Alumni Innovators: Jo-Ná Williams JD’10

The digital revolution has stunted many traditional businesses, and legal practices are often no exception. But for Jo-Ná Williams JD’10, the Internet has become the stomping grounds for her success.

Since the entertainment lawyer started her online practice last April, she said she has yet to have a pause in business. The secrets to her success? Social media, online networking, and a popular e-newsletter where she writes about issues that matter to artists navigating the industry.

“I give so much information out online that helps my target audience be able to move forward in their careers,” Williams said. “It builds my credibility and allows them to trust me right off the bat.”

She also calls Twitter her “best friend,” because of all of the entertainment contacts it’s helped her gain.

“I’m 100 percent on technology to get my firm out there and my message across,” Williams said.

After graduating from Suffolk Law, Williams was eventually hired at an entertainment litigation firm in New York. But she quickly realized she preferred advising clients over defending them in court.

She left her job despite a lack of other employment prospects, and was inundated with offers to become a counsel for other people looking to build their own firms. Instead, she was inspired to go into business for herself.

“I decided it didn’t make any sense to work for someone else and build their firm when I had the drive, the wherewithal, and the message that I wanted to put out in the world,” she said.

In order to get clients for her completely virtual law firm, Williams has used her e-newsletter to reach out to artists and promote her own mission.

“I basically take my clients and my subscribers on my journey with me as I build my firm and my practice, and it allows them to feel like they have more of a connection to me,” she said, adding that she has also sparked a few business opportunities when subscribers recognized her around New York.

To spread the word about her newsletter, which now has nearly 400 subscribers, Williams contributed articles to websites her clients might visit, such as ReverbNation, a music industry resource. Her signature at the end of the post would include a link to sign up for her regular emails.

The first step of any successful newsletter is to entice readers. Williams encourages finding out what your potential clients are interested in and marketing to those interests, and to not be shy about self-promotion.

“You need to provide value for your audience,” she said. “Think about your clients specifically, and the kind of clients that you want to have, and what the problems are that they’re having in their lives and their careers.”

Having been in the entertainment industry since she was a teenager, Williams said she wore a variety of hats on the road to becoming an attorney, like serving as an artist manager and a program director for an arts and entertainment organization.

When she first started out as a vocalist, Williams experienced the dark side of the industry herself when she wasn’t compensated for lyrics and background vocals she had contributed.

“To me, the place an artist needed to be empowered the most was in the law,” she said on her decision to become an attorney. “Most artists think of [fusion_builder_container hundred_percent=”yes” overflow=”visible”][fusion_builder_row][fusion_builder_column type=”1_1″ background_position=”left top” background_color=”” border_size=”” border_color=”” border_style=”solid” spacing=”yes” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” padding=”” margin_top=”0px” margin_bottom=”0px” class=”” id=”” animation_type=”” animation_speed=”0.3″ animation_direction=”left” hide_on_mobile=”no” center_content=”no” min_height=”none”][the law] as something that creatively stifles them or gets them into a lot of trouble. … So I decided to go into law school to understand how it is the law is actually used to protect artists versus harming them.”

Representing Grammy-winning clients like Célia Faussart from Les Nubian, Williams uses business law to assist artists in a variety of ways, from setting up LLCs and business registrations to teaching them to use copyright law to their benefit. Many artists, she said, get taken advantage of when they’re uneducated on issues like renewable contracts and trademarks.

Besides just running her digital law firm, Williams also serves as a business coach, which she says gives an added value to her clients’ sessions.

For lawyers looking to stand out from the pack, she advises focusing in on one niche, adding that being a general practitioner is counterproductive in today’s landscape of social media and endless information.

“We have so much information coming at us from every area, so you’re going to get lost in the shuffle if you don’t focus on an area and dominate it,” she said. “And once you do that, guess what, you’re not going to be cutting off your client base, you’re going to be making yourself memorable.”
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