Turn your Love of Art into a Law Career - Martindale-Avvo

Turn your Love of Art into a Law Career

art legal career

It’s always exciting to see where your passions can take you. Just because you have a love of art does not necessarily mean you want to pursue a career as an artist. Whether you make art in your free time or you simply enjoy touring galleries and art fairs, you can actually channel that love of art into a law career. Want to learn how to utilize your passion for art in your law career? Keep reading.

Legal Practice Areas For Art Lovers

There are many types of law practices where a love of art can serve you well and even make you uniquely qualified to take on certain cases. Let’s discuss the different practice areas that you might consider as an art lover beginning or considering a law career.

Artwork Fraud Law

In the art world, fraud occurs when someone attempts to profit off of a fraudulent piece of artwork: something they may claim was created by a famous artist or was several hundred years old, for instance, but is actually only fabricated to appear that way. As an art fraud attorney, you may protect your client from being fraudulently misrepresented in a civil case. You might also represent clients accused of art fraud themselves.

As an attorney, your job will be proving your case – whether that fraud was committed or that it wasn’t. That means speaking with art experts, gathering evidence, and presenting the ways that a piece of art might be deemed authentic or fraudulent. This is also a perfect time to let your art nerd heart shine through, all while skillfully representing your client.

Auction Law

A seller’s attorney in an art auction is responsible for drawing up and/or reviewing the auction contract to make sure everything is fairly negotiated. One thing that is essential for auction contracts is to clearly communicate to the buyer exactly what they are getting. In an auction, the buyer will have no opportunity to negotiate the cost based on the value of the item. They must know its value and its condition before they bid. 

You may also collaborate with appraisers to confirm the value of the artwork before it goes on auction. As a lover of art, you will have a chance to work with experts in explaining exactly why a work of art should cost as much as it does. You are also in a great position to defend the value of the work because of your own passion for art.

Estate Law

Estate law involves ensuring that a client’s estate is divided up, protected, or cared for according to their interests. You may work with a client before their death in terms of estate planning, or you may work with their family to represent their estate in years to come. 

Many famous artists of the past still have estates that are managed by their families. The estate has a say in how the art is used for as long as any copyright still lasts. Some contemporary artists want to dictate how their work can be used or to specify who will have ownership over their art after their death. This area of law will offer you plenty of experience with art while you work to help your clients.

Copyright Law

Copyright law is all about helping your clients obtain copyright registration for their creative works, as well as protecting those copyrights from infringement such as plagiarism. All art is copyrighted from the moment it is created. However, it is always advisable that an artist obtain copyright registration so they can actually defend their copyright. This is where your clients will come to you, whether for advice on the best copyright licenses and practices or to obtain registration for you.

As a copyright lawyer, you become something of a champion of your client’s artwork, making sure that it stays unique and that no one profits from it unlawfully. This is an excellent intersection for an art lover who also has a passion for the law.

Insurance Law

Insurance law is not all about car accidents, wrongful death, and medical malpractice. Artists often insure their artwork or their art galleries. If the artwork is stolen or damaged, the insurance company should at least pay some financial recovery. When the insurance company wrongfully denies an art insurance claim, insurance law attorneys can help to negotiate with them or advocate for their client’s right to compensation. 

Art and Museum Law

When museums obtain a piece of art to show off in an exhibit or event, they must go through often complex and lengthy negotiations with the owner of that artwork. The artwork might have significant cultural significance, such as pieces uncovered by archaeologists. It can be tricky for the museum to obtain the rights to show or house the artwork while still being respectful of the culture from which it came. Both sides vie, as they typically do, for their own best interests. 

As an attorney experienced with art and museum law, you can help your clients navigate these contracts and see that they are upheld. You may represent the museums, the art dealers, or the heirs to certain works of art. This requires extensive knowledge of art, museums, and culture in addition to the law itself. If you frequent art exhibits at your favorite museums, this might be a path for you to follow in your career. 

How To Make Art a Part of Your Legal Career

It can only help lawyers to have dynamic interests and passions. When you are well-versed in the subject as well as the law, you will be able to see things from the point of view of your clients – or of the opposing side. Both insights may just be the secret ingredient that helps you win your case. Here are some steps to make art a part of your legal career.

Choose an Undergraduate Major in the Arts

Because there is no undergraduate law degree and the American Bar Association (ABA) makes no recommendations as to your undergraduate major before entering law school, you have your pick of areas of study. Consider majoring in art or art history, especially if you plan to go into any of the above legal practices. This way you can study something you love, and it will give you more context when you go into your legal career later in life.

Look Into Specialized Art Law Courses in Law School

Many law schools will offer specialized courses or seminars based on different practice areas. You may be able to find some specialized art law courses or regular seminars. Prioritize law schools that offer this option and make sure to include in your law school applications your intention to focus on art law.

Intern and Associate With Firms Who Have Art Attorneys

Both when interning and after you’ve passed the bar and started looking for your first associate position, look for law firms that already have experienced partners practicing art law, estate law, copyright law, or whatever it is on which you want to focus. You can learn from these attorneys by working in the same office with them, even if you don’t work on the same cases. Plus, that professional connection can open doors for you as you move further into your legal career. 

A career in art law is a great way to combine two interests and indulge your love of art in your legal career. There are many different paths that you can take. You may even choose to work in several art-related practice areas. Regardless of what you choose, your genuine passion for art will make you stand out in your field.

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