The Woman Who Helped Bring Back Happy Birthday
Perhaps you’ve read the headlines where there was a lawsuit against Warner/Chappell brought to prove who owns the rights to the song Happy Birthday. Our own Betsy was lead attorney on the class action case that was settled for $14 million dollars recently. She proved the company that has been charging to sing the song since 1935 did not have rights to the song. Now many can use the song in movies, sing it freely in restaurants and bars, and perform the song without paying royalties to Warner/Chappell. Here are some questions I asked Betsy during our interview recently.
Q Why did you join ABWA?
Betsy: I work in a male dominated field. I am a partner in my firm but there are currently no female equity partners at my firm. I am seeking career women in different professions as friends. I find it empowering to see women who own businesses and are successful.
Q Tell us about your work.
Betsy: I’m a class action attorney who litigates. When a class action lawsuit is brought, all the attorneys meet together in front of a judge who determines which attorney will be the lead attorney in the case. We call it a beauty pageant. I was chosen the winner of the beauty pageant for the Happy Birthday case. I’m pretty sure it is the only beauty pageant I’m going to win.
Q What differentiates you from other attorneys in your field?
Betsy: I have a sense of humor and most are very serious.
Q How can I make sure I’m hiring a good attorney?
Betsy: Interview them first. Make sure the attorney specializes in the area in which you have a problem. The California Bar Association offers a referral service and most attorneys will offer a free consultation for 30 minutes.
Q How are you compensated?
Betsy: I get a draw then get a recovery of fees once I win the case. If I don’t win, I don’t get paid. It is to my benefit to get the case over quickly while the defense will try to drag out the trial. In the Happy Birthday case, I am asking for $4.8 million in fees for three years of legal work—to be divided among the four firms that fought the case.
Q What do you see for the future of law?
Betsy: Employees with class actions have more successful outcomes.
Q Tell us a secret or something we would be surprised to learn about you.
Betsy: I had 2 older brothers and I wanted to be a boy too. Mom wanted me to wear dresses but I dressed like a boy. Now I wear dresses every day to work.