copyrights for my clients. I create standard business forms if they're trying to start their business and they need something in particular. I also do a lot of contract review if they are in partnerships with different companies or with friends, and I also do negotiations for my clients as well.

What has been the most challenging part of your journey?

I thought it was going to be a fast process. I expected to have my business and all the paperwork done at the top of the year and it took longer than I expected. It was a learning curve, learning the paperwork you have to fill out, determining if I wanted to make it a LLC or corporation for different types of tax purposes. Those were the main things and then there were costs that I didn't expect to have. I thought it was gonna be very simple for me to just read the corporation paperwork but it was harder than I expected and took more time than I expected.

"I expected to have my business and all the paperwork done at the top of the year and it took longer than I expected. It was a learning curve."

What is the #1 mistake people make in starting a business?

Not researching the market very well. I think a lot of times people just have an idea and they wanna go for it and they're excited but they don't understand who their competitors are, they don't research if a business has a similar name, and they don't have any trademarks or start up costs available to them. They just put it out and I think that works sometimes but when you're trying to turn your cash and creativity into a business, you can't do that.

What is your advice for going into business with a friend?

A lot of times I see partnerships with friends go wrong. There wasn't an understanding in the beginning regarding profit and who pays for what, the different roles and responsibilities that each person has, and some people may be upset that some people are getting social media or print media shine as opposed to the other one, so these types of things I deal with often.

A lot of people just go off of friendship, but you want the friendship to last, so have these hard discussions in the beginning and if you're uncomfortable, then bring a third party in to do it on your behalf so you can maintain the friendship even during business. Understand that you can go into business with a friend but definitely have those conversations in the beginning. That's why a lot of people say don't do it because they don't have those conversations when doing business with a friend.

Highlight the roles and responsibilities and you do that by simply pulling out a piece of paper and say, 'You're gonna do this and that.' If [we] are making money, are we splitting the money? Are we putting the money back into the business? You can write everything down on a piece of paper and have both sign it and that's a binding contract.

How should an entrepreneur determine their salary?

I think it depends on – one, is this your full time job? Do you need a salary? How much is the business making? Is it more important to grow the business or give yourself some money? It depends on the type of business but for me, I'd just put all the money back into the business.

You might need marketing, there might be printing, mailing. If you have a website, then you have to pay the fees for the website so it's kinda just determining the money you have in upfront costs and ongoing costs and if you can physically do it. Then again, it depends on the business. [For example], are you selling a product or is it service-based?

Keep up with Desiree on Instagram @desiree_talley or check out her website Talleylawgroup.net! You can also check out her podcast here.

Answers have been shortened for clarity.

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