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No Business Like IP Business

April Dawn Davenport

No Business Like IP Business
PeopleImages via Getty Images

Intellectual property (IP) is the backbone of innovation. Business today is rooted in technology, and new technologies foster new ideas. This, coupled with services created in response to the coronavirus pandemic, continues to make IP law a thriving practice area. Big firms and intellectual property hotspots are not the only places where IP law can be lucrative. IP law can be big business wherever you are, and here are ways to help you carve out a piece of the pie.

Be Visible—Write Your Way Up!          

Suzette Toledano began her boutique IP practice with a love of art and became interested in combining her legal knowledge with her artistic interest. Based in New Orleans, Louisiana, her legal practice has evolved from protecting and licensing copyrights and trademarks in the music and entertainment business to protecting and licensing intellectual property in the cannabis business. However, Suzette recalls writing articles on IP topics before even securing her first client. Her articles gave her exposure as an IP lawyer, which eventually led to speaking opportunities. Her articles educated the audience that she was trying to attract, solidifying a trust with the artists and businesses she would later represent.

Similarly, Kimra Major-Morris runs her own boutique IP law practice in Orlando, Florida, representing a wide range of clients from business owners to entertainment industry executives. Kimra gained national attention when she was retained by the family of Trayvon Martin and the Trayvon Martin Foundation to register, protect, and license their intellectual property. Kimra also attributes her success to being visible and credits her initial and continued exposure to writing articles for various outlets. “You get a lot of exposure writing articles.” She suggests writing something at least every year, and she adds “that you don’t have to just write legal articles, but also write about what’s trending in the industry.” This exposure continues to make her a sought-after speaker on brand protection and other IP-related issues.

Network, Network, Network!

Prior to law school, Kimra had successful careers, first as a performing artist, then as a television producer. Over the years, she built relationships that she was able to tap into when she started her own law firm. “Networking is about relationship building, and you can do it from whatever city you are in.” Although Kimra has a strong social media presence, she prefers a hands-on approach and credits her success to talking to people and building organic relationships. Her firm also emphasizes its personal touch by being truly accessible to her clients, something that is harder to accomplish in a big firm setting.

Suzette also credits networking with getting some of her first clients. She recalls striking up casual conversations with other participants while at conferences like SXSW, some of which would ultimately lead to retaining clients. Those years of networking would elevate her IP career even further with an unexpected phone call from a lawyer in Colorado. This chance call would launch her career into a new venture—the cannabis industry, where she would provide IP legal services to some of the most recognized brands in cannabis, including Willie’s Reserve, Willie’s Remedy, Charlotte’s Web, and Harborside, and the Grateful Dead brand of cannabis to be launched next year. This one phone call was the stepping-stone into this challenging industry, and now Suzette is considered a leader and a sought-after speaker on cannabis-related intellectual property issues.

Just Do It (Responsibly)!

“You can’t represent someone without knowing the business,” Suzette remarks, but she admits that you have to be open to things that come your way. Although she was not initially familiar with the cannabis industry, she was extremely familiar with copyrights, trademarks, and licensing, and used that knowledge to embark on something new. Similarly, Kimra’s experience in IP law allowed her to secure copyright and trademark registrations and licensing deals for the Trayvon Martin Foundation, which helps support gun violence victims and their families. But Suzette emphasizes, “Don’t do it alone!” It is crucial to seek out a more experienced attorney you can work closely with, especially when starting out.

Give Back!

Through her work, Kimra helps individuals and small businesses by educating and advocating for intellectual property rights in underserved communities. Kimra wants to use her platform to educate. In New Orleans, Suzette chaired a Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts program when she saw a need in her community. Giving back not only educates and helps local artists, innovators, or businesses in your community but also expands your knowledge and skill set in your industry.

These tips should prove not only helpful for starting an IP law practice but also valuable for sustaining a successful and lucrative IP career!