Clifton B. Knight Jr. '74: Opening Doors for Students in N.Y.C.

An interest in the arts prompted Clifton Brooks “Clif” Knight Jr. '74 to choose a career in entertainment law. Knight — executive vice president for legal and business affairs and the chief ethics and compliance officer for Direct Brands Inc. — says that he enjoys knowing his business offers products that people love. “Direct Brands is in the business of selling movies and books,” Knight says. “We operate businesses under 20 brands, including Columbia House — which sells DVD and Blu-ray movies — the Doubleday Book Club, The Literary Guild, and Book-of-the-Month Club.”

Knight’s responsibilities include overseeing the in-house corporate law department and the business affairs group. “We manage a stable of outside counsel comprised of about 30 law firms that we use on selected matters,” he says. “In addition, we also are closely involved in managing relations with our content providers, such as major movie studios and book publishers.”

After graduating from Carolina Law, Knight spent one year in a boutique entertainment law firm in New York City before joining RCA Records, for which Direct Brands is the successor. “The movie industry and book publishing industry are fascinating from a historical point of view,” he says. “Beyond that, our current business is extremely interesting because there are incredible changes underway and major challenges.”

Knight grew up in Raleigh but loves his adopted home. “Living and working in New York is really very special because of the opportunities available,” he says. “And, on the work front, we’re dealing with individuals who are best in field.”

To help current Carolina Law students, Knight introduces the students he hosts as interns each summer to legal and business contacts, including Carolina Law alumni. “I make an effort to introduce the students to about 35 or 40 attorneys who practice in many areas of the law,” he says. “I want to give students exposure to individuals who are very accomplished and quite willing to share their experiences. My objective is to give insights that might aid students in determining the career path they wish to pursue.”

Knight says that the summer associate program evolved from a conversation he had with Dean John Charles “Jack” Boger '74. “Early in my career, individuals were very gracious and helpful to me,” Knight says. “Philosophically, I feel that to the extent that I can pass along knowledge or open doors, it’s the right thing to do, and it’s certainly a great pleasure.”

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