Usman Shaikh is the Founder and Managing Partner of U.S. Law Group, a boutique law firm providing innovative legal solutions in corporate and business, entertainment and media, and intellectual property transactions and litigation. Before forming the U.S. Law Group, Usman was at ICM Partners, a leading talent agency in Hollywood, working with business affairs. His business-minded, interdisciplinary approach allows him to leverage his relationships with executives and businesses to provide his clients with rewarding opportunities.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Usman Shaikh shares what brought him to the U.S.
- Why Usman decided to pursue a career in law — and how it led to the entertainment industry
- The competitive nature of the entertainment industry
- Usman’s experience starting his own firm
- U.S. Law Group’s pivotal moment
- Representing yourself and your client in the entertainment industry
In this episode…
With hard work and determination, anyone is capable of starting their own business. While the same is true for the legal and entertainment industry, not everyone can withstand the pressures of the competition. How can you build a law firm and develop the right connections that help you stand out from your competitor?
Usman Shaikh, a former Wall Street attorney, decided to start his own law firm upon noticing small entertainment businesses were unable to afford the same representation as multi-billion dollar corporations. He opted to stray from the traditional business model and offered flexible fee structures while providing quality legal services. Usman’s experience as a seasoned attorney allowed him to build a respected law firm representing individuals and companies within the entertainment industry. His insight and wisdom are beneficial to other industry professionals wanting to start their own businesses.
In this episode of 15 Minutes, Chad Franzen sits down with Usman Shaikh, Founder and Managing Partner of U.S. Law Group, to discuss the challenges he experienced when starting his law firm. He also talks about how his career aligns with the entertainment industry, a pivotal moment for U.S. Law Group, and how to conduct yourself while representing your client.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- Chad Franzen on LinkedIn
- Gladiator Law Marketing
- Usman Shaikh on LinkedIn
- U.S. Law Group
- U.S. Law Group’s phone number: New York: 212.634.4545 ; Beverly Hills: 877.299.6799
- U.S. Law Group’s email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, where we deliver tailor-made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential.
To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI, your firm needs to have a better website and better content. At Gladiator Law Marketing, we use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and decades of experience to outperform the competition.
Chad Franzen 0:01
You’re listening to 15 Minutes, where we feature community leaders sharing what the rest of us should know but likely don’t. Hi, Chad Franzen here one of the hosts of Share Your Voice where we talk with top notch law firms and lawyers about what it takes to grow a successful law practice. This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, delivering tailor made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential to have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI. Your firm needs to have a better website and better content. Gladiator Law Marketing uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and decades of experience to outperform the competition. To learn more, go to gladiatorlawmarketing.com and schedule a free marketing consultation. Usman Shaikh is the Founder and Managing Partner of U.S. Law Group, a boutique boutique law firm, with offices in Beverly Hills and New York City whose mind founded his practice on entertainment and corporate transactions and is proudly a first generation American. He was one thanks for joining me today. How are you?
Usman Shaikh 1:06
God? Thanks for having me. Yeah, great to have you. Hey,
Chad Franzen 1:12
as we get started here, tell me a little bit about your childhood and what brought you to the US.
Usman Shaikh 1:15
Um, I came to the US as a young child with my parents, I didn’t have much say in that. I was just, you know, six, seven years old. My family immigrated just like many other first generation immigrants for a better life in the US, for their kids to be able to have the opportunities that the United States supports.
Chad Franzen 1:39
Right? So how did you learn English?
Usman Shaikh 1:42
We are not I learned English from watching cartoons. I, you’ll find that as a child, you know, you pick up English or any language pretty quickly as especially if it’s spoken regularly. So by watching a lot of TV, I was able to pick up English of course, I was in ESL, which is English a second language courses in grade school, but it was through the interactions of Saturday morning cartoons where I really learned English and perfected it.
Chad Franzen 2:11
Was there one cartoon that you give particular credit to?
Usman Shaikh 2:16
There’s quite a few I don’t want to age myself as a child of the 80s. You know, he man, GI Joe Thundercats things of that nature.
Chad Franzen 2:25
There you go. Very nice. Hey, what made you decide you wanted to become an attorney?
Usman Shaikh 2:30
Well, interestingly enough, I didn’t know I wanted to be an attorney. My both my parents are in the medical field. All of our cousins and extended family are in science and mathematics and engineering. When I was in undergraduate at Rutgers, I was actually pre med because that’s something that my parents were pushing me towards, again, very immigrant kind of mentality going into medicine, things that are considered safe. Now, interestingly enough, my mother was, before she started her career in medicine was an actress back in our home country, and I in high school, dabbled in theater in college, I got a minor degree in theater, I modeled in New York City in my late teens, early 20s. So I kind of knew that medicine really wasn’t the field for me. And at the same time, my parents being, you know, these first generation immigrants wouldn’t allow me to go into the entertainment field to become an actor, or producer, or director or whatever that might be. So the legal profession actually was a happy medium where my parents were happy and satisfied that I was going to have a career that was considered safe. And I knew that it was a career that offers a lot of opportunity. You can go become an attorney and work on Wall Street, which I ended up actually doing, or come out to Hollywood and work in the entertainment industry, which I always had a passion for. That’s obviously what I’m doing now.
Chad Franzen 3:57
Tell me about your law school experience. Law
Usman Shaikh 4:01
school, I went to the University of Pennsylvania Law School. It’s the same school where our former President Donald Trump plan in fact, Ivanka Trump was in my in my class, not albeit in law school, but at the University of Pennsylvania. It was a very rigorous, you know, cutthroat type of environment. But I really thrive in that I’m a very competitive person, and being around peers that are striving for such excellence. Now, it drove me to be the best I could be now at University of Pennsylvania Law School, along with other Ivy League type of schools, that the pressure is to work at what we call Big law. These are the big law firms in the country or worldwide and get one of these cushy jobs working at 1000 Plus law firm, it’s not geared towards trying to especially at that time, I should say maybe things have change, maybe going out and founding your own company or starting your own law practice or working at a tech startup or going into government work or becoming a public defender, things that like those types of jobs are not really pushed at these types of law schools. So I also was geared towards working at a big law firm, which ended up being Winston and Strawn in New York, 1000 plus law firm, I worked at their corporate department, it was a great training ground, great experience, great work environment, but you’re working, you have to build 2000 hours a year, which if you do the math, that’s billable hours, that means you’re basically working, you know, 6070 hours a week, which I was fine doing at that age. I mean, I was a young kid out of law school, and very, you know, kind of a gunner and wanted to work hard. But after a while, that takes a you know, it takes a toll on you. And the quality of life, you know, isn’t isn’t that great? So I kind of started within, by the time I became a fifth year associate, I started to look around and say, Hey, this is not what I want my life to be for the next 20 3040 years, whatever that’s going to be. So I had the opportunity when the actual actually when the great recession of 2006 2007 occurred, I was doing corporate transactions, a lot of the work I was doing was directly related to or affected by the recession. So it gave me a good opportunity to kind of look around and say, Hey, what is it that I really want to do with my life. And I always had, as I mentioned, a passion for the arts, and entertainment. And it was a good time for me to kind of just pack up and head to the West Coast LA, where I knew literally one person and kind of just start over and really get into the entertainment industry.
Chad Franzen 6:48
So you started your own practice out there.
Usman Shaikh 6:51
I first worked at a top five talent agency, not as an attorney, but as Agent trainee. So these are talent agents, you know, kind of like the show entourage, where, you know, it’s that kind of environment. Again, very cutthroat, very dog eat dog, and very, you know, fast paced environment. But you’re at the heart of the entertainment industry, while information in the entertainment business flows through the agency. So it’s a great training ground. So I did the agent training program for several years. And then being the entrepreneur that I am, I knew I wanted to do something on my own. And of course, I had this great legal background. And now I had this great knowledge of the entertainment industry. So I kind of just merged them and started my own law firm.
Chad Franzen 7:39
And when you say View, you described a law school and also this entertainment agency is cutthroat dog eat dog. Can you kind of give me some more context on that? What does that mean?
Usman Shaikh 7:50
Well, in the law school environment, it’s obviously you know, your rankings, your school rankings are very important. So everyone wants to be in the top 10, top five. So it’s, you know, everything from, you know, some underhanded things like, you know, people sabotaging each other and not sharing notes or information, you know, those types of stories. And at the, in the agency world, it’s, it’s also very cutthroat and competitive because as Agent trainees, everyone is trying to get promoted to become an agent. So there’s a and, you know, they always say, at these training, Agent training programs, that it’s the acceptance rates is harder, harder than getting into Harvard. So to get into, you know, WMV, or ca or ICBMs training program, it’s actually a very small pool of applicants who actually get accepted out of 1000s of people that apply every year. So once you’re accepted, now you have to go through the program to actually become an agent. So again, you see a lot of competitiveness, a lot of dog eat dog, you know, backstabbing and whatnot, but that comes with the territory.
Chad Franzen 9:06
So you decided to start your own practice. Tell me a little bit about that process and what the early days were like?
Usman Shaikh 9:12
Sure, I actually started the practice again, during the recession. It was an interesting time, because I actually recognized a paradigm shift in the legal industry at that time. Having come from big ball where, you know, you have 1000s of attorneys failing all the time, you know, and the hourly rates are, you know, partners or 1000s of dollars associates are hundreds of dollars an hour. It works for your clients or multi billion dollar corporations. It doesn’t work for startup clients or smaller businesses. So the paradigm shift that I noticed was that there was a need for top notch legal services, but clients weren’t willing to pay the tax. ordinary legal fees that they had become accustomed to, or even the hourly rate model. So when I started U.S. Law Group, my commitment was to client service to be able to provide top notch sophisticated legal services that are on par with big law. But to do it at a at a reasonable cost to the client with flexible fee structures, flat fees, deferred fees, things of that nature that especially our startup clients, you know, would be more happy with. And also, it was an interesting time, because that was also the time when a lot of venture capital money was coming into Los Angeles, Los Angeles, you’ve obviously heard of Silicon Valley, Los Angeles had something called Silicon Beach that was emerging at that time. So my background is a corporate lawyer who came from Wall Street and worked at these big law firms providing those types of services. But to start up clients who didn’t have the funding or didn’t have the financial resources to afford those types of law firms. It was a great match because they got the sophistication and the great legal work that we were able to provide, but at a fraction of the cost.
Chad Franzen 11:11
Was there anything as you kind of get started? You know, it’s one thing to work for somebody but kind of being in charge. Was there anything that you that stood out that maybe you didn’t know that you didn’t know, at the time,
Usman Shaikh 11:23
there were a lot of growing pains, I started this firm by myself, literally, out of you know, working out of the kitchen on a laptop. Now we have offices in New York, and here in Beverly Hills, we have started to be hired over the years other attorneys. So now there’s myself and three other senior level attorneys, we have a junior associate, we have a paralegal, we have law clerks. So the growing pains actually came with being able to manage I’m the managing attorney, obviously, it came with being able to manage and delegating duties, that was something I wasn’t used to, not having ever had a business of my own. I was very hands on, especially in the early days, when I was doing I was handling every single client, I was handling the billing, I was handling the backend, I was putting up the website, you know, the learning process was to be able to have a trusted team that you can delegate duty to and not micromanage and let them just run off with it. So now we have certain clients that certain attorneys at the firm are responsible for their we call they’re the point attorneys. I’m on the management side, I oversee everything, but I get my my colleagues the leeway to you know, make decisions on their own and handle the clients as they see fit.
Chad Franzen 12:39
What have been some of the biggest turning points as you’ve grown from, you know, as you said, working in your kitchen on a laptop.
Usman Shaikh 12:45
I think it was just building a reputation for stellar legal work. We are constantly given accolades and awards. I mean, I have here behind me an award that we recently received for best entertainment law firm for 2022. It’s the reputation that we built with our colleagues and clients, we do very little marketing, we don’t have a a team or any online SEO service, or we’re not out there. You know, paying a lot of money for advertising, where it’s a word of mouth. And we’re also very picky about the type of clients we work with. We’re not a, you know, a retail law firm, if you will, you can’t just call us and we’ll answer the phone and we’ll take you as a client, we have actually a vetting process. So all of our clients have actually come from other clients, but mostly referrals, either from existing clients or from our colleagues. And again, I think that’s because of our reputation.
Chad Franzen 13:42
Where did your first few clients come from?
Usman Shaikh 13:45
Those were through personal relationships. I was very fortunate that when I worked at ICM agent training program, I had built a good network within the entertainment industry. So a lot of our entertainment clients came from my relationships from ICM and the agent training program. And a lot of our corporate clients came from my time spent in New York as a corporate lawyer. So it was all relationships that I had cultivated over the years.
Chad Franzen 14:13
Is there one moment that you might look back upon that you’re particularly proud of maybe a big, big success or a career highlight?
Usman Shaikh 14:21
I think, in 2019, we had what I thought was a very pivotal moment in our law firm. We were hired by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as they were opening up to the west. So now you probably have seen on social media, they just had a very successful film festival. They had a very big concert recently with a lot of American and Western artists back in 2019. This was all new and they actually hand picked our law firm to help them navigate that and to open up and to make deals with artists and bring them over for concerts and live events. So in 2019 helped the Saudi government put together a concert, which was the first time that men and women were able to be together and dance in public, which at that time was actually forbidden. We also help them bring us actors and musicians for various events that opened up their country to the west, and also to showcase them to Hollywood as a preeminent place where business can be done.
Chad Franzen 15:28
Would you say our might be a mentor of yours, and what was what would be that person’s best piece of advice for you, or in general, you know, some mentors and their best pieces of advice for you.
Usman Shaikh 15:38
I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had many mentors throughout my career in the various fields that I was in, in New York, there were several senior partners, and even senior associates who really mentored me as a corporate attorney, when I worked at ICM, an agent training program, I had two or three bosses who were talent agents that I worked directly under. And they really mentored me, and I got to see how they handle themselves in the entertainment industry, which is a very unique industry. Obviously, when I started my own law practice, there was an attorney who unfortunately has passed away now, who really showed me how to run your own law firm. And a lot of these growing pains that I mentioned, I would call him up on the phone, and he would explain, you know, kind of guide me through. So his name was JJ Little. And he’s somebody that was very important.
Chad Franzen 16:36
You mentioned the entertainment industry being unique, what are some of the ways maybe that you have to handle yourself that might be different than in another industry,
Usman Shaikh 16:44
I think, in the entertainment industry, represent representation. And I mean, agents, managers, and lawyers, they have to conduct themselves in a way that reflect is reflective of their clients. So if you’re representing an A list actor, or a big production company, or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, you have to conduct yourself in a way that that represents your client. It’s a little bit different than for example, being a criminal defense attorney, you know, where your interaction with your clients is a little bit different. We also have our clients, also, our clients for hopefully, for life, I mean, some of the clients that I have, I got when I first started the law firm back into 2012, are still our clients 10 years later. That’s because we represent their business interests, their creative inspirations aspirations, throughout their career, whereas again, using that example of a criminal defense attorney or a personal injury attorney, it’s a little one off, you handle the client’s case, and then hopefully, a criminal defense contact, you never see your client again. But for us, it’s a little bit different. So I think it’s having the image and carrying yourself in a way that is reflective of your clients. It’s very important.
Chad Franzen 18:05
Sure, I have I have one more question for you. But first, how can people find out more about U.S. Law Group?
Usman Shaikh 18:10
Our website, www.uslawgroupinc.com. That’s inc. And I should say U.S. stands for Usman Shaikh, not necessarily United States as people might have. Yes, sure.
Chad Franzen 18:23
Sure. Hey, final question for you. What are a few daily rituals that you find most important, like, what’s a typical day for you?
Usman Shaikh 18:31
A typical day for me is I get out of bed and I meditate. I clear my head and I have a path to our I visualize what my day is going to be like, who I have to call what emails I have to respond to. In fact, I don’t even look at my phone until I do my morning meditation. And that clears my head that gives me a perspective and kind of lays out the road map for the day. And then I also like to get a quick workout in before I start my day.
Chad Franzen 19:00
When did you find that meditation was particularly valuable? Or how did you find that?
Usman Shaikh 19:04
I, I was, like many lawyers stressed out and I would wake up and one of the first things I would do was looking at my emails before I even got out of bed. And you know, all these emails will be coming in and I’d start panicking and stressed out, and I realized that’s a horrible way to start your day. So I started to look into meditation. I started I spoke with a spiritual guide, who started to guide me through the meditation process, which has been tremendously helpful.
Chad Franzen 19:34
Okay, very nice. Hey, I just wanted it’s been great talking to you today. Thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it.
Usman Shaikh 19:38
It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much. Have a great day. You too.
Chad Franzen 19:41
You too. Thank you so long, everybody. Thanks for listening to 15 Minutes. Be sure to subscribe and we’ll see you next time.