Trademark lawyer and Managing Attorney at Lakhany Law, PC in Atlanta, Georgia, which is her boutique IP practice focusing on trademark and copyright. Instructor for the Trademark Institute of Training.
Five years in the IP law profession.
How did you get into a career in IP law?
I took a trademark course as an elective during my second year at Emory Law School. My professor presented the law in such an entertaining and interesting way that I became hooked and decided for certain that I wanted to pursue a career in IP. Not having the science-related undergraduate background that is require for most patent work, I knew I would be focusing my practice on trademark and copyright law. I then took more classes in trademark, copyright, and IP deals. Once I had taken all of the non-patent IP courses at Emory, I was able to arrange a semester as a visiting student at George Washington Law School in Washington, DC as part of the LLM program in IP. At George Washington Law School, I took all of the upper-level trademark and copyright seminars that I would have taken if I had enrolled in the LLM program. The only difference was that I was taking the courses as a JD student. In essence, it was a “study abroad” for a semester. At the same time, I wanted to maximize my time for that semester in DC, so I completed an internship at the United States Copyright Office and also researched with one of my GW professors to write a paper on the copyright protection of fictional characters. That paper went on to win first place in a writing competition at Emory.
Unfortunately, I graduated in 2010, which was a difficult job market for law, particularly in a field like trademark. Without another option, I built my experience as an associate by researching new developments in the field on my own, offering to do pro bono work for clients in the community, and working under my mentors in their respective trademark practices at other firms. I also became active on social media to begin establishing myself in the field. To this day, I actively use Twitter to post IP news and updates using the handle @LadyLanhamEsq, which is a word play on The Lanham Act (the federal law that provides trademark protection). I firmly believe it was taking the initiative in these ways that contributed to my career path in such a short time.
Why did you think this would be a good career for you?
As a consumer, I found trademark to be an academic area that I could relate to on a personal level. I had always been interested in marketing and advertising, and IP is essentially the protection of the brand that is developed through those mediums. I understand why IP protection is important for companies and brands, but also how it is important for consumers, and that helps me approach my practice in a pragmatic way. Now, as an entrepreneur and business owner myself, I am able to relate to my clients in an even greater capacity. Many of the challenges they face are ones I face as well, so I truly become their advisor and counselor, rather than simply “the attorney that performs their legal work.”
What are the top 3 things you really like about working in IP law?
There are so many! It is tough to choose. I think the first one is that trademarks and copyrights are protected under federal law, so my practice is not state-specific. While I am licensed in Georgia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia, many of my clients are in other cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. This allows me to communicate using email, Skype, and phone, and my clients appreciate that they receive the level of service I provide without having to be face-to-face. I also travel to my clients on a regular basis, so they enjoy the added convenience of not having to leave their offices. I enjoy this flexibility because I am able to take referrals from friends and colleagues even though they don’t live in Georgia.
The second thing I love about being an IP lawyer is having what I call a “front seat” to the newest products, services, and technology developments. It’s so exciting to hear what my clients are working on launching, especially when their work brings convenience, entertainment, and positive change to our marketplace. This also ties into the third thing I love, which is the genuine enjoyment I feel when I know I am helping someone realize a dream of being an entrepreneur. I consider it a privilege to have a role in helping to protect the brands my clients work so hard to create, and it is a role I take very seriously. I think most people can tell when they meet me that I am truly passionate about what I do, and that is something I never want to change.
What is one thing you dislike (or that may stress you out) about the work?
One thing I struggle with is wanting to do everything and be everywhere at once! It is, certainly, a product of my passion for what I do. I enjoy my work to an extent that it rarely feels like a job. But there are challenges of being a business owner on top of being a lawyer. I frequently speak and lecture on IP basics and am also very active in the Atlanta legal community, so balancing events and speaking dates along with my law practice often means that I have a very packed schedule. Regardless of the occasional stresses that this brings, I consider myself fortunate to have a career that feels fun everyday and it is something I don’t take for granted. In the grand scheme of things, it’s hardly categorized as something I dislike.
Please share with us your story on how you went from being employed in the field to starting your own firm.
I started my own boutique IP practice after five years of practice as an associate. I never had a set plan to go out on my own, but the timing was right at a certain point and I decided to take the leap. I am often asked if I wish I had done it sooner, and the answer is no. I am glad I took the time to learn not only the field of trademark law, but the practical skills involved. I also think it was important for me to work at different firms and understand the business of running a practice. Now, I am equipped with the knowledge I gained over the years instead of learning those concepts on my own. I also have the benefit of so many colleagues and mentors in the community that are so gracious with their time and advice, and that is a network that took years to build.