If you’re a creative professional, lawyers can seem intimidating. We’re known to love our $20 words, billing by the hour, being slow to return calls and emails, and generally being pretentious know-it-alls. Leslie Burns tries to do it differently.

Leslie uses plain English whenever possible, stays in touch with her clients, and tries to use alternative billing (contingency fees or flat fees) whenever she can.  She wants to help and will do what she can to achieve that for every client. For her, being a lawyer is a vocation, a true calling. She feels honored to serve her clients.

About BTA, Inc.

Burns the Attorney, Inc., is my law firm. I’m Leslie Burns.

I grew up in a house full of creatives (brothers and mother) and even my father was an actor before becoming a general practice lawyer. I’ve worked in the creative industries since the 90s, as a studio manager, photographers’ rep and producer and, later, a marketing consultant to photographers. I’ve lectured across the USA and even written a couple of books on the business of being a commercial photographer.

Before all that I was an odd academic who simply loved learning. I (eventually) got a BA in French, then got a full scholarship to get my MA in French linguistics and film and then my PhD. While I completed my PhD coursework in medieval French literature and language, I bailed before completing the doctorate (there was some “me too” there). In short: Geek, c’est moi.

After seeing how creatives got screwed so often in business, I decided I’d love to go to law school to protect them better. It took a while before I could make that happen, financially, but in 2008 I got offered a full scholarship and leapt at the chance. I loved law school. I passed the California bar on the first try and have been licensed and practicing in California since 2011.

I call myself a “bad buddhist” and you’ll see references to that in my work and writings here. Basically, it means I try to use respect, compassion, and a desire to resolve problems amicably whenever possible. However, when needed, I’m as tenacious as a badger. Think Carol Kane in Scrooged–sweet, but more than capable of going all lawyer-ninja on opponents.

A Midwesterner until my 30s, I now live in San Diego with my boyfriend (Tony), cat (Ruth Bader Catzburg), and Blue Heeler (Mongo Santamaria). You can follow me on Mastodon.


A Rant

Business is hard. To paraphrase a favorite movie, anyone who says otherwise is selling something. Business is work and doing the stuff you don’t want to do. Business is hiring accountants and lawyers and making pitches to potential clients and doing research and paperwork and making trips to Costco. Oh, and making your art, too. …

10 Commandments for Commercial Photographers*

The 10 items below are written primarily for photographers but, really, the ideas apply to all commercial artists, whatever your speciality. (* I originally wrote the first version of this in 2008–I’ve updated it here but the original has held up very well, almost 15 years later)


Leslie doesn’t answer legal questions for free or over the phone, including whether something is copyright infringement or a potential case she can help with. Her insurance company wouldn’t like it and, besides, you hate it when people ask you to work for free and so does she. Rather than calling her, please fill in the form below and Leslie will get in touch shortly.

Thanks for understanding.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have an infringement matter, DO NOT USE THE FORM BELOW; please use the Copyright Evaluation form (linked here, in this text) instead.

ONE MORE THING: The form will capture your IP address–sadly, some people like to send threats (or porn!) and an IP address can be used to identify the sender. 

And yes, there are some odd ones but they are built into the software, sorry. Also, feel free to add your pronouns later in the "other" section of this form

(if you have one)

Please double-check for accuracy!

If you’re an artist, please describe what kind, briefly (e.g., painter, illustrator, photographer)

BRIEFLY, give me a general idea of what help you need. Don’t describe your issue in detail, but instead say something like "Help with registrations" or "Help with a contract"

If you have an issue with another person or entity, please put their name here so that I can do a conflict check.

Any other info you want to share, like your pronouns

This form does not create any client/attorney relationship; you won’t be a client unless we both sign a client services agreement (and you pay a retainer, if needed)