Lynnore Thames – Rights and Clearance Manager at ABC News

Lynnore Thames, Rights and Clearance Manager at ABC News

Finding a place in entertainment law

Most people would do anything to get a job in the fast-paced and exciting world of entertainment. However, very few of us know how to pursue these jobs or even what these jobs involve. Lynnore Thames, the Rights and Clearance Manager for ABC News, is one of the fortunate who managed to navigate her way into the communications field as an attorney.

Lynnore Thames, Rights and Clearance Manager at ABC News

lynnore thamesInside ABC News with Lynnore Thames. Most people would do anything to get a job in the fast-paced and exciting world of entertainment. However,  few of us know how to pursue these jobs or even what these jobs involve.



Lynnore Thames, the Rights and Clearance Manager for ABC News, is one of the fortunate who managed to navigate her way into the communications field as an attorney. Eleven years ago she started her career with the news organization as a Rights and Clearances Associate, even before she earned her J.D. Being in the right place at the right time, her current position, which was created for an attorney, opened up after she graduated from New York Law School. Here, Lynnore shares her unique strategies for landing her current position and offers advice to attorneys who are looking for careers in the broadcast television.

What does a Rights and Clearance Manager do?

I have a dual capacity. I work on behalf of the network to decrease its liability that we expose ourselves to as the result of using third party content. I do that by working closely with the producers with World News with Charles Gibson, our internet platform,, our video on demand group, producers from This Week with George Stephanopoulos, and Weekend News which is our World News version for the weekend. I work with them to put together segments where they want to use other people’s content. For instance, they’ll come to me and say that they want to use a clip from Star Trek. I’ll help them with the clearances for that material so that we can use it legally.

My other responsibility is to screen the programming. I’ll screen last night’s World News program to look at it and determine what was used in the program. I’ll ask the producers what kinds of clearances they obtained, because they can do clearances on their own with some of our standard content providers. Then I’ll put together a report that I can distribute to various divisions in the company so that they know how they can distribute our programming.

What does your typical day look like?

My day depends on what is going on in the world. As a news organization we document the news; we document what’s going on. Some days are quieter than others.

I typically will come into the office early and familiarize myself with what is going on in the world. For example, last night—Sunday night—I was monitoring what was going on with Merv Griffin, who passed away this weekend. I had been looking over my news postings to see what type of stories we might be positioning for this evening’s programming.

Monitoring the news even before my day begins gives me an idea of how my day is going to stir up. I also have a morning editorial meeting where the executive producers determine what stories they’re going to cover. Throughout the course of the day, I field questions from producers and advise my colleagues in other divisions within the company on distribution availability of the day’s programming,

How did you decide to pursue a career as a lawyer?

Becoming a lawyer was something that I wanted to do for a very long time. When I was in elementary school Shirley Chisholm visited my class. She was my local congresswoman and she was the first African-American to run for President of the United States. She was also a lawyer. I was just so impressed by this woman who was so excited about being an advocate on behalf of the people and on behalf of her community. I found out what it was to be a lawyer and I found out what lawyers do, at least in her capacity. It just stuck with me from that point on.

I didn’t know when and how I was going to become a lawyer. After college, I worked for the Communications and Advocacy Department for the Women’s Sports Foundation, which is a national non-profit dedicated to increasing sports and fitness opportunities for girls and women. I worked with members of the U.S. Congress and elite female athletes to increase sports opportunities for girls and women. One of the ways we accomplished this was through legislation. My involvement in this type of work caused me to seriously entertain the idea of attending law school.

In between law school and the Women’s Sports Foundation, I was offered the opportunity to work for ABC News, which was interesting because I was working with a whole slue of attorneys who were no longer practicing attorneys but who were using their legal knowledge in some capacity at the network. I was a communications major and I didn’t realize to what extent communication companies rely on the expertise of people with legal backgrounds, and not just in the legal department but also in a business affairs or in a rights mode.

While I was working for ABC News, I decided to apply to law school. I determined that I wanted to go to New York Law School at night and work during the day, which in hindsight was the best decision. It allowed me to keep a position within the Walt Disney Company (the parent company to ABC and ESPN) – immediately prior to attending New York Law School I transferred to to work as a contracts administrator in the legal department. I worked so hard to get into a communication company and I didn’t want to lose my contacts and take myself out of the field for an extended period of time.

Do you believe that you are living Shirley Chisholm’s legacy?

Shirley Chisholm was an advocate for people who didn’t have a voice. I’m working on behalf of others who may not be aware of their rights. I’m on the board of the Black Women in Sports Foundation, another non-profit that is dedicated to increasing and exposing black women to sports and fitness opportunities. On the board, I review materials from a legal point of view. In that role, I’m embodying some of the attributes of Shirley Chisholm’s career. I’m also a member of the NYC Bar’s Young Lawyer’s Committee and I run the Thurgood Marshall program, which places New York City Public high school students in law firms, government agencies, the judiciary, and bar associations throughout the city. It makes me proud to be a lawyer and to do right by the students and my community.

What advice would you offer an attorney who wanted to transition into media law?

It helps to have a communications background. If a law firm associate had a communications background and was familiar with the field, it would be a slightly easier transition. It would be helpful to have a combination of media law and intellectual property understanding. If an attorney does not have this experience, I would suggest that they start taking CLE courses in those areas so that they can become sensitized to the different issues that media and IP attorneys encounter.

I would also suggest that they start networking. Every major job that I have ever gotten I got through a relationship that was established through a networking opportunity. They could also start writing. People often ask, “How do you get your name known?” I say, write an article. Find an area of interest within communications and copyright law, research it and get it published. This is something that you can use to show that you have a knowledge base about this area of law. You have distinguished people get into these positions and they tend to remain with the company for a substantial period of time. It’s very competitive.

Interview with Lynnore Thames conducted by Natalie Holder-Winfield of the Committee on Career Advancement and Management .