Alumna Named Rising Star in Entertainment Law
By Hazel Scott/ASU
Alumna Casey Handy-Smith has distinguished herself as one of the top-rated attorneys in the state of Texas. She has been named a 2023 Texas Rising Star in the area of Entertainment Law by Thomson Reuters’ Super Lawyers.
Only 2.5 percent of lawyers under 40 receive this honor each year.
“I am extremely honored and blessed to be in that number. I’m happy to know that my peers…thought highly enough of me to nominate me. It's nice that people notice what you are doing,” she said.
The honor recognizes the top lawyers in Texas who are 40 or younger or have been practicing law for 10 years or less. Those selected received the highest point totals during the peer nomination, research and peer review process. Candidates are evaluated based upon peer recognition and professional achievement.
Handy-Smith, who is recognized as a “Top 40 under 40” lawyer by The National Black Lawyers, is the founder and managing attorney of C. Handy Law, an entertainment and intellectual property law firm that partners with creatives and entrepreneurs to protect their legacy, build a solid legal foundation, and negotiate their worth.
She has negotiated lucrative contracts with companies, including Meta, Universal Music Group, Proctor & Gamble, Paramount Pictures, Coca-Cola, and HarperCollins, among others, on behalf of clients.
Handy-Smith is also the founder of Boss Contract Society, a done-for-you contract template and legal resource shop for creative entrepreneurs.
Handy-Smith cut her teeth on the entertainment field at ASU.
“In college, I often got called on to explain concepts like copyright law to the class. Outside of class, I supported my classmates (artists and songwriters) in developing business strategies, reviewing contracts, and protecting their brand assets,” she said.
She credits Dr. William Ashbourne, the former head of ASU’s music business program who is now retired, as playing a significant part in her career and journey.
“One of the first people whom I would call when I first started practicing and working with a lot of recording artists and other people in the industry, is Dr. Ashbourne , who was a practicing entertainment lawyer in New York and Atlanta before coming to ASU. He connected me with other Black entertainment attorneys,” she said.
The 2011 ASU graduate (B.A. in political science with a minor in music business) is also a graduate of the Thurgood Marshall School of Law (J.D. 2014) and holds a certification in Global Arbitration from Queen Mary University of London (2012).
Handy-Smith explained that students who aspire to become lawyers should understand being a lawyer is “hard” for a Black woman lawyer. “In entertainment it is even harder,” she said.
Despite having natural abilities in the areas of developing business strategies, reviewing contracts, and protecting brand assets, Handy-Smith said she was often told that entertainment law “may not be for me” because she is a woman and aspired to have a family.
“It’s like you are stepping into the Boys Club...It’s challenging…The idea that only single (white) men can excel in this space is antiquated and simply not true. I am proof that this isn’t true,” she said. “It can definitely feel isolating, but I’m grateful to have mentors and other Black entertainment attorneys who I work with and who I can call on to ask how to handle certain challenges, including unnecessary Black aggression. So, it requires me to really know my stuff,” Handy-Smith said.
Her bottom line: “You have to make it work for you and don’t get discouraged...There are so many ways to practice law and run a business today. You don’t necessarily have to be in New York or L.A. to handle these types of deals…you can make your career fit and work for you,” she added.