In fashion circles, lawyers becoming sought-after accessories

Tue Sep 11, 2012 4:29pm EDT
 
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By Erin Geiger Smith

NEW YORK (Reuters) - One of the hottest new trends in fashion is emerging from an unlikely venue: law school.

Fashion law is a burgeoning niche practice in New York and Los Angeles, both hubs of the approximately $200 billion U.S. apparel market, with both legal firms and design houses hiring specialist attorneys.

Their charge is to negotiate real estate deals, advise on mergers and acquisitions, deal with employment disputes and, in some of the most high-profile work, litigate copyright claims.

Those claims can be crucial to fashion labels. Witness French footwear designer Christian Louboutin, which won a major legal victory ahead of New York Fashion Week when an appeals court granted trademark protection to the bright red soles on its high-heeled shoes.

Fashion got its law school start six years ago when New York City's Fordham Law School began offering courses, with the warning that the effort would be canceled if at least three students didn't enroll.

Since then such classes have become part of the curriculum elsewhere, including New York University School of Law and Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Loyola Law School in Los Angeles plans to launch its first fashion law course in January.

"I'VE CREATED A MONSTER"

"A colleague recently told me that I've created a monster!" said law professor Susan Scafidi, academic director at Fordham's Fashion Law Institute.   Continued...