How do I Become a Fashion Lawyer?

Fashion law is a new legal practice area, which can mean one of two things for lawyers interested in getting into it. First, there is a lot of room for growth, and the field is expanding; however, the demand for lawyers still outnumbers the number of jobs available in many cases. There is no guarantee that you will become a fashion lawyer, but the right education, industry connections, and work experience in the industry will all help.

A fashion lawyer must, without a doubt, have a legal education before pursuing a career in fashion law. Attending law school, which is typically a three-year post-graduate program that culminates in the passing of a bar or legal licensing exam, is required to obtain a legal education. Where you went to school does not usually matter as much as the grades you received, the classes you took, and your overall ranking in many traditional legal practice areas. In the case of fashion law, however, this is not always the case.

The field of fashion law is nuanced and specific as an emerging practice area. It encompasses a number of broad areas of law, but it is solely focused on a small segment of society. Only a few law schools offer fashion law classes and electives, and most fashion lawyers are too busy building their businesses to teach classes. If you know you want to be a fashion lawyer before going to law school, look for schools that offer fashion law classes or support fashion law centers so you can gain experience in the field while still in school.

While fashion may appear to be flash bulbs and runways on the outside, it is actually a complex web of intellectual property rights, proprietary interests, and image ownership on the inside. To be successful as a fashion attorney, you must be knowledgeable in the many areas of law that affect clothing designers and couture firms. Up-and-coming fashion lawyers should take plenty of intellectual property classes, including copyright and trademark rights, in addition to any fashion law classes that are offered. Students should also study business law, particularly import and export laws, as well as incorporation rules.

However, classes alone will not always lead to a career as a fashion lawyer. Experience and connections are two of the best ways to become a fashion lawyer. Look for opportunities to meet practicing fashion attorneys during law school. Shadowing someone who does what you want to do can be a great way to learn more about the field and make a connection with someone who can keep an eye out for open positions or internships.

Look for work in the fashion design industry if at all possible. Working in the fashion industry, even if it isn’t strictly legal, can help you land a job as a fashion lawyer later on. Fashion experience will almost certainly provide insights into the many facets of the fashion world, which will help to strengthen a fashion-focused legal career.

Jobs in the fashion industry aren’t available everywhere, of course. Lawyers and law students can evaluate the intersection of law and fashion in fashion meccas like New York, Milan, and Los Angeles, but those experiences can be difficult to replicate elsewhere. Finding work, contacts, or internships in fashion-rich environments is usually easier — and often more respected employers — than gaining experience only in the classroom, on paper, or in smaller markets.