Women in Hip-Hop get the job done. Across industries, women executives and leadership have forwarded their respective industries. In music, it is no different. For Women’s History Month, The Source connected with Sharde’ Simpson and Ciara Reed, industry veterans who have united as founding partners for Simpson & Reed, PLLC.
Reed is a revered music attorney with a decade of experience in music law. Throughout her career, she has led joint ventures, endorsements, license agreements, artist management deals, and more. In addition to her work as an attorney and Simpson & Reed, she leads Music Industry Moms, a non-profit designed to support mothers making strides in the music industry.
Simpson doubles as a founder of Simpson & Reed, PLLC, and the VP of Operations at DreamChasers, Meek Mill’s record label with Roc Nation. Simpson was the Philly rapper’s first hire. At Dreamchasers, she oversees full-label operations, including talent acquisition and marketing tactics. She previously worked at Davis Shapiro Lewit Grabel Leven Granderson & Blake LLP and Roc Nation.
In conversation with The Source, Simpson & Reed speak on the founding of their firm, what they offer artists, their personal careers, and more.
What let you both know it was time to partner with the entertainment law firm Simpson & Reed?
We knew it was time to partner when we continuously received referrals and requests to represent clients. We worked so well together that we thought, why not start our own firm and choose who we get to work with within the industry?
Examining the entertainment industry – what did you see was missing that your firm will be able to provide?
In our industry, lawyers are often perceived as slow-moving and difficult to approach. Simpson & Reed was established to alter this commonly held view of attorneys. Our aim is to transform the prevailing narrative about lawyers in our field and make it so that we, as an integral part of the team, are readily accessible to our clients.
When forming this partnership – what conversation did you have to have with each other about goals and what mattered to you in business?
This was actually fairly easy because we were friends prior to forming our firm. Therefore we knew we had the same values and vision in mind for our firm – passion, loyalty, and family.
Ciara, how did you juggle building your own firm with the work already in front of you?
Ciara Reed: It was tricky, but I think being extremely organized and focused were keys to juggling everything. I prioritized and determined what needed to be done immediately and what matters could wait. Identifying the most critical tasks that must be completed to build our firm and ensure its success while also balancing the demands of existing work was also essential. Managing my time was also crucial, so I dedicated time to building the firm while managing the existing workload. Having Shardé as my business partner also made the juggle more manageable since she shares the firm responsibilities. Lastly, remember self-care! I managed my stress and prioritized my mental and physical health.
How do you decide what client you want to take on for Simpson & Reed?
Ciara Reed: Our firm is referral based only, so it helps that we know the clients getting referred to us are generally going to be clients already. Because we want to ensure super service to our clients, we, unfortunately, do not take on every client that comes to us and has to be fairly selective. We also value family and loyalty in our personal lives and like to bring that to the forefront of our firm, so we make sure the clients that we take on are like family. We are all on group texts, and they can call us whenever needed.
Clients will definitely feel the impact of Simpson-Reed, but what would you want your impact across the music industry to be?
Ciara Reed: We hope that Simpson & Reed can positively impact the music industry by making clients feel like their attorneys are more approachable. The goal is to build a working relationship with the client whereby our clients feel heard and seen by us as an integral and accessible part of their team.
Aside from Simpson-Reed, you also have Music Industry Moms. What initially sparked the idea to create this nonprofit?
Ciara Reed: After my first baby, I realized how difficult it was to balance everything and how little support there was in the music industry for moms. I would be in awe of many women in executive positions or crazy positions like A&R, management, or even artists, and I would always ask how they did it. A general consensus was that there was absolutely no support for moms in this music industry, and it is very much needed. I became passionate after hearing all of their stories and decided something needed to change. This spurred the idea of Music Industry Moms, a support and mentorship program for moms and future moms of the music industry.
Shardé, your career has led you from law firms to DreamChasers. What is your journey that first sparked the idea to head a firm like Simpson-Reed?
I started working at Roc Nation and went to a law firm in-house. I stayed at the law firm for two years before being recruited to DreamChasers. I didn’t anticipate returning to a label or working from an operations perspective, but when I was offered the position, I welcomed the change. I saw it as an opportunity to use my legal expertise and prior experience at a label to help with the initial launch of DreamChasers.
After being at DreamChasers for over a year and keeping in touch with Ciara, we needed to join forces and start Simpson and Reed, PLLC (www.simpsonandreed.com). I had always maintained the desire to help individuals in need of legal representation, and at the time, I was separately representing the recording artist HER on my own. After first discussions with Ciara, launching a law firm felt perfect for continuing to fill that void.
As an integral member of two teams, how do you manage your work with DreamChasers and Simpson-Reed?
It’s often a bit challenging, but with organization, discipline, and structure, I can balance the two. I also find that doing things you love doesn’t feel so much like work. I find myself working on weekends and at night, but I enjoy every aspect of my work, and it makes life fun.
You have worked in various fields across entertainment; what marked your interest in areas from A&R to law?
I knew I wanted to attend law school during my final year of college. I attended Barnard College and Columbia University. When I was graduating, I was offered a job as an executive assistant to one of the co-founders at Roc Nation. It was my first job out of college, and it was the only way I knew to get into the industry. I then transitioned to A&R admin before moving to the business and legal affairs department at the same company. I worked full-time during the day and went to Fordham University School of Law at night. I would say taking that route was more of a way to experience all aspects of the entertainment industry, but it was not necessarily my “plan.” Life circumstances brought me down that path, and I am forever grateful.
What have you learned in your past experiences that you either wanted to place in your business or created a desire to operate differently?
Attorneys have a reputation in our field for being on the slower side of things. They also have a reputation for being unapproachable. We founded Simpson & Reed with this in mind. We want to change the narrative surrounding attorneys in our field.
You can follow both on Instagram below: