Malcolm McNeil Meeting Questions

Malcolm McNeil Meeting Questions

Malcolm McNeil Meeting Questions


At Riveter, we frequently collaborate with seasoned professionals across diverse industries catering to Ulta’s high-net-worth clientele. Our paramount objective is to deliver a customized and exclusive experience to our esteemed clients. This often entails enlisting the services of experts possessing specialized knowledge in areas such as employment, human resources, and real estate, among others. Recently, we participated in an event hosted by Trusted Advisors, of which we proudly serve as a corporate sponsor. During this occasion, we had the privilege of listening to our distinguished blog guest share insights. His profound expertise and extensive background left an indelible impression on us. Subsequently, we invited him to engage in a brief question-and-answer session with Riveter, allowing us to further delve into his wealth of knowledge.

ABOUT TRUSTED ADVISOR: Trusted Advisor is the dedicated forum for advisors of high net worth clients in Entertainment, Music and Pro Sports. They reach a tight-knit & exclusive group of professionals with A-list celeb clients, musicians, professional athletes, influencers, creators, and producers. Members of Trusted Advisor handle their clients’ complete picture, from their banking and accounting to insurance, business ventures and investing. Their membership consists of the top business managers, music managers, entertainment attorneys, wealth managers, and family offices, bound together through their education initiatives, private meetups, and global summits. 


TRUSTED ADVISOR INSTAGRAM: @trustedadvisorassoc 


ABOUT MACOLM MCNEIL: Malcolm McNeil, a distinguished member of the Trusted Advisor Association, serves as Partner and International Practice Co-Leader at ArentFox Schiff LLP, specializing in litigation, business, and transactional matters for international clients. With over 35 years of uninterrupted practice, he is recognized as an accomplished trial lawyer and appellate advocate, handling a diverse range of cases. Mr. McNeil’s expertise extends internationally, where he acts as an international commercial litigator and mediator, representing clients across borders and sectors. He serves as Co-Chair of the International Group and is deeply involved in various legal associations and philanthropic institutions. Mr. McNeil’s accolades include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Young Lawyers and the International Lawyer Award in Cyprus. He brings a unique skill set that spans legal, business, and philanthropic realms, enabling him to provide innovative solutions to complex issues. Additionally, Mr. McNeil holds key positions in organizations such as California Lutheran University and the Beverly Hills Bar Association, while also serving as an appointed mediator for the US District Court, Central District of California. His representative clients encompass diverse sectors, including entertainment, high tech, and real estate, with many having international reach. Notably, he specializes in China litigation and transactions, further enhancing his global legal expertise.


PHONE: (213) 443-7656




GOLD: I know you have an emphasis in catering to clients within the entertainment industry. 

How does your practice specifically cater to the unique needs and challenges of clients within the entertainment industry compared to other sectors? 

MALCOLM: We have lawyers who started in the entertainment industry, e.g., from the in-house counsel at major studios and other smaller organizations. There are challenges with bigger companies and directly with clients. Clients are comfortable bringing me into a contentious environment in situations, such as, when they get worried about negotiating out of fear of losing their job. In other industries, such as healthcare, they have more structure and knowledge on how to go about these situations. Whereas the entertainment field is different. In entertainment, the business isn’t taught like it is in other fields of work, subjects such as protecting property, etc. are essential in this field and so I bring these skills that weren’t taught to them. 

GOLD: Can you share any notable cases or transactions involving clients in the entertainment field that required specialized legal strategies?

MALCOLM: I had a very well-known DJ client, he was just starting but was still recognizable, and he was paid very well to go overseas to perform at a large event. He was negotiating whether he wanted to leave his independent career to have a more structured relationship performing at a Casino. For him, it was challenging to navigate the career decision to stay independent within his label, so I helped him with negotiating the ownership for his line of merchandise and how to go about transitioning into working at a large-scale Vegas casino, being tied down to that, but also knowing his rights and protecting himself. He had some mental gymnastics in giving up that independence, but he did end up deciding on going with the casino, so I helped him with negotiations and I provided a lot of pushback to get the fairest and best deal for my client. I’m brought in as when the client is more emotionally tied to their work and identity, they can’t handle the necessary pushback in negotiations as much as my steel stomach can. 

Risk mitigation needs to be explained to clients. Lawyers get a bad rap for being  “all about the deals” when they haven’t assessed the client’s risk tolerance. The first thing you need to ask a client is, “How bad do you want this job?”. I need to know on a scale of 1-10 how tough a guy I should be. I always assess the client’s motivations and risk tolerance as this will show and affect how much more tied into a deal a client can get, as well as how willing they are to give up things – and so this can change the strategy on my end. 

GOLD: Are entertainment clients sometimes more difficult, as there may be more emotion toward decisions rather than data points?

MALCOLM: It depends on the client. I’ve seen that entertainers and performers themselves do more, so they have an increased level of anxiety in the negotiation, and I understand that that’s because they’re creative people. They require guidance to be better business people in a way in which they don’t feel their creativity is threatened. 

However, entertainers are not the only ones who are more emotional toward decisions. Sometimes, you are talking with the decision-makers for clients rather than consulting with them directly. I once represented a stock brokerage client, and there was less pressure in that case because he wasn’t the owner or directly involved much in the impact of decisions made. It wasn’t a make-or-break situation for him. It’s the same story for large corporations, as you just deal with the council rather than the intimate one-on-one with the influential people or company owners. I have more responsibility in those one-on-one situations with those directly impacted by the decisions made. Some clients aren’t as invested or interested in the transaction; therefore, in those cases I’ll have more discussions with them to break that barrier down to ensure the correct decision is made. Larger corporations can be easier to deal with in terms of emotionality as they have no emotional involvement. I always discuss with all sides to find the best result for the shared goal. 

Malcolm McNeil


GOLD: Could you share some examples of some of the typical transactions you do for your clients? Have you experienced a big difference between when you are representing individuals/family businesses vs publicly traded companies and large corporate entities?

MALCOLM: I need to know who the ultimate beneficiaries are within the family office, AKA who the stakeholders are – these are not necessarily the officers or managing directors. I also need to know about the relationship between the officer and stakeholders. Some stakeholders are looking to “make a killing” and be bought out, and some want a legacy of some sort. I need to ensure the goals of the stakeholders are being met. I’m not worried for a client to take a risk if they can afford it. At times, the officers can be too afraid of the stakeholders, or they don’t put in the time to get to know what the stakeholder’s goals are, as they’re busy managing the business. Someone may come to me with a simple problem, and from there, I will broaden the discussion to get to the bottom of things. I tell people today be careful about keeping those strategies and principles, but be flexible toward change. You need to be able to assess, “Do I jump into this? What level? What do I need to communicate?”. 

Everyone is concerned about time. They’re concerned about me taking my time so not to pay me too much, they’re worried about their own time as they’re busy, they don’t want to waste the stakeholders time as they don’t want to ask “stupid” questions – but you should always ask questions. 

I tell clients, I don’t do any research beyond looking at the base page of the website, I want to hear the background information from them directly. I go in fresh to get to know their issues, without my bias from looking into their business presentation. 

Officers can get afraid, too, if they’re non-relational to stakeholders – they can get afraid of being sued. Due to this risk, They want to ensure they’re managing the office correctly. I provide all the different tiers of advice to each person involved. 

GOLD: As an attorney, your #1 priority is to access risk mitigation for your clients. 

How would you manage it differently in a family office situation vs a corporate setting?

MALCOLM: Risk mitigation comes at different levels depending on who you’re talking to. Clients usually ask if something is a good investment/deal for their family office. In those cases, I ask, “How did this investment come to us?” and I’m hoping that the business negotiations have been appropriately done internally. You need to have a finesse to deal with the different levels of risk and who is at risk. You require a full analysis of the family office. 

GOLD: As you are aware, the AB5 laws in California have changed how families can compensate their employees. I often run across families that want to pay their employees a 1099 even though they do not pass the AB5 test. 

What advice would you provide to a client that wanted to do this? Please share the pitfalls and penalties that would apply to them. 

MALCOLM: The answer is yes, this is doable. In California, the AB5 turned into “what is a contractor” vs a generalized rule. This law was passed only to increase the state’s commerce. At the end of the day, employee vs independent contractor is about how much tax you pay. There are ways around this; 19 out of 20 times, it’s no problem.

As an example, a doctor got into a fight with a clinic – he doesn’t know what he’s doing, he gets fired, and files a labor claim stating, “they didn’t pay me my wages as an independent contractor”. The EDD assessed that the clinic needed to pay  a $290K tax bill. We negotiated a resolution and recommended that any future contractors would need to have a LLC in place.

Riveter Consulting Group
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