Meet the LA transplant who's more focused on representing a power law firm built than being a brick house.
On the day of the HipHopDX's Beauty & Brains interview, Engelman, who moved from Canton, Ohio to Arizona when she was five, was celebrating her third anniversary at the high-profile firm. Dressed in a gray business outfit and rockin' a silver cross necklace to compliment her light caramel complexion, she delves into her life story and why modeling didn't attract her but law school did.
Without mincing words, Britany is definitely what you would call a 'finer' point of law ... So, study.
Beauty & Brains: Where does your drive to become accomplished and successful come from?
Britany Engelman: I'm the first person in my family to go to college, so it definitely didn't come from any family pressure, that's for sure. I think it started for me when I was growing up, like in middle school, there was a dramatic, traumatic event that happened with someone that I knew getting killed in gang violence. And my mom decided at that point that I needed to go to private school, so I was basically forced to go to this private high school in this little town called Paradise Valley, Arizona. I was the only person of color, my graduating class was 64 people, but it was basically 100% college placement. When I went to Paradise, it kind of changed things for me. I saw how the other half lived and the common denominator was education. All the parents were doctors and lawyers. And I'm naturally drawn to learning. I actually enjoyed law school because you feel a little smarter every day. My mom is still like, 'I don't know how you ended up like this.'
Beauty & Brains: How did you come to be at this firm?
Britany Engelman: I graduated law school in 2005, so it's my fifth year of practice. I've been here ... actually today is actually my three year anniversary. I started out doing defense work for insurance companies, I found that all very unrewarding. It was all about billing hours and not about helping people at all, so I got no joy out of it whatsoever. I worked for a great guy and got a lot of good, I think, and solid experience. But it wasn't fulfilling at all. When I came here, in 2007, what we do here is get to actually change lives, which is the type of lawyer I like to be or think of myself as. I sit down in people's living rooms with families who are broken … loss of a son, loss of a father … generally when we part ways, we like to think they are made whole again, as much as law can make them whole. It's rewarding. I'm like one of the only lawyers you're going to meet that loves their job. I feel like this is what I was supposed to be doing.
Beauty & Brains: Out of the legal cases you have worked on, which were most memorable and why?
Britany Engelman: [A brain injury] was a big highlight case for me but it was settled before litigation, so I wouldn't want to say it was easy. But, but it was a pretty easy case. It involved a drunk driver and a young girl who got in the car with him and he crashed. It just so happened that [her family] had a very large insurance policy, a few million dollars, and she had a terrible brain injury.
It's one of those things where we didn't necessarily have to fight as we do in some cases, it's just that they had to pay the policy and it was a few million dollars, so of course it's wonderful for everybody but it doesn't usually work out that easily.
I think one of the most satisfying cases I've had was just recently. We sued the County of Los Angeles and most particularly the Los Padrinos juvenile facility. Our client was 13 years old and was supposed to be in there for two weeks for a curfew violation. What happened was he got sick while he was in there and he started complaining to the guards and to the different people that he was sick and they thought he was faking. They just told him to go lay down and take some Motrin. It turns out he had spinal meningitis and he ended up dying. So, basically, his civil rights were violated. We litigated that case for about a year-and-half and finally reached a good settlement. The better part of it was [county officials] made all kinds of changes to the way things are done in the juvenile facilities, so I don't think this is going happen to another kid. That was rewarding to me because it sparked change.
Beauty & Brains: Tell us about practicing entertainment law...
Britany Engelman: Entertainment has always been a passion of mine, even in law school, I took copyright and trademark classes. It's interesting but it can be dry sometimes so I try to mix it up with the litigation that I do. One of the goals for the firm is to expand our entertainment practice, and to kind of make it more known, because I don't think a lot of people know that we do entertainment law.
Beauty & Brains: How is it working with up-and-coming versus established clients in the entertainment industry?
Britany Engelman: We would work with up-and-coming artists if they have strong buzz behind them, but of course, we're looking for more mainstream artists who have things going already. Contract revision, general documents that need to be drafted, cease-and-desist letters. As far as the grassroots and up-and-coming artists is the ability to pay – we're running a business here. A lot of the artists that are coming up don't have the money necessarily budgeted to pay the lawyers. So if someone has the money to pay us, we'll pretty much work. A contract is a contract. But that's what we run into, those calls come in, "I'm a boxer and I want you to review my contract," and we say what our fees are, and they're like, "Oh okay, no I can't." The negotiations then tend to break down.
Beauty & Brains: How did you come to specialize in the particular field of law?
Britany Engelman: I've been through an evolution with what I wanted to do. In law school, I wanted to do criminal law and then I realized I couldn't have someone's freedom and liberty in my hands, it would be hard for me to sleep at night with that. And also, I couldn't murderers, rapists, etc.
Beauty & Brains: Tell us about your calling to go to law school…
Britany Engelman: It sounds really corny but I just love education, I love learning. When I was getting ready to graduate USC, I just wasn't ready to be done with school yet. I thought I was going to go medical school, but my grades in science said otherwise [Laughs] …
Beauty & Brains: How do you balance being beautiful and educated?
Britany Engelman: I think that stems from the fact that I'm a tomboy. I've always played sports growing up. I never felt I was a girly-girl, vain. I'm not the girl who wakes up thinking I'm beautiful and should go model. Another thing, I get kind of a thrill at people underestimating me. To this day, when I walk into a deposition and everyone thinks I'm a court reporter or the client instead of the lawyer. I just like to prove people wrong when they underestimate me. I never caught the Hollywood bug, like the acting and modeling thing. When I was in college, I was broke like every other college student, so I did some extra work on film sets with people that I knew.
Beauty & Brains: What is it like getting to know celebrities?
Britany Engelman: I tend to cross paths with a lot of celebrities, because I mean, as you know, I have a work side to me and I play really hard. I'm not just at the library. I work very hard at my job and I play very hard on the weekends. I hate to name drop but I do have some friends who are people that you would know who they are.
Beauty & Brains: What are your goals?
Britany Engelman: Life is really good right now. But that doesn't mean I don't have any goals. In five years, I would like to be partner. My long term goals are, I'm a little undecided, I either want to be a judge or a law school professor at the end of my career.
Beauty & Brains: What's Your Favorite Music?
Britany Engelman: My favorite artist is Jay-Z. I like Drake a lot right now. When I'm in my office working, I listen to Classical and Jazz. If you're going to get in my car, you're probably going to hear Hip Hop.