“Music law is extremely complicated and no one wants to do it because it’s so hard”. When Kate Cash heard Bay Street entertainment lawyers say those words, she knew music law was the right thing for her. Why? For one, because that meant she would have no competition! But Kate’s connection to music and her desire for a non-traditional career run much deeper than that.
Kate is a musician, fabric and portrait artist. Her early 20s were spent hitchhiking through British Columbia and playing music in the mountains. Her mid-20s; bartending, playing in a band and riding motorcycles. Kate was the first person in her family to have graduated high school, had no idea how to network and had never worn a suit.
She appreciated her legal education at Osgoode Hall, but as you can imagine, it was a difficult place for her to fit in. Adding to the stress of school was the fact that Kate was struggling to pay her phone and hydro bills, while she saw her younger classmates driving jaguars and fretting over vacation plans. She also missed music, a lot. Her ongoing connection to her musician friends was what kept her going. Although they had no idea what “music law” meant, they knew that they (and so many other Canadian musicians) needed help and Kate would be the person to help them.
Kate now describes her legal life as “unreasonably happy”, but it took a while to get there. After a first attempt at starting her music law firm a couple of years ago, she shut down to rethink things. Kate left her website up during this time; admittedly, by accident. But the accident paid off. She started getting calls from potential clients and would refer them to other lawyers because she wasn’t insured at the time. After the phone rang enough times, Kate decided that the next call she got, she would say “yes” to and that would be her official start date.
Work days for Kate generally start with yoga and almost always end with her playing guitar (her most important form of self-care). A primary focus right now is researching the current scope of synchronization rights because no one really has a handle on them yet. Research is a huge part of Kate’s practice, because music law is underdeveloped in Canada. She hopes to take what she learns about all aspects of music law and present it to musicians in a way that is easy for them to understand. Kate finds joy in research work and building her knowledge to help people because, as Kate says, “that’s the whole point of being a lawyer”. Law school was tough, but being able to go back to her “people” with knowledge that can help them makes it all worthwhile.
The idea of having no competition initially attracted Kate to music law, but she would be happy for company!
Her advice to those interested in the area is that they should be ready to put in a lot of research hours at the beginning of their career. Canadian artists are all too often limited in the success they deserve because the information they are presented with is so hard to understand. Kate makes it her mission to fill this gap.
Kate also warns against pushing yourself too far and advises other lawyers and law students to think long and hard before taking on more than they physically and mentally can handle. Throughout her life, Kate has struggled with homelessness, alcohol addiction and complex PTSD and has often been in a position where survival became her only priority. Taking things slowly, working part-time and reaching out for help are all options. It is not an ultimatum between going all-in or quitting. If practicing law is what you want to do, your most important priority needs to be figuring out how to do it in a healthy way.
Very little of Kate’s career to this point has been a choice. She filled out applications for jobs she really did not want but just could not put any real action into the pursuit of a traditional lawyer life. This feeling was foreign to Kate, because if she tells herself to do something, it usually gets done. The one choice Kate did make was not to quit. She did not have a career plan, but music law got her out of bed in the morning. Has Kate figured out music law yet? Not quite, turns out it is complicated. But she is working on it with a passion for the practice that is in her heart. Kate isn’t in it for the money (although some would be nice!), but doing what she loves makes all the hard times worth it.