Though her first love is reading, Rebecca Prentice ‘82 has been a big fan of the movies since childhood. But unlike most film buffs, Hollywood is her home. Prentice’s days are spent behind the big screen as general counsel and executive vice president of Paramount Pictures.
A native of Visalia, California, Prentice went back west after her time in Ithaca at Cornell Law School. But going from the classroom to the studio lot didn’t happen overnight. In fact, Prentice spent four years working in the Los Angeles offices of Kindel & Anderson and another decade with Shearman & Sterling, where she ultimately made partner.
That was all before she got the fateful call from Hollywood: Paramount was looking for a new general counsel. “I didn’t know much about entertainment law, but I thought it would be interesting and a challenge to do something outside my comfort zone,” says Prentice of being offered the position. “And I really liked the people there, including several who had been at Shearman & Sterling.”
In 1996, Prentice took her current post at Paramount, a job which “is unpredictable” on a day-to-day basis. According to Prentice, there are major differences between working in-house compared to a firm setting. Rather than focusing all of her attention on one or two transactions at a time, she deals with myriad issues each day.
“You have to be able to juggle any number of matters, and make the best judgments you can based on the information available to you at the time,” says Prentice. “Most of the time, we don’t have the luxury of waiting for the perfect legal analysis before moving forward.” At one point during the day, she may be dealing with litigation matters or government inquiries and investigations. At another point, she could be working on issues in a distribution agreement. She’s also tasked with overseeing the sixty-five lawyers currently working in Paramount’s legal department.
Having a smorgasbord of responsibilities is the best and toughest part of the job, Prentice confesses. “There’s a challenge in not knowing what type of work I’ll be dealing with from one day—or hour—to the next,” says Prentice. “It’s often unpredictable and sometimes things can go haywire. But then again, that is what I enjoy the most. I never expected I would be working in the entertainment industry, but it turns out I love it. I’m surrounded every day by some of the most talented and creative people there are. It makes work really interesting.”
Since joining Paramount more than fifteen years ago, Prentice has made a splash on the entertainment law scene. She has been named to the Power 100 List for Women in Entertainment by The Hollywood Reporter for the last few years and last year she was awarded the Outstanding Corporate Counsel Award by the Corporate Counsel Section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.
When she’s not negotiating deals with Marvel and some of the largest companies in the world, Prentice, a stepmother of three, lives in the Los Angeles area with her husband and enjoys rock climbing in her spare time. But there aren’t many places in the world she’d rather be than in her office at the studio, which is celebrating its 100th year of business this year.
“Paramount is the last studio physically located in Hollywood,” says Prentice. “What I love about it is that it feels like a campus. I love being in my office. I’m not in a high rise overlooking a busy street. Instead, I’m overlooking a park. Practicing law doesn’t get much better than this.”