Main Menu
Photo of Joan E. Lanigan

Joan E. Lanigan

Of Counsel - washington, dc


Storytelling has been at the root of civilization before the written word took shape. As long as the ability to communicate between two people has existed, stories have been the basis for interaction. Hand gestures, grunts, carvings, hieroglyphics . . . stories have inspired, invoked fear, soothed, entertained . . . and educated their recipients. . . Joan Lanigan has been involved in the business of storytelling for decades.

Joan started as an educator when she embarked on her journey as a 4th grade teacher. Her next phase in life took her to the Public Broadcasting Service, with no experience in the business of television but an awareness that public television was focused on airing programs that educated and informed the public, as well as entertained them. Joan realized through her experience at PBS that she had a gift for recognizing a good story when it was presented. Convinced by a couple of entrepreneurs to join them in building an international television and distribution production company, she dove in as head of legal/business affairs, negotiating and developing numerous titles, and learning to appreciate more fully the talent and skill, and passion, demanded of the storytellers, the producers of the programs.

Joan has spent her career enabling creators of stories to perfect their craft and deliver content. While an avid reader (especially of mystery novels) and movie-goer, Joan recognized early in her legal career that her strength did not lie in the telling of the story but rather in the legal and business support (including the handling of the pesky details of contracts and business terms) she could provide to the producers, freeing them to do what they do best, tell informative, enriching and entertaining stories.


Legal Expertise

Entertainment law, representing independent producers and distributors, including the development, production, co-production, financing and multi-media licensing and distribution of documentary television programs and series.

Representative Matters

  • Represents the film production company, Tangled Bank Studios LLC, a division of Howard Hughes Medical Institute, including in the negotiation and drafting of development, production, co-production and underlying rights agreements and book options; drafted and negotiated multi-program licensing agreement with a national television broadcaster.
  • Represents independent producers in negotiating and drafting program production, co-production, and distribution agreements with domestic and international partners.
  • Represents Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Science Education division, including in the negotiation and drafting of development, production, acquisition, licensing and underlying rights agreements for its educational films.
  • Provided advice and guidance on structuring the financing of Foyle's War Series 8, acquired by Acorn Media Group (AMG) in bankruptcy in 2010-2011 from the popular British TV series' owner/producer and AMG's first entry into production of a prime time TV series.  MSK also drafted and negotiated the production agreement with the production company producing the series, as well as drafted, negotiated and/or oversaw all agreements being entered into by client with the writers, main talent, directors, and composers, as well as the major licensee of the series, ITV Network, and the U.S. broadcaster, WGBH (for PBS),  involving U.S., UK and Irish law.  In addition, MSK is oversaw and advised client on loan agreements with the bank providing production financing, and worked with client's attorney in Ireland, where the film took place to take advantage of Irish tax credits (S481).
  • As in-house counsel and business affairs executive for a worldwide distribution company, negotiated production and acquisition agreements with independent filmmakers, drafted television co-production and license agreements with major domestic and international broadcasters/cable channels, as well as negotiated and drafted multi-media license agreements for domestic and international ancillary program rights (home video, websites, internet, non-theatrical).
  • Negotiated product submission and license agreements with inventors of educational games and puzzles.

Other Career Experience

  • Senior Vice-President, Legal and Business Affairs, Devillier Donegan Enterprises, L.P.



  • District of Columbia


Georgetown University Law Center, J.D.

American Criminal Law Review

Mount Saint Mary College, B.A.

Back to Page