Legendary Alumnus Endows Allen Grubman Chair in Media and Entertainment Law

Allen Grubman

Allen Grubman ’67 is a legend in media and entertainment law, and he often credits his skills as a powerful negotiator and dealmaker for famous clients to having sechel, a Yiddish term he uses to describe a combination of intellect, street smarts, and common sense. Another not-so-secret weapon: where he went to law school.

“Everybody who matters in media and entertainment, be it creative people—the performers, rock stars, actors—or the businesspeople, know that I went to Brooklyn Law School,” said Grubman, senior partner of Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks. “I brag about it because so many lawyers in the industry went to Harvard or Yale, and I make it clear that I went to Brooklyn Law School, and I'm proud of it.”

Now, in his latest demonstration of that pride and gratitude, Grubman and his wife Deborah have generously committed a $1.5 million gift to endow the Allen Grubman Chair in Media and Entertainment Law.

The endowment will allow Brooklyn Law School to recruit a nationally recognized scholar in media and entertainment law and further cement its reputation as a national leader in the field.

Already the School is regularly recognized as a top law school for producing “power lawyers” in media, sports, and entertainment law. In April 2023, Billboard magazine rated Brooklyn Law #2 in the country on its list of the “Leading Law Schools of the Top Music Lawyers.” Later that same month, The Hollywood Reporter named Brooklyn Law #9 on its annual list of the top law schools in the country for aspiring entertainment lawyers.

“We could not be more grateful to Allen and Deborah Grubman,” said David Meyer, President and Joseph Crea Dean. “This landmark gift lays the foundation for an ambitious expansion of Brooklyn Law’s leadership in media and entertainment law.”

“It gives us major momentum toward the goal of ensuring that Brooklyn Law School is a hub for leading academics, lawyers, dealmakers and others in media, sports, and entertainment,” he said.

The gift will be formally announced and celebrated at a special event at the Law School on Friday, Feb. 9. It will be live streamed on the school’s YouTube channel.

A highlight of the event will be a conversation between Allen Grubman and pioneering television journalist Bryant Gumbel, one of Grubman’s celebrated clients. Gumbel will interview Grubman about his path from being a student at Brooklyn Law School to his storied career representing superstars including Bruce Springsteen, LeBron James, Elton John, Lady Gaga, Madonna, and Martha Stewart.

Grubman’s firm, Grubman Shire Meiselas & Sacks, is the largest U.S. law firm specializing in media, entertainment, and sports law, and boasts a client list that includes stars of film, television, music, Broadway, sports, journalism, and other media.

Grubman, who claimed he was a “mediocre student at best” at Brooklyn Law School, credits his Professor Joe Crea ’47, for saving his law school career. Grubman flubbed a 40-point essay on his Torts final, and knew that Crea was likely to give him an F for the six-credit class. At a friend’s suggestion, he telephoned Crea, who told Grubman that he would give him a D rather than an F if he could pass his two other finals with a C or better, which he did.

“I've said this many times: If I didn’t make that call on Sunday, to Professor Crea’s house, I'd probably be a very successful salesman in the Garment Center right now,” Grubman said. “I owe that man my career—period, end of conversation. There are certain moments in a person’s life that determine their future, and that point in my life was it.”

To honor Crea, who died in 2019 at the age of 104, Grubman previously provided a major gift to support the construction of the Joseph Crea Reading Room in the school library. He wishes Crea was alive to see the establishment of the latest gift. “He would be so proud,” Grubman said.

Grubman grew up in a working-class family in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and first fell in love with the entertainment industry when he was a child singer on a weekly Sunday afternoon NBC show called the “Horn & Hardart Children’s Hour.” His singing career ended after his voice changed at age 13, but the glamorous perks of the entertainment industry were seared into his memory.

“I was brought up modestly,” Grubman told Brooklyn Law Notes in a 2010 interview. “I remembered when I was on the show everyone appeared to love what they did. They took us to great restaurants. I was taken to rehearsal in a limousine. I knew then that I wanted to be an entertainment lawyer.”

He attended Brooklyn Law School, and worked after school in the entertainment industry, including in the mailroom of the William Morris agency, and later as a CBS page—which he described as “a fancy word for an usher.” The page position meant he would often arrive at class in a gray sport coat with a CBS eye icon on it, attracting quizzical glances from other students who thought he was “eccentric,” Grubman said. He was, however, honing the people skills that proved so important.

After graduating, and passing the bar on the first try, Grubman knew he was not able to rely on his grades to get a job, so he put together a list of entertainment lawyers and started knocking on the doors of law offices, asking if he could speak to a partner. Finally, one of them, Walter Hofer, who represented the Beatles, said yes.

Grubman recalled the story of meeting Hofer at a luncheon honoring him as Brooklyn Law School Alumnus of the Year in 2018.

“I said to him: ‘My family doesn’t have much money. How much money will I have to pay you to allow me to work for you?’” Grubman recalled. “He looked at me and said: ‘I like that. I’m going to hire you for a $125 a week.’ And that’s where my career started.”

In 1974, Grubman started his own firm. His earliest clients included disco acts that hit it big, including the Village People. By 1983, he was representing Madonna, Elton John, and Bruce Springsteen, and was invited to a luncheon where he joined a group of music industry insiders who decided to create the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

In 2022, Grubman became the first lawyer ever inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In his induction ceremony, he received the Ahmet Ertegun Award, dedicated to non-performers, in honor of his decades of negotiating successful deals on behalf of his music clients.

Now, looking back at his career, Grubman has some advice for Brooklyn Law School students.

“If you work hard, you're ambitious, and you're honest, you can do as well as any Harvard lawyer and better, and I’m living proof of it, and that’s a very important message,” he said.