Trailblazing Media & Communications Lawyer

September 26, 2011
Broadcast Tower

When Wade Hargrove decided to focus his practice on media and communications law, he followed conventional thinking and left his home state to begin his practice in Washington, D.C. As he recalls now, “At that time, you had to be in New York or Washington to work in media law.  No one would take you seriously anywhere else.” 

Since moving to Raleigh nearly 40 years ago, Wade has succeeded in changing perceptions about a North Carolina-based media and communications law practice. He serves as legal counsel to numerous media companies and organizations throughout the nation, including the National Association of Broadcasters. He was counsel to the U.S. government for international telecommunications satellite treaty negotiations and has testified before numerous Congressional committees on topics affecting the nation’s telecommunications industries. He has been named by The National Law Journal as one of the nation's top ten media lawyers.

Wade’s affinity for the media and broadcast industries has its roots in his childhood. As a sixth grader, Wade and two buddies bought a weekly 30-minute time slot on the local AM radio station, WRRZ in Clinton. They provided the programming themselves—a live, in-studio performance featuring their own country music band, with Wade playing pedal steel guitar and harmonica. They made the venture pay by selling ads to local businesses for 50 cents a piece. “Business was pretty good,” Wade reflects. “Who wouldn’t pay 50 cents to a 12-year-old to get an ad on the only daytime radio station around?”   

From that beginning at a 1000-watt radio station, Wade was hooked on the media business. He “hung around” WRRZ through high school, doing every job the station would let him try, from DJ to sports announcer. His passion for broadcasting then led him to college. He earned a degree in Radio-Television-Film from UNC Chapel Hill, working along the way at UNC’s public television and radio stations, progressing from camera operator as a freshman to news director at WUNC-FM as a senior.  After graduation, deciding “it would be fun to be a lawyer,” Wade entered law school at UNC and prepared for the role he has since played in helping an industry evolve from transistor radios and antenna-delivered TV to the age of digital signals, cable networks and programming delivered by satellite systems.      

After overcoming the challenge he once faced in “proving to general counsel at a national media company that they should hire a Raleigh lawyer to do D.C. work,” Wade says, “I have been very fortunate in the way things worked out.  I live in a place I love, and work for clients in an exciting industry that continues to fascinate me.” 

And he hasn’t forsaken the talents that first got him into the media industry—he still plays steel guitar and banjo in a folk/bluegrass band with a group of friends. 

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