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Alumnus hits high notes with entertainment, IP practice

April 3, 2014 | Alumni

Leon Bass ’98 was hopeful he was headed for a career as a musician while playing in a band in college at Michigan State University, but when things didn’t go as planned, he decided to find a new way to appreciate his passion for music.

“I learned that entertainment lawyers play a pretty big role in the music and entertainment industry,” Bass said. “It seemed like a good fit for me because I am able to combine my interest in arts and music with my legal career, and I get to be around and work with creative people.”

After graduating from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, Bass made an ambitious move and opened his own law firm in Columbus.

While it certainly proved to be a challenge at first, his previous experiences as a law clerk before and during law school gave him the background knowledge necessary to be successful. However, Bass still needed to establish a client base for his firm. Besides launching one of the first websites for a local law firm, Bass found a unique way to get his name out into the community by developing the Columbus Local Music Awards for artists in the area. With media sponsors and an advisory board of a number of key players in the music business, the event proved to be a success.

“Suddenly there was a large group of people in Columbus, anybody that really had anything to do with entertainment, especially music, who knew who I was,” he said. “Whenever they needed a lawyer, whether or not it was for music or entertainment-related legal services, they called me first.”

Bass’ popularity continued to grow when he was named “Rising Star” in intellectual property by Law and Politics magazine in 2010 and 2011.

Although he enjoyed the local prominence, Bass still had to deal with the daily rigors of operating a law practice. Not only was he overseeing marketing issues, insurance, and administrative tasks, but he was still expected to provide a service to clients. He also learned that it was not always in his best interest to take on every matter that came his way.

“I feel very lucky that I did not make a mistake. It helped that I kept things very simple,” Bass said. “It was often tempting to take on a matter that I thought would pay very well that was beyond my comfort zone or my experience, but I was patient.  I would refer those matters to somebody else, decline them, or co-counsel them with a more experienced lawyer.”

In 2009, Bass joined Chester Willcox and Saxbe, LLP, and in January 2012, Bass became of counsel for the 400-plus attorney firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister, LLP when the two firms merged. The move to a big firm now allows Bass to focus on the practice of law rather than law practice management. He currently focuses on litigation and transactions in trademark and copyright matters, software agreements, and, of course, entertainment law issues.

Bass still has leisure time, however, to engage in two of his favorite hobbies: underwater photography and playing music.

After scuba diving in 1998 during a trip in the Caribbean, Bass was in awe of what he found under the water.

“It was like an alien planet down there,” he said. “It was so colorful, and there were so many weird fish and animals. I just thought: ‘Hey, I really want to take pictures so I can show them to people.’ ”

Since the first experience, he has invested in the necessary equipment and has even had a few photography exhibitions.

“It’s a great hobby if you live in Ohio because you get to get out of the cold winter once in a while,” he said.

Bass also spends his time playing the mandolin for a bluegrass group called Grassnine, which includes members such as Tom Krouse, the CEO of Donatos; Christina Grote, the wife of Donatos founder Jim Grote; and Dr. Terry Davis, a heart surgeon at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

The group’s intention was initially only to play for fun, but they’ve flourished over the years. The band recently played to a sold-out crowd at the LC Pavilion supporting McGuffey Lane.

“We definitely have improved over time,” Bass said. “It’s been a really great experience. The money we make either goes to charity or goes back into the band so we can make an album, which is currently in the works.”