Art Law? What It Is and Why Law Students Should Look Into it.

This post is guest authored by Victoria Gonzales, a rising third-year law student at Texas A&M School of Law. Victoria is one of our summer legal interns here at Maddrey PLLC, and we are happy to present this article. As always, I have reviewed this post for its legal and factual conclusions – Tom Maddrey
My name is Victoria Gonzales and I am a rising 3L law student at Texas A&M University School of Law. I am currently interning at Maddrey PLLC for the summer and during the past 2 years of law school, I have been working towards an Intellectual Property Concentration that I will obtain upon graduation in May 2020.
I was originally drawn to intellectual property because of my love of art and books and luckily this practice area has allowed me to grow that passion and pursue my legal career simultaneously. Intellectual Property can mean a lot of things but to me, it means serving the underserved artist communities that make our lives beautiful and unique. I hope this blog post helps law students who are interested in IP, who don’t know what they want to do, or people who are curious about what Art Law is and why someone would want to work in this practice area.

What is Art Law?

As a law student interning at a firm that specializes in Art Law, I get this question with raised eyebrows quite a bit. First and foremost, Art Law involves a multitude of relationships. Gallery owners and artists, artists and their businesses, and artists and potential buyers all have to work together. This means any attorney working in this field must have knowledge about intellectual property, first amendment issues, business formation, contract drafting, and industry standards surrounding different forms of art. For example, a street artist working with the city of Dallas has very different needs than an artist wanting to display their newest piece in a gallery.
Art Law also stretches along many different mediums beyond just paint and canvas. Photographers, musicians, YouTubers, bloggers, choreographers, and fashion designers all need the protection a good and knowledgeable attorney can give them. And the sooner the better. In the digital age, creative people are being infringed quickly and often without even knowing it. As an attorney in Art Law, you work to ensure those involved in creative endeavors have someone in their corner.

Why I Chose Art Law and Why I Think Law Students Should Too

Early in my law school career, I had a few people tell me it was a bad idea to ‘specialize,’ ‘put myself in a box’ or ‘pick a career that’s too narrow.’ I was terrified of possibly making myself less marketable when I looked for a job after graduation but after talking to all of my professors and working with Maddrey PLLC this summer, I feel more confident speaking to others about why this particular practice area is interesting and exciting to me:
1. Art Law stretches the boundaries of intellectual property law and is often the first battleground for IP disputes.
Art Law is a dynamic subset of intellectual property. This summer, two major art law disputes have hit the courts and have forced decisions on state sovereignty and fair use in copyright matters. Beyond that, Instagram has created a new field for infringement in photography. Names like Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj have now been involved in photography-based copyright disputes.
2. Your clients are unique.
Artists make the most interesting clients. You get the opportunity to teach IP basics and flex your copyrights and trademarks muscle all the time. Every day when you meet with clients, you get exposed to different creative processes and different needs. Your clients are people who express themselves in the most beautiful and thoughtful ways and you get to be an important part of that expression. Your clients are passionate about what they do and you get to be the person that protects that passion and the thing that they pour their life into day in and day out.
3. The firm culture lends itself to a little fun.
When I started looking for internships that would excite me and offer me a chance to practice Art Law and work with creative people, Maddrey PLLC seemed to be the right place. I get to work surrounded by our founder’s photography and our clients’ work, some days include listening to our clients’ music and picking out beats, melodies, and lyrics and others include drafting contracts, but it is never boring. We collaborate often which is nice for an intern or new attorney. Overall, working at a more “specialized” firm has offered me a ton of hands-on experience.
So, if you’re a law student, like me, that is a little hesitant to “specialize,” I say, go for it. Find good mentors, as I have found at Maddrey PLLC, and find clients you’re passionate about. If you’re looking into a career in IP, I highly suggest giving Art Law a chance.

About the Author
Thomas Maddrey is the founder and managing partner of Maddrey PLLC. Prior to attending law school, Tom was a commercial photographer, entrepreneur, and gallery owner. His work in both the arts and as a business owner has given him a unique perspective on the needs of owners and creatives, as well as an understanding of the obstacles they face.
Learn more about Thomas Maddrey HERE.