Jim Arnoff


Describe your legal background and your current role today

I went to Georgetown University Law School in D.C. After I graduated, I worked at a law firm in New York for a couple of years and during this time I realized that this wasn’t for me. I did some entertainment law here in New York and I began to look for companies in entertainment that use lawyers who aren’t a part of law firms. I found out that big talent agencies have a whole host of lawyers that review contracts for all their clients. I worked for William Morris, a big talent agency, but soon decided I didn’t want to review contracts for the rest of my life. 

Six months later, there was an opening for a Television Agent and I accepted. There I am the next day, in this huge office, beautifully decorated, overlooking Central Park, an unlimited expense account as an agent in television with no training and no clue what to do. I became an agent, and learned how to do it, got clients, became a packaging agent where I represented TV production companies by pitching TV series over networks for 7 years. I didn’t want to move to California and in retrospect, I wasn’t meant to be an agent at a big agency.  Soon after, I went off on my own, clients followed me, and I continued with the legal work. I kept doing this realizing that being independent would leave me available for everything that came my way. I said “Yes” to pretty much everything. Later I added teaching, and coaching. It appealed to a part of me that being an Agent and legal work doesn’t. As far as I know, there is no other Agent-Lawyer-Coaches out there. And I love it that way.

What three words would you use to describe your role? 

Empowering, Transformational, Empathetic.

What inspired you to pursue your current career? 

My experience as a volunteer peer counselor in the LGBT community led me to coaching, which is a natural fit for my personality and outlook on life. I would say the same for teaching at School of Visual Arts, NYU and FIT. I love empowering students and connecting them with industry professionals.

Name one movie, book or song to describe your career. 

There’s a new book by my favorite motivational speaker, Mastin Kipp, titled Claim Your Power, which is about claiming your power, your purpose, your mission. My power and mission are to empower others in every career that I have. It’s all about empowering others to be the most fulfilled they can be in life. 

How has your legal education/background shaped the way you perform in your current career? 

Without my law background, I wouldn’t be doing most of what I am doing today. It totally opened doors, strengthened my credentials, reputation, how people think of me, and how I bring my legal thinking into everything I do. 

What lessons learned, or unexpected challenges did you face in your current roles? 

Everyone has a huge capacity to do a lot more than they think they can do. For example, an important point to having 5 careers is that they each have their own rival level. In other words, the law maybe 5% to 10% of my time/energy/income, and that’s ideal. I would not want to spend more than that. Teaching might be 5%, consulting 5%, agency 15% and the rest is coaching. And those are the right levels. When people say, ‘you have five careers do you every sleep?’ I say-  I sleep beautifully because I am pursuing everything that I love and they each have their own ideal level. 

You’d be amazed about how much capacity you have when your pursuing what you love, it’s effortless, easy and incredibly rewarding.

What advice would you give to those career pivoting or pursuing a career beyond the practice of law? 

Pursue your passion(s), whatever it is- in many ways effortless that speaks to who you are on every level, where you get much excitement and thrills from. That to me is the #1 driver in success and happiness.  Ask for a lot of support along the way, especially when you’re on your own, or even if you’re not. Support is amazing. Surround yourself with others who are not judgmental and you can totally be yourself around.  Those who are great listeners and they don’t necessarily tell you what to do but ask all the right questions. Like a coach with a team! 

Words of encouragement: Pursue your dreams, pursue your passions, ask for assistance, always keep learning and growing because that keeps the energy going & feel very alive, directly affects your health, stay stress free as much as you can. Enjoy life, have lots of friends, honor your personal passions as well as a professional passion. 

 What is your personal motto, mantra or favorite quote? 

One of my mottos I have learned over the years, the perfect example, say “Yes to almost everything because there are certain things that is not for you.” This was one of them, I was excited. It was a challenge to say Yes and simply wait to see what happens. 

In addition to saying yes to almost everything, one very similar is by Wayne Dire Mantra: “Attach to nothing, open to everything.” A great motto as well to be open and if you’re not sure what it is, explore it, be curious and give it a go. Another mantra that shaped my life. 

Jim Arnoff is a Talent Agent representing New York production companies (reality, documentary, non-fiction) in developing and selling original programming to the networks and new media. He is an entertainment lawyer and Certified Life/Career Coach to the entertainment industry. Jim is an adjunct faculty member of the School of Visual Arts.