Partner, Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae LLP
The first President of Southwestern's Entertainment and Intellectual Property Alumni Association (SWEIP)
Even in Success, Eric Early Stays True to Southwestern Roots
by Lindsay N. Nelson '11
Step foot into the hip, modern, yet understated and professional office of Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae and you would never guess that the firm is less than two years old. That is, if you can manage to pull your gaze away from the striking, almost 360 degree view of Los Angeles that provides a fitting backdrop for this successful young firm.
Early Sullivan opened its doors in June of 2010 with Southwestern Alum Eric Early and four of his colleagues at the helm. In its short existence, the firm has grown from just five partners to 14 attorneys and is currently developing offices in New York and Las Vegas. The success of the firm comes as no surprise when you consider the experience, passion, and dedication of Eric Early.
Early earned his legal stripes during the 15 years he spent at Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard & Shapiro LLP, formerly known as the Christensen Miller firm. There, he worked on high profile cases such as a widely publicized billion dollar case that required him to fly in Kirk Kerkorian's private Boeing business jet to Europe for depositions. Although happy at that firm, Early and his four partners at Early Sullivan all had a desire to be in charge of their own destinies. "We are all entrepreneurial and we wanted to take a shot and do it," he explains, "the other law firm was a really fine place to be a partner, but the stars sort of aligned and we did it and it has been amazing."
Starting Early Sullivan was not the first time the stars aligned for Eric Early. In fact, being a lawyer was the last thing on the NYU film school grad's mind. He spent almost a decade in the film industry before attending Southwestern. "I sort of went kicking and screaming into law school," he recalls, "my first year I was basically sitting in class writing scripts in the back of the room in night school." But, there was something special about Southwestern that awakened Early's interest in the legal profession and kick started him down the path of a long, successful career.
"Southwestern sparked something in me that didn't exist before I walked into Southwestern," he says. He credits the night program for providing an enjoyable law school experience because he could attend school with similarly situated people who also juggled families and day jobs. Early further praises the teaching at Southwestern, giving extra credit to Professor Lind: "When I took his copyright class, that's when I started thinking, 'wow, I might actually like this stuff.'"
Almost 20 years into his career, it turns out he really does like this stuff. "I love being a lawyer," Early declares with enthusiasm seldom encountered in the legal profession. Now, as a successful attorney, Early looks back upon his time in law school with fondness. "I thoroughly enjoyed being a student at Southwestern," he says, "the school was very good to me."
In return for the good education and successful career Southwestern enabled him to achieve, Early has become tremendously involved with the school. He is a member of the Executive Board of the Biederman Entertainment and Media Law Institute and is the first President of the new Southwestern Entertainment and IP Alumni Association (SWEIP). Through his alumni work, Early seeks to spread the word about the skill that comes out of Southwestern.
The way he sees it, there is an untapped reservoir of Southwestern alumni working in Entertainment and IP all over the world. SWEIP is working to bring them all together for the benefit of not only future and existing alum, but the school as a whole. Early, having firsthand knowledge that Southwestern turns out great lawyers, is tired of seeing Southwestern receive less credit than it deserves. Early hopes to help the school show off its talented and experienced alumni while at the same time making it known in the community that Southwestern produces some seriously skilled attorneys.
Mr. Early also tips his hat to the Dean, the Administration, the Board of Trustees, and other alumni for their work for Southwestern. "I'm just one small person in this whole thing," he says, humbly. "There's a lot of energy being put into it by a lot of great people, so I'm glad to be a part of that and I'm enjoying doing it for a school I very much believe in."