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July 01, 2008

July 2008: Leonard D. DuBoff, Esq.

Blind lawyer, a pioneer in the field of art law, ‘drawn’ to creativity.

Whether looking at the Elgin Marbles, which once graced the ancient Grecian Parthenon, or the reprints of the self portrait of the great Renaissance artist, Raphael, it is nearly impossible not to awe at their beauty and craftsmanship. Yet these two artistic items also have something else in common besides their artistic value: they are centerpieces in the most intriguing case studies in the field of art law, namely how to determine who has legal possession of pieces of art that are removed from their places of origin. Leonard D. DuBoff, Esq., has researched, studied, and analyzed these two cases, among many others. What is amazing about Leonard’s situation is that he has become one of the leading legal scholars in the field of art law, even though he is totally blind. Nevertheless, he makes sure to find new and creative ways to advance the field of art law and bring it to the attention of other lawyers.

Mr. DuBoff, who graduated at the top of his class, with a straight ‘A’ average, from Brooklyn Law School, has a background in mechanical engineering. With this background, he initially wanted to pursue a career in patent law. Yet even as a mechanical engineer, he was drawn towards art projects and enjoyed working with artists. After realizing that most of the academic material in the field of art law was incomplete, Leonard held the first national conference on art law as a professor at Lewis and Clark Law School in 1974. Before going into private practice, he also taught at Stanford Law School and Hastings College of Civil Advocacy, while publishing on the topics of art, business, and intellectual property law. He is currently the Founding and Managing Member of The DuBoff Law Group, LLC. In addition to writing various books and articles, DuBoff is an author of what is considered by many the leading treatise in America on art law, The Desk Book of Art Law, as well as a case book on art law, and Art Law in a Nutshell (see

Since he was 22, Leonard has been totally blind. He also is missing his right hand and two fingers on his left hand, and is partially deaf. Leonard accommodates his visual disability in unique ways to fit his passions for art and the law. “I was sighted for 22 years of my life and, as a mechanical engineer, I needed to use my vision to design and create projects,” he said, “and from these experiences I have learned to recreate objects in my mind from previous visions.” DuBoff finds it easy to mentally picture items which are either two or three-dimensional, especially with the aid of his wife’s descriptions. Leonard also uses an e-mail system accessible by telephone, and a Dictaphone.

One of the reasons Leonard is so well regarded in his field is his ability to embrace methods as creative as the pieces of art he writes and lectures about. To begin with, Leonard works closely with creative people including photographers, toy makers, writers, publishers, craft artists, and restaurateurs. Usually these types of professions require “thinking outside of the box.” Leonard believes that lawyers should be able to do the same in order to properly represent their clients. When dealing with colleagues, he tries to show them that art law is an all-encompassing field and it is to their benefit to become familiar with it. For example, he recently lectured to estate lawyers on the importance of remembering art and intellectual property when creating trusts and wills. He believes that the possibilities for such creative outreach will only increase in the future as art and the Internet become more integrated. “The web is a great vehicle for artists when creating and marketing their works,” DuBoff observed. “We’ll just have to wait and see where it goes.”