EXCLUSIVE (Updated with statements): Top entertainment lawyer Craig Emanuel is leaving the Century City-based firm Paul Hastings where he has been a partner and global chair of the Entertainment and Media division. After practicing as an attorney for more than 42 years, Emanuel is retiring from legal practice to focus on working as an advisor to his longtime client, Ryan Murphy, and his Ryan Murphy Productions.
Murphy has been a client of Emanuel’s for his entire Hollywood career; Emanuel signed the then-aspiring writer in 1996, before he had sold his first script, “Why Can’t I Be Audrey Hepburn?,” to Steven Spielberg, and before he launched a hugely successful TV career with his first series, the 1999 Popular.
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Emanuel’s clients will remain at Paul Hastings and move forward with Erik Hyman, current co-chair of the firm’s Entertainment and Media division, who has worked with Emanuel for more than 25 years.
In addition to Murphy, Emanuel’s clients have included Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman’s Playtone, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, writer Tony Gilroy, Mandalay Pictures and MSG Entertainment.
“We are excited for Craig and look forward to continuing to work with Craig’s clients, including an ongoing relationship with him and Ryan in this new capacity,” Paul Hastings said in a statement.
Murphy and Emanuel have developed a close relationship over the years.
“He was one of the very first, if not the first, people to believe I could be something,” Murphy said in a Variety profile of Emanuel earlier this year. “His belief in me and what I could accomplish has always been very moving and important.”
Emanuel was by Murphy’s side as his career took off with a string of hits, including Nip/Tuck, Glee, the American Horror Story franchise and its many offshoots as well as the popular 9-1-1 procedurals. Emanuel’s arrival as advisor comes ahead of a major change for Murphy who is expected to set up shop at Disney after the WGA strike in another mega deal for his Ryan Murphy Productions which had been based at Netflix and will continue to produce followups to recent hits Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story and The Watcher.
Aussie Emanuel started his Hollywood career at the then-newly open West Coast office of Nigel Sinclair’s Sinclair Tenenbaum. He went on to spend 20 years as partner at Loeb & Loeb. He then moved to Paul Hastings where he has been for the past five and a half years.
However, in the same Variety profile, Emanuel admitted that there was a moment about seven years ago when he pondered departing the legal arena “for something else.”
Said Emanuel today, “While the decision to leave my clients and Paul Hastings has not been an easy one, knowing they are in such great hands with my colleagues has helped make the transition an easier one.”
There have been a handful of other instances of a top showrunner and their longtime representative evolving their professional relationship, most notably top lit agent Bob Broder leaving ICM in 2012 to run the company of Chuck Lorre.