Joel Katz (’69)

Category: Awards | Distinguished Alumnus/Alumna

2010 Distinguished Alumni Award Winner

As the most powerful entertainment attorney in the world, Joel Katz is one of UT’s most accomplished law alumni. He is a shareholder at Greenberg Traurig and founding chairman of the firm’s global entertainment and media practice. He is also the founding shareholder of the firm’s Atlanta office.

Katz graduated from the College of Law in 1969 but not without a struggle. During his studies, he worked part time in the college’s library and worked 12 hours a night, six nights a week as a hotel clerk. As a result, he was often late to class, leading to a brush with failure by one of his professors.

“I’ll never forget it. He said, ‘You’re not going to get an F in my class, son. You want to be a lawyer more than anybody else in this damn law school. You’re going to be a great lawyer, so I’m not going to fail you.’”

After graduating, Katz began his career teaching law at Georgia State University while simultaneously serving as a law clerk in Atlanta. In 1971, he made senior partner at Galkin, Katz & Tye, where he served until 1981, when he founded the firm of Katz, Smith & Cohen. In 1998, he joined Greenberg Traurig.

Since 2012, Katz has been ranked as Billboard magazine’s number one entertainment attorney in its Power 100 list. He has also been listed as one of the best entertainment lawyers in America since 1989. Numerous publications have highlighted his legal prowess, including VarietyHollywood ReporterAtlanta Magazine, and the New York Times. In 2019, he received the Daily Report’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

Katz, a tremendous supporter of the College of Law, serves on the Law Dean’s Circle. The Joel A. Katz Law Library on campus is named for him and the silver, gold, and platinum records that line the halls of the building are a testament to the talented musicians who have placed their trust in Katz. He has given generously to the college, including an entertainment and sports law endowed professorship, and was named one of UT’s 100 Most Distinguished Alumni in 2017.

Katz is a member of the American Bar Association as well as its respective chapters in Tennessee, Georgia, and Atlanta. He currently serves as a board member for Clark Atlanta University, Hunter College, the Berklee College of Music, and the GRAMMY Museum, and is chairman of the national board of the T.J. Martell Foundation.