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Former SAG attorney returns to Drinko Hall
Karen Shoupe ’78 knew exactly where she wanted to be after graduating from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law: living in New York City and practicing entertainment law. Her dream came true when she acquired a position as an attorney for the Screen Actors Guild, an experience she still looks upon fondly to this day.
Shoupe returned to her alma mater in October during Ohio State’s 2013 Homecoming Weekend for her 35th law school reunion. She was invited by the Sports and Entertainment Law Association to share her story.
Although Shoupe was determined move to New York City after receiving her law degree, she was unsure of which direction she wanted to take her career. While researching one day in the Supreme Court Library during the summer after her second year, she was browsing through a Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory and found entertainment law as a specialty, something she didn’t even know existed.
Shoupe was immediately intrigued and decided it would be a good fit for her.
“I thought I maybe could combine my undergraduate degree in music with my legal education and go to the city where I wanted to live,” she said.
After moving to New York, Shoupe set out to find the right position by constant networking and following every lead.
“I felt very prepared to practice law,” Shoupe said. “I thought that the Ohio State College of Law provided me with a wonderful education. I felt through the interviewing process that I had matured, that I had something to offer. Even though I was constantly being told I wouldn’t break into the entertainment business, the discouragement only inspired me.
“I thought: ‘I can do this. I can do this.’ I was determined that no one could discourage me from my goal.”
Although enthusiastic about the opportunity to practice entertainment law, she also knew there would be challenges.
Shoupe explained that “there was a learning curve dealing with disputes between actors and their agents. The actors would come in and they would tell me some incredible stories; yet, they were so believable. The agents might have a completely different story. I finally realized that the actors were trained to make people believe them.”
During her five years with the guild, Shoupe found herself dealing with a number of famous actors and spending time with other celebrities. Her job involved negotiate disputes between actors and their talent agents, supervising a small staff, and holding separate seminars for actors and agents to educate them on their rights and obligations and how to avoid future problems.
While she learned a lot from the overall experience, Shoupe felt she particularly benefited from the relationship she formed with her staff.
“What I came away with was, in your relationships with the people you work for, you want to inspire,” she said. “You don’t ever want to be bossy. You don’t ever want to demean them. You want to give them a job in whatever their talents are; let them go; and then compliment them on things that they’ve done.”
After Shoupe and her husband returned to Ohio in 1983, she decided to become a full-time mom, utilizing her talents and skills by volunteering as a Cub Scout leader, Girl Scout leader, and choir director and serving on charity boards. In 2000, the two of them moved to the Washington, D.C. suburbs of Northern Virginia.
While she eventually retired, Shoupe was proud of the goals she was able to achieve during her time as an attorney for SAG. She advises current law students to be persistent so that they can accomplish their goals, as well.
“Don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it,” she said. “Nobody. And if you don’t get it the first time, well then you do it again.”
Article by Shay Trotter.