Hernán Pantaleón is an alumnus (LL.M. ’93 in International Comparative Law) and a visiting professor who teaches the “Legal Aspects of TV Production in Latin America” in the Entertainment, Sports and Arts LL.M. program and “Doing Business in Latin America” in the Inter-American Law LL.M. Throughout his extensive career, Pantaleón has focused his practice on art, entertainment, mergers & acquisitions, banking, and finance.
As a child, what did you think you wanted to do when you grow up?
“I couldn’t choose between a rock star and an astronaut, but I didn’t need to because I had the chance to be both. I had a childhood behind a film projector. My grandfather was in the cinema business, with theaters in the city of Buenos Aires. My father was a maritime officer, and when he was out of town on a trip, I had the chance to be all day long behind the projector watching all kind of movies. My grandfather used to take my brother and me into these tours to another world, with access to the theaters when closed to preview movies. Was this the unconscious beginning of my practice in motion pictures and television law? Maybe, but it was for sure the spark that lighted the love for storytelling through cinema. I was once told that the lawyers in the business of music (same applies to those in television) chose this practice because it is as far as a lawyer can get to the stars. Maybe true. Lawyers and celebrities share the same passion for red carpets and spotlights.“
How early did you settle on law and why?
“I did not settle on law until I finished high school, and by finish, I mean days after graduation. Not until then I started to think what to do with my bones. I did not beat every other player in tennis, so I decided to look for a different path. I didn’t feel for ocean travel like my father, so I looked towards my other two role models: my uncle the litigator and my grandfather the business man. My high school director, also a lawyer, convinced this stranded young man to keep the flame of law in the family. I did not realize how much I liked to be a lawyer until I finished my freshman year. I have to say that the TV lawyers in the 70’s series didn’t help in this decision.“
Why an emphasis on television? What is your favorite American television show?
“Television as an area of practice did not come to me until 2002 when I was retained as MTV outside counsel for Argentina. I began my entertainment law career with MTV, like many others of my fellow lawyers back in the 90’s. One client led to another, and I ended up working for networks and television producers. The final touch to the story happened when UM Law School granted me the chance to teach a course in TV production. That was when I realized that all along these years I had learned something about these industries. I must say that my favorite TV show is “Starsky & Hutch” and their “remake” called “Miami Vice.” Same scripts, different looks, different decades, but the same appeal.”
You won a Fulbright scholarship and earned your LLM at Miami Law. How did that change the trajectory of your life's course?
“Fulbright was the jump start to my international career. It is never easy to come to study in the U.S. from countries in Latin America, mainly because of the currency exchange. Fulbright is one of the scholarships that a foreign student may obtain to get a formal U.S. education. I was awarded the scholarship back in 1992 and when I had to select a law school, the tutors at Fulbright recommended UM. I was looking for an Admiralty and Aviation LL.M., based on my traveling time with my father and UM was a clear option. It was even clearer when the director of the International LL.M. program, Professor Keith Rosenn, granted me a tuition waiver that made my education even easier. One plus two made an LL.M. and I was recruited by a New York law firm for my practical training right after graduation. Practice went from aviation to banking and finance (the hot issue in the 90’s) and then to television and motion pictures.”
Tell me a little about your classes? Why should a law student take them?
“My class is a rollercoaster from a practical concept to another practical concept giving life to law books and law theories, driving the idea that no matter what area of practice you choose, television because of your background, litigation because of your character or jurisprudence scholar because of your eagerness for knowledge and truth, law is always a field of practitioners, where you will interact with your peers, not to confront, but to achieve a goal. The better you do your part; the better the deal will result for all of those involved. I try to convey the idea that the practice of law outside the walls of the law school is a fascinating experience. Very much like writing a play.”