March 31, 2021 Feature

From Corporate Lawyer to IP and Fashion Expert

©2021. Published in Landslide, Vol. 13, No. 4, March/April 2021, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

Lindsay Donn Mann is currently legal counsel at Calvin Klein, Inc. Prior to focusing solely on Calvin Klein matters, she supported parent company PVH’s Tommy Hilfiger and Heritage Brands. Lindsay previously worked at Warnaco, prior to the PVH acquisition in 2013, supporting the Warner’s, Olga, and Nancy Ganz brands, as well as the licensed Chaps, Speedo, Calvin Klein Swimwear, Calvin Klein Jeans, and Calvin Klein Underwear brands.

You received joint JD/MBA degrees. What did you plan to do with those?

An in-house career was always an interest, but the path was not direct for me. I first joined the firm Cole Schotz, where—after rotating through all practice groups as a summer associate—I became a member of the corporate department. I spent a lot of time counseling clients that did not have their own legal teams, which solidified my desire to become an in-house counsel. Unfortunately, the effects of the subprime mortgage crisis led to a shortage of corporate work at the firm, and I left to work in the area of disaster relief, class action, and bankruptcy litigation at Garden City Group.

When did you know bankruptcy litigation was not for you?

Although there was never a shortage of work and it paid the bills, my heart was not in it. Even though it can lead to an amazing career, it wasn’t for me. I just couldn’t look myself in the mirror and see myself fulfilled in bankruptcy litigation five to 10 years down the line. I had to take a hard look at my career and decide what to do next. I eventually decided to attend Cardozo Law School to earn my LLM in intellectual property.

That is quite a jump. What attracted you to IP at that point?

When I initially considered making a career change from bankruptcy litigation, I was advised to consider LLM programs in tax. My gut told me that tax was not the right place for me, so I started to look at other programs. From pursuing my JD/MBA at Rutgers Law School to my years at Cole Schotz, IP had always piqued my interest. Cardozo Law’s IP LLM program offered an impressive faculty comprised of fashion general counsels, a professional sports league deputy general counsel, a top music law firm partner, and an excellent slate of full-time IP professors. I knew that the practical experience I would gain from being taught by IP lawyers actually in the fashion, sports, and entertainment industries would provide the best education on how to break into the field. I took a chance and went with it. I’m so glad that I did.

Was switching to a new specialization challenging? If so, how did you make it easier?

It certainly had its challenges, but at the same time I quickly realized that I was in the right place and fascinated by the subject matter, which is so important. I also strategically looked for ways to get more involved and learn more. In my first semester, I worked in Greenberg Traurig’s entertainment law department, where I gained experience in drafting music, film, and television production and distribution agreements, as well as IP enforcement. At the same time, I studied fashion law and got bitten by the bug. Following my first semester, I worked as a fashion lawyer while pursuing the remainder of my LLM degree and have been doing so ever since.

What lessons did you learn along the way?

Fashion law is much more than just IP work and requires a generalist approach to ensure you spot all of the issues. Additionally, although working in fashion law means that you are supporting a fashion brand, some legal needs require expertise in areas that would not be immediately associated with fashion and would really apply to any corporation, such as sustainability, mergers and acquisitions, securities laws, data privacy, licensing, consultant agreements, and other general business contracts.

What advice do you have for others looking to make a switch like this?

(1) Working at a law firm first helped me. It’s not for everyone, but it laid a foundational training for a successful in-house legal career. It particularly made me understand legal billing and using outside counsel effectively.

(2) Understand that the legal market is cyclical. There will be certain times that practice areas are hot and times that they are not. Be on the lookout for opportunities to pivot if there is a certain practice area that fits into your long-term career goals. And don’t let a bad market discourage you—even if the jobs aren’t plentiful, there are other ways to get involved, such as with networking and events. Take steps to learn as much as you can.

(3) Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself and follow gut feelings. As the law changes, the economy changes, and your opportunities change, have the courage to take that leap of faith.

(4) Network and nurture your relationships. Attend conferences, join committees, do pro bono work. And pay attention to what your friends are doing. Don’t be shy, there might be someone right in front of you who can help you. Your success is strengthened by your support system both within your past and present companies and throughout your industry. Although this sometimes takes effort and can be time-consuming, such efforts are particularly helpful when looking to break into a new industry.

Speaking about fashion particularly, what tools do you recommend to succeed in that industry?

I encourage lawyers interested in pursuing fashion law to stay up to date on industry news by reading trade publications such as Women’s Wear Daily and the Business of Fashion. Additionally, since the FTC touches advertising in the fashion industry and all other industries, in order to stay fully up to date on developments in FTC law, I recommend that all aspiring fashion and brand lawyers subscribe to the FTC’s business blog and attend the free half-day seminars that the FTC offers. Some law firms and organizations provide CLEs on fashion law. They may be free, especially if you are already working as in-house counsel, but even if they cost money to attend, it may be worth the investment to learn from fashion industry vets, build your network, and satisfy the legal education component of maintaining your state bar registrations.

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