TITLE: Senior VP of Litigation, Fox Group
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Joined Fox in 2004 after working as litigation counsel for two other law firms, Hogan & Hartson (now Hogan Lovells) and Troop Meisinger (acquired by Akin Gump in late 2000).
QUOTE: “I learned that you can be tough, strong and aggressive but still be nice and even reasonable. I think that can be very powerful.”
— Jill Ratner
Jill Ratner knew from “a crazy young age” that she wanted to be an attorney. “I used to tell people, ‘I’m going to be a lawyer,’ which probably sounded silly, coming from a 6-year-old’s mouth,” Ratner recalled. No one in her family was an attorney, but she viewed it as an empowering profession.
Ratner used her passion for soccer to show that she was a power to be reckoned with in the legal world when she was still an undergraduate at the University of California at Los Angeles. During her years as a varsity athlete, she was instrumental in getting the university to comply with Title IX, which protects gender equality rights at educational institutions.
As a result, UCLA secured full NCAA Division 1 status for the women’s soccer team.
DEFENDING TELEVISION’S INTERESTS
That kind of moxie has carried through to her work as senior vice president of litigation at the Fox Group. “She has impeccable judgment and incredible courage,” said Rita Tuzon, Fox Networks Group’s executive vice president and general counsel, who was a Wonder Woman in 2010 and is one of Ratner’s mentors.
Tuzon noted that Ratner championed the legal fight against Aereo, playing an instrumental role advocating for the interests of the broadcast television business as a whole, in addition to Fox.
While lawyers at other networks certainly made important contributions, Ratner’s work was key to a victory in the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014. The decision barred Aereo from transmitting over-the-air TV programming on the Internet without authority from the copyright owners.
“All of the plaintiff s had a voice, but it really was Jill and Fox that guided the strategy that took the Aereo case to the Supreme Court as quickly as possible. It’s rare that the Supreme Court grants review from the preliminary injunction decision,” Julie Shepard, a partner in the law firm Jenner & Block, which provides Fox with outside counsel , said.
THE TOUGHEST CHALLENGE
That early review was critical, Shepard said, because if the Supreme Court had delayed action for a few years, there could have been dire consequences for the networks’ business model.
Ratner’s work in protecting Fox’s content is far from done. In fact, she said it’s one of her toughest challenges moving forward.
“There’s no question our industry is in the midst of unprecedented evolution. It’s an absolutely critical time for us to protect our content,” Ratner said. “While the Aereo court victory was a very important step, we’re still fighting a lot of these battles.”
For example, right now, Ratner and her Fox team are facing a legal fight with the billionaire Alki David and his Internet streaming company FilmOn over copyright issues.
STANDING OUT IN THE MEDIA WORLD
Those who know Ratner well say that she stands out in the ranks of media and entertainment lawyers not only because of what she’s accomplished, but how she’s succeeded.
“She never tries to act like the smartest person in the room, even though she may be. She’s not one of these people who likes to hear themselves talk,” said David Singer, another Jenner & Block partner.
“When she finds lawyers or business people who are competent, she’s able to delegate and trust. She’s willing to accept responsibility for the consequences,” Singer said.
“She’s a strategic litigator, and at the same time she can lead a group of people with grace and strength, without being in any way mean or arrogant or demeaning to them,” Shepard added.
Ratner also has a knowledge base that is far wider than her area of expertise. “She knows as much about our business as any business executive,” Fox’s Tuzon said. “That is the key to her success and her value to us.”
Because of that all-encompassing vantage point, Ratner is able to see how a particular legal stance might be beneficial to one Fox division but harmful to another, Singer explained.
Ratner said that one of the most important pieces of advice she’s received over the years came from Tuzon, and she tries to impart it to other people rising up through the ranks: “Particularly as a woman, it’s important to find a seat at the table, literally and figuratively. You have to earn it through hard work and by gaining the trust of your colleagues and bosses. But once you’ve done the work, it’s important to get that seat at the table so your voice can be heard.”
WORKING HARD FOR THE COMMUNITY
Both Singer and Shepard note that Ratner is a very hard worker, but she’s also devoted to her family, which includes two daughters, Michaela and Talia, and her husband, Elon, who works in the construction industry.
Ratner has also been active as a community leader. She served on the board of the California Women’s Law Center for many years.
In 2014 she joined the board of the Anti-Defamation League, which focuses on justice and fair treatment for all.
“The impetus was having children,” she said of her most recent community work. “My daughters are 5 and 8, and I really want for them the ideals that the ADL strives for.”