LL.M. Student Steps Towards Dream with Hands-On Practicum at NBC Universal Telemundo

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When Maria Jose Rivera strides into the NBC Universal Telemundo headquarters in Hialeah, Florida, as part of her practicum with Miami Law's Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law LL.M., she doesn't have to pinch herself. She is where she has always known that she belongs.

As a little girl growing up in Maracaibo, Venezuela, Rivera loved the telenovela (soap opera) “Luz Clarita.” Unlike most viewers, she didn't fall for the lovable orphan, but instead for the patriarch of the De la Fuente family, Mariano.

"He was so cool," says the 27-year-old. "And he was a lawyer. After that, whenever I would have to present something in my classes, I was always the lawyer."

The family first moved to Puerto Rico, then settled in South Florida when Rivera was a teenager. Her cousins would be loaded down with pirated DVDs when they came to visit.

"It bothered me. I have a passion for the movies, the music and arts," Rivera says. "It was the first time I imagined myself protecting the rights of artists. I didn't know what it was called, but I imagined myself safeguarding the creative process."

Rivera, who majored in English literature -- favorite author, Emerson -- at Florida International University, concentrated on intellectual property law at Suffolk University Law School in Boston.

"Now I could describe in concrete words what I wanted to be as a little girl," Rivera says. "When I finished law school, I came home. I missed my family and the weather. And I knew in a moment that what was going to happen was bound to happen when I found the LL.M. at Miami Law, even though I had to wait a year to start the program. But I really believe it was for me."

At the core, an “Entertainment Lawyer” provides legal advice, counsel and representation to businesses and individuals in the entertainment industries, including television, film, radio, TV, music, theater, publishing, and digital media like video games. The areas of law most frequently associated with the field are intellectual property, contracts, business, employment/labor, securities, international, taxation, immigration, and litigation.

“Maria Jose is the perfect fit for our program,” says Harold Flegelman, director of the program. “She has both real world experience and a long-held passion for the pursuit of a specific career. She is agile working throughout the Americas but also fosters international interest.

“For students like Maria Jose – interested in an entertainment track – Miami, at the crossroads of the Americas, has the broadest curricular offerings and practicums with motion picture, television, and music production and distribution of any law program in the country,” he says.  

Rivera started at Telemundo International with Business and Legal Affairs as a summer intern in Coral Gables, FL. She researched digital rights and streaming contracts; in a twist of fate, many of them dealt with telenovelas.

She moved on as a fall legal intern to the Telemundo Network with Music Affairs. There, she’s analyzing rights for music use in shows in distribution as well as drafting music agreements.

At NBC Universal Telemundo, she has found purpose and vision. Rivera could see herself staying on long after her graduation next spring.

“I want to get to counsel and represent television and motion picture productions in all legal aspects,” she says. “Whenever I walk into a studio set, I get thrills by seeing it and hearing in all in real life. I see the drafting of agreements as creating the safeguards to making those audiovisual productions come strong from a legal standpoint.”

Miami’s rapidly expanding economy, which includes the entertainment industry, provides a playground for hands-on practicum opportunities like Rivera’s.  As a center of music and film and a hub for the Hispanic media industry, the city is fueled by an influx of international ideas and has witnessed the growth of both homegrown companies and international offices. In addition to Telemundo these companies include Fortune 500 Latin American headquarters for: HBO, CAA, BBC, Nickelodeon, Discovery Networks, Sony, Disney, ESPN, Viacom.

“The program has helped me get there by not only placing me into the real practice but by granting me the privilege to work with and learn from these role models I look up to professionally. I’m drafting and negotiating agreements for the first time while being challenged to develop the skills that are in demand when becoming an effective lawyer in the entertainment industries,” Rivera says.