When he was a law student, Marlon Rhine ’14 lived a double life.
Before he came to WVU Law, Rhine was a multi-instrument musician for several touring bands. While he lived in Morgantown, the Georgia-native played drums in a local band with a classmate, performing throughout West Virginia.
In between classes, homework and gigs, the Emory University graduate was also tour manager for the late Colonel Bruce Hampton, a founding member of Atlanta’s avant-garde Hampton Grease Band.
“One Sunday afternoon, I went to a music festival in Virginia with Colonel Bruce,” Rhine recalled. “I was there having lunch with big-name musicians one day, and then the next day, I was on Law School Hill sitting in Professor Cardi’s bankruptcy class.”
Hampton would eventually introduce Rhine to lawyers practicing personal injury and entertainment law, and that helped him start his own legal career after graduation.
Now, Rhine is the owner of his own firm in Decatur, Georgia, just outside Atlanta. He focuses on personal injury and small business litigation, but he also makes time to work in the entertainment industry helping creative people merge their passion with business.
“You need to have a vision of what you want to do with your law degree, and you have to go after it.” he said. “Music is one of those things that, once it’s in you, it’s always in you, so my work helps me stay in the musical arena in some capacity. As an attorney, I obviously can’t be out playing drums every night, but I can handle a call from someone in the industry who needs help working out the details of a contract. That part of my job is fun for me, and I can do it because I opened my own practice.”
When he was in law school, Rhine wanted to help students learn more about entertainment law and network with lawyers in the field, so he established the Music and Art Law Society. The student organization, since renamed the Sports and Entertainment Law Society, is still active on Law School Hill.
Rhine received distinction at WVU Law for his pro bono work as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), and he was a member of the MootCourt Board. He also worked in WVU Student Legal Services working on a wide range of issues.
“My experiences at WVU Law really helped to lay the groundwork for opening my own practice,” Rhine said. “Assisting clients in Student Legal Services and as a CASA helped me understand the importance of compassion, effectiveness, and efficiency when working with clients. The direct commonality among small business, personal injury and entertainment law is contracts, and in the end, it all comes down to the written word and making your points as effectively as possible to achieve an outcome tailored to your client’s needs.”
Georgia is a hub for the film industry and Rhine has carved out a niche conducting legal work surrounding distribution contracts that ensure a film is seen by an audience.
He worked as the U.S. Legal Counsel for the film The Last Shaman, helping with the terms, compliance, and negotiation surrounding the film’s distribution agreement. Much of Rhine’s work in the entertainment industry has come from networking events.
“The entertainment industry, and the legal field in general, often comes down to saying ‘ok, who do I know?’ or ‘who could I know?’,” Rhine explained. “It’s all about networking and talking to people and putting yourself out there.”
More than a year after Rhine began work on The Last Shaman, the film was released on Netflix in September 2017. Seeing the final result brought Rhine back to his music-playing days, when he would hear his band’s songs and feel good about contributing something artistic to the world.
“To see something that took so much time and effort to finalize actually manifest into something I could click on and watch, that was really rewarding,” he said.
Rhine took a risk of hanging his own shingle after graduating from law school, but by balancing his practice with his passion, he’s on the road to success.