Justin Bruntjen ’11 is the owner of Decerto Law LLC in Hopkins, Minnesota, where he focuses on civil litigation and contract work for businesses, entertainers and athletes. This past fall he was named a Top Music Lawyer for 2019 by Billboard Magazine.
We recently caught up with Bruntjen to learn more about his legal career in the entertainment industry, including his work with the Prince estate.
What drew you to entertainment law?
The main thing that drew me to entertainment law was the clientele. I have grown to love and very much appreciate the eccentric and diverse personalities of my clients. Every interaction and conversation I have with them really shows me a genius that I could never relate to or understand by myself.
What is something you are proudest of in your career?
The thing that I am proudest of in my career is working with the Prince estate and family in determining his rightful heirs. Also, the entertainment deals involving Prince that I was able to participate in, help craft and get approved by the court.
What are some of the major legal issues within the entertainment industry and how have you encountered them in your practice?
A major legal issue, specifically in Minnesota, has been the right of publicity after death. Right now there are very few protections in Minnesota to guard against use of a celebrity's name and likeness after they die. This really became an issue after Prince died because he was the first major Minnesota-born celebrity to die and then go through a probate involving multiple millions of dollars in intangible assets.
What’s something you learned at St. Thomas, in class or out, that you carry with you even today as a legal professional?
While I was at St. Thomas I clerked for the Ramsey County Public Defender’s Office. I gained an understanding and empathy toward people who are a lot of times forced into criminal actions based on their life circumstances, and their perception that they don’t have any other options.
What advice do you have for St. Thomas law students and alumni who aspire to pursue the law in the entertainment industry?
My advice would be to find a mentor who has worked in the industry for a number of years to walk you through as many different situations as possible. Meeting with clients in the entertainment and sports world is completely different than any other clients you will encounter. You have to be able to relate to them and realize that a lot of the time their mindset is going to be completely different than yours. You really to have to learn to have patience with your clients.
Also, if you plan on being involved in the legal entertainment industry, be ready to travel a lot between Los Angeles and New York. Although it’s getting better, Minnesota is very limited in the amount of viable entertainment work available.
What do you do to manage your stress, prioritize wellness and maintain your overall health?
The most important thing I use to manage my stress is, instead of taking a long lunch break, I try and go to the gym every workday around noon. Without this release of tension, I would go crazy.