Career Corner: ‘Victory was sweet’ against rapper Lil Wayne
When Cheryl Priest Ainsworth (JD 04) decided she wanted to be a lawyer, she never imagined she would one day be in a deposition room with Lil Wayne — much less, hear him make death threats to her legal team.
But Lil Wayne’s infamous deposition last year — highly publicized by TMZ — was more than a YouTube video she watched; it was her job.
In September 2012, Ainsworth was working at Browne George Ross LLP when the civil lawsuit brought by Lil Wayne against her client music producer Quincy Jones III made entertainment news across the Internet. During his deposition, Lil Wayne blatantly ignored questions, mocked the attorney taking the deposition — Pete Ross — and eventually told Ross, then Jones, “He can’t save you”— apparently referring to the retired judge in the room who was there to referee the deposition after Lil Wayne walked out of his first two depositions.
“At the end of the deposition — and I was sitting in between Pete (Ross) and Quincy (Jones) — (Lil Wayne) walked around to our end of the table. He said nothing to Pete; he said nothing to Quincy; and he stuck his hand out to me and said, ‘It was nice meeting you.’ I guess he has a thing for the ladies,” she said with a laugh.
Lil Wayne’s deposition tape was shown to the jury when he didn’t show up to his trial, and due in part to his “performance,” he ended up losing his case and paying $2.2 million to Jones, plus another million or so in attorney’s fees.
Ainsworth, now a senior counsel at Affeld Grivakes Zucker LLP in Los Angeles, discovered her passion for litigating and entertainment through summer associate positions she completed while attending UF Law. She practices in the areas of entertainment law, intellectual property and business and commercial disputes.
The former Florida Law Review editor who finished at the top of her class finds pleasure with her career path through balance. She practices SPX Pilates two to three times a week and likes to wine and dine with her husband, Aaron Ainsworth, Young’s Market Distribution Company division wine manager. She met him at the 2nd Street Speakeasy in Gainesville while attending graduate school at UF.
“Cheryl has a unique combination of an amazing work ethic and an aptitude for legal concepts,” Aaron Ainsworth said. “She was also driven to get the most out of the law school experience by being as involved as possible.”
Cheryl Priest Ainsworth credits her knowledgeable professors, thorough syllabi and “fantastic” class discussions at UF Law for getting her “amped about the law,” she said.
Additionally, the scholarships she received for law school “allowed me to enjoy the study of law without worrying that I would be in debt forever,” she said.
In her first years in Los Angeles, Ainsworth said she was surrounded by colleagues from the some of the best law schools in the United States.
“Most were fantastic people to work with, but I occasionally got some ‘smart’ remarks about UF Law being inferior to some prestigious law schools,” she said. “I guess the fact we were both hired by the same firm — and they spent a lot more money to get there — was lost on them. I’d call my time at UF Law a wise investment.”
When it comes to finding the right career path after law school, “You really (should) make the profession fit your desires and not make your desires fit the profession,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be a direct path.”
Ainsworth plans to continue on a few “fantastic” entertainment cases that will make for an exciting and busy next couple of years, she said. But she does have one more dream.
“I also secretly harbor a desire to be the next big court television judge, a la Judge Judy or Judge Milian,” she said. “It’s so low brow, but have you seen what Judge Judy makes? I’d be willing to take four years out of complex commercial and entertainment litigation to settle some small claims disputes for $180 million. The career certainly shouldn’t be all about the money . . . but for $180 million I’d give it a shot!” Judge Judy’s contract was extended through 2017 in April, and it’s reported that she’ll make $45 million per year in those four years, according to The Associated Press.
As for last year’s Lil Wayne episode, Ainsworth has a memory she will never forget. “When I was first approached about working on that case I was really just trying to keep a straight face and not just show how totally jazzed I was about working on something so cool,” she said. “…The case was contentious, and at times, downright nasty, but the victory was sweet.”