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Alumni Spotlight

UH Law Center graduates Beard LL.M. ’18 and Barks ’13 collaborate as partners of boutique Houston law firm

Rodney Beard, a 2018 LL.M. graduate of the University of Houston Law Center.

Rodney Beard, a 2018 LL.M. graduate of the University of Houston Law Center.

Justen Barks, a 2013 alumnus of the University of Houston Law Center, and a member of the adjunct faculty.

Justen Barks, a 2013 alumnus of the University of Houston Law Center, and a member of the adjunct faculty.

Jan. 12, 2021 - As the proprietors of Beard & Barks PLLC, Rodney Beard, LL.M. '18, and Justen Barks, J.D. '13, felt that Houston needed attorneys who could skillfully serve the entertainment market not only in the fourth-largest city in the U.S., but in Texas as a whole. They came together to launch their firm in December of 2018 after realizing that their combined skills in both the intellectual property and entertainment industries would be a boon for the area.

“There is not a strong entertainment infrastructure here, and only a handful of attorneys practicing entertainment law full time. With intellectual property as a strong foundation, we have the flexibility to build the practice while catering to a diverse client roster that only a boutique firm can provide,” Barks said.

The firm's daily work is primarily focused on building a client-focused entertainment and intellectual property practice, with both partners using a diverse skill set in their practice. 

For Beard, his prior work in the music industry and study at the World Intellectual Property Organization spurred him on to learning how to protect a creator’s rights worldwide.  These lessons on abiding by the rules of law in a particular jurisdiction while simultaneously maximizing the use of the rules within a proposed interaction benefit the firm’s clientele on a global scale and can help ensure their success.

“One of my instructors in Geneva (headquarters of the WIPO) sat on the bench in the D.C. Circuit and taught comparative law from an intellectual property perspective.  He showed us why many disputes arose at home and abroad, and the necessity of compliance within multiple jurisdictions,” Beard said.

Barks, armed with a degree in entertainment industry management and having been taught by some of the most experienced instructors in the music industry, said that when the firm is working with music industry clients, his background helps him to understand what they seek to accomplish through their artistry. 

"There is obviously so much more to the music business or any aspect of the entertainment industry than just the act of creating art, but having some understanding of my client’s passions just helps us to connect better," Barks said.

Barks serves as an adjunct professor at the Law Center, where he teaches a course on entertainment law. 

"I stress to my students that being immersed in the vocabulary and work that your clients are doing is key to meeting them where they are and building from there," he said.

Barks said the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on the firm's business, but differently than he expected.

"On the entertainment side, it became an education opportunity for several of our clients, as content creators couldn’t rely on live performance or standard production environments they were moving significant resources toward social media and streaming," Barks said. "As is nearly always the case, the law is not nearly as adaptable to quick shifts as technology is, and we found ourselves advising on a new paradigm of content delivery, control, creation, and protection for a number of clients who did not emphasize ‘new media’ outlets previously.” 

Click here to learn more about Beard & Barks PLLC.