Turn Your Love of Fashion into a Law Career | Martindale-Avvo

Turn Your Love of Fashion into a Law Career

All too often, people think they have to sacrifice their passion in order to take on a “sensible” career. You might love fashion but decide to pursue law so you can have a myriad of employment choices later in life. However, you can use your legal skills in the world of fashion. You can work with creatives and support their work. Fashion lawyers are active in a number of core practice areas, and often gain experience in the industry as a way of getting started. 

Here’s what you can expect to do as a fashion lawyer – and some ways to get your foot in the door. 

Legal Practice Areas for Fashion Lovers

Working as a lawyer for a fashion brand or designer means paying particular focus to a few key legal areas. Your brand or designer might also hire outside counsel with whom you can consult on areas like litigation, but many important elements might be handled in-house. To practice fashion law, consider gaining knowledge of the following issues:

Intellectual Property and Licensing

Designers and fashion houses have to protect their product from counterfeiters and others who might steal their style or brand identity. Fashion lawyers have to intimately understand intellectual property law and its limitations, so they can take swift and appropriate action to fight knock-offs.

At the same time, fashion brands can make a lot of money by licensing their work to clothiers or retail outlets. A fashion lawyer has to be able to negotiate licensing agreements that support the brand and protect its unique selling point, including its trademark and distinctive styles, while still allowing for the greater flow of income. 

Collaboration Agreements

Instead of licensing its brand name or design, a fashion house might choose to work collaboratively with another brand or creative. An example might be a line of evening wear that features original fabric pattern designs of a noted artist. In those circumstances, a collaboration agreement is essential to establish ownership, distribution, and revenue-sharing of the work. 

In some cases, a collaboration agreement might be more cut and dried, such as a one-time payout to the artist in exchange for the brand’s exclusive right to distribute and make money from the project. In either event, the fashion lawyer has to work closely with stakeholders in the brand to establish objectives and execute the agreement successfully.  

Environmental Regulation and Worker Protections

Fashion lawyers also have to deal with the legal aspects of production and the import and export of inventory. This means ensuring compliance with environmental regulations, both at home and abroad. Depending on where clothing is made, a fashion lawyer might also have to work closely with operational managers to ensure workers receive fair wages and a safe working environment. 

Business Law and Contracts

At the end of the day, fashion is a business. Lawyers who work in this industry have to know the fundamentals of business law, from incorporation rules to taxation. They have to work with the brand to ensure the business is appropriately structured to shield individual designers from potential bankruptcy or other kinds of liability. 

Every issue that a business might encounter in a day – from an expiring warehouse lease to customer privacy protections during ecommerce transactions – becomes the purview of a fashion lawyer. 

Employment Law and Independent Contractor Agreements

The fashion lawyer has to work to ensure employees and the brand are protected. When a senior member of the team leaves the company, a lawyer might request they sign a non-compete agreement that prevents them from working with a competing design house. They might also ask for a non-disclosure agreement to ensure that the brand’s trade secrets remain under wraps, even as people leave to pursue other aspects of their career.

These types of legal issues can extend beyond employees to independent contractors, who might be brought on for a short period of time to work on a specific project. A designer who helps to make samples for a runway show of the new season’s product lines might be legally barred from disclosing the behind-the-scenes discussions to which they were privy. 

How to Make Your Love of Fashion a Part of Your Legal Career

As you get set to take on your new career as a fashion lawyer, there are steps you can take to help you get a foot into the industry. Get to know people and what’s happening in fashion and be sure to come equipped with the legal skills necessary to support a fashion brand.

Work With Designers

People like to hire who they know, or who a trusted friend or colleague has recommended. For that reason alone, you might consider working with designers on a part-time or voluntary basis while doing your undergraduate or legal educations. You can also contact large fashion firms and see if they offer internships for college credit. 

If you find the process too overwhelming, don’t be afraid to start small. Follow small local designers on social media and get in touch with people you like. Ask if you can help them out in order to gain experience in the industry.  

Stay Up-to-Date With Industry News

When you’re working as a lawyer in a competitive industry like fashion, you’ll have to be proactive. You’ll have to spot potential legal issues before they even arise. Following the changing tides of fashion can help you to anticipate what new issues might affect the brand you work for. 

When a long-used material suddenly becomes controversial, you’ll want to make sure the brand is ready. Think about animal fur over the past few decades: you don’t want your brand to be on the receiving end of a backlash campaign, especially when you can pivot just as the tides are beginning to change. 

Network With Fashion Lawyers

In law school, try to get to know as many practicing lawyers as possible. Contact in-house counsel for fashion brands and ask them for a networking lunch. As you get to know people already in the industry, it becomes easier to navigate your way in. If you’ve chosen an accredited and specialized “fashion law” program (there’s one at Fordham University), you’re even better off networking with likeminded legal experts and being introduced to the industry’s premiere players.

Fashion is a passion for many people. If it’s what you love, you don’t have to sacrifice it for a law career. Consider learning all you can about the business of fashion and getting to know designers. When you’re ready to promote your practice, speak with the team at Martindale-Avvo who can help maximize your marketing efforts. 

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