Don’t worry about the naysayers or the competition because they’re not like you — they’ll never do things your way, and that’s okay.
Helen Yu is the founder and principal of the Yu Leseberg law firm. An experienced entertainment lawyer admitted to practice in California, she has served a diverse roster of clients in the music and film industries since 1995.
Her tireless work on behalf of a diverse roster of clients has earned her a well-deserved reputation as an advocate for creative talent. With clients culled from the ranks of top-earning performance artists, songwriters, producers, and on-screen talent, she provides counsel on intellectual property protection, distribution strategies, and other legal matters with the potential to affect creative clients’ livelihoods.
In 2014, Helen Yu negotiated contracts around more Billboard Hot 100 and Hot R & B 100 charting singles than any other entertainment law firm principal. Over the years, notable clients have included Justin Timberlake, Mary J. Blige, The Black Eyed Peas, Janet Jackson, Busta Rhymes, Britney Spears, and Robin Thicke, among others.
Before founding her own firm, Ms. Yu worked as assistant in-house counsel for Virgin Records and Sony Pictures Entertainment Group, where she focused on intellectual property matters. Later, she worked as production counsel for a handful of films in the early 2000s, notably Longshot (2001), Shottas (2002), and Last Goodbye (2004). As production counsel, she was responsible for securing intellectual property, drafting employment contracts, and addressing any legal matters arising during production and post-production.
As principal of the Yu Leseberg Law Firm, Ms. Yu Leseberg represented the Black Eyed Peas in a high-profile suit against its former manager, Sean Larkin. Mr. Larkin was alleged to have failed to properly account file tax statements for the group’s touring income; the matter was eventually resolved in the supergroup’s favor.
She is a graduate of California State University – Northridge, from which she earned a bachelor’s degree in communications, and a graduate with honors from Whittier Law School.
As a precocious high schooler, she interned at Enigma Records during the legendary alternative label’s 1980s heyday. She credits her time at Enigma for igniting her passion for creative performance — and her concern for intellectual property protection. At Cal State – Northridge, she worked for the legendary KCSN radio station as a live show promoter. Later, in law school, she served as a legal intern with Motown Records.
An L.A. native, Ms. Yu Leseberg lives near her firm’s Hollywood offices.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
My idea for Yu Leseberg (a Professional Law Corporation) started in high school. As a musician myself, I’ve always been passionate about helping artists realize their creative potential. My growing interest in the law lined up nicely with this passion: I knew I had the ability to provide aspiring and established artists with first-rate legal services. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past 25 years, and I don’t regret a moment of it.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I start my day at about 6 a.m. First, I sort through emails that have come in overnight from clients on the East Coast and overseas. If I have time, I try to get a workout in — usually Pilates, although I’ve been trying to mix it up lately. Then I head into the office and get down to business — addressing whatever legal matters need to be addressed that day. This might involve phone calls, client and client representative meetings, consultations with staff, and so on. This part of my day is so varied; there’s no “typical” workday, which is one reason I love my job so much. Toward the end of the workday, I do generally block out time to draft legal documents. And one big help on the productivity front is a standing meeting once per week (and more if necessary) to go through a list of outstanding matters with staff.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I always start with a written strategy or plan for executing my ideas. If necessary, I’ll review this plan with staff and take feedback. Once we have a clear outline in place, I set out a sequential, step-by-step action plan for getting it done. Then, it’s all about execution.
What’s one trend that excites you?
The great thing about the entertainment industry today is that artists in any medium — film, music, television, whatever — have the ability to leverage exciting new technologies to connect directly with their audiences. Historically, this has not been the norm — creative professionals had to contend with gatekeepers and tastemakers at every turn. With Apple Music, Spotify, Instagram, YouTube, et cetera, that’s no longer the case.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I always follow through. I advise everyone to do the same.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Everybody has their own path. Everybody has their own time. And everyone’s path and timetable are different. Don’t worry about the naysayers or the competition because they’re not like you — they’ll never do things your way, and that’s okay.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I don’t know, honestly. If no one else agrees with me, it’s probably not an agreeable idea.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I tell everyone to put time, focus, and energy into servicing your clients. You must provide the best possible service, of course, but it’s even more important to do this with heart and integrity — to be your best self, every day.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
It sounds contrite, I truly believe that honesty is the best policy. Be honest and forthright and you’re already on the road to doing business the right way.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
At times, I’ve been too slow to believe when people have shown me who they really are. At times, I don’t want to believe people are not whom they portray themselves to be. It’s always disappointing when this happens and I’m still working through this one.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Honestly, I don’t know if I have any. I’m happy with what I’m doing, I’m focused on my current business, and all my original ideas revolve around that.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I don’t get many opportunities to recharge and grab some “me time,” so I spent $100 on a great dinner out.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
I wish I had some secret solution, but I don’t. The primary software we use at the office is Microsoft Word — we draft a lot of letters and contracts, obviously, and Word is the best in the business for that.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Read Richard Branson’s first biography. He’s really inspiring in so many ways. You don’t have to be a globetrotting billionaire with a penchant for extreme sports to appreciate what he’s been able to do with his life and career, and to apply lessons from his own experience to your own.
What is your favorite quote?
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” — Steve Jobs, US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 – 2011)
- Don’t worry about the naysayers or the competition because they’re not like you — they’ll never do things your way, and that’s okay.
- Put time, focus, and energy into servicing your clients. You must provide the best possible service, of course, but it’s even more important to do this with heart and integrity — to be your best self, every day.
- Honesty is the best policy. Be honest and forthright and you’re already on the road to doing business the right way.
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Carlyn runs the day-to-day publishing operation here at ideamensch and interacts with our awesome customers and entrepreneurs. She is likely editing this with a cat on her lap.