Authored by one of my talented law clerks this summer, Ms. Anna Zabotina, we're offered a fresh perspective on Fordham's new fashion law degrees from the perspective of a law student.
On Monday, June 21st Fordham Law School announced the addition of two new fashion law programs to its curriculum. The programs promise specialized legal training for the fashion industry. The first program provides an avenue for industry professionals without legal experience to learn about what could affect their business. The second degree for attorneys presents a conundrum of whether this added education is necessary for those who want to work for a fashion client but cannot afford the luxury price tag.
In 2010 Susan Scafidi launched the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School after persuasive lobbying from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). The program includes various fashion focused legal classes such as, Fashion Licensing and Fashion Retail Law, and a summer “boot-camp”. During three weeks in the summer, interested individuals are able to receive a quick rundown of what affects the industry, and attend varying networking opportunities. This 2-credit (if already attending law school) or certificate granting program runs at $3,900.00.
Nevertheless, during the launch announcement of the two new degrees on Monday, Scafidi stated that in order to have the field gain respect, students should have a degree to show for their specialized knowledge. The first program being offered to those, who already have a law degree, is a Master of Laws (L.L.M) in Fashion Law. The yearlong (full-time) or three semester long (part-time) curriculum will teach about the “four pillars” of Fashion Law in 24-27 credits. The pillars are; intellectual property, business and finance, international trade and government regulation, and consumer culture and civil rights. Additionally, the school will provide varying events and networking opportunities to the students. For more information see (http://www.fordham.edu/info/23599/fashion_law). For eligibility criteria see (http://www.fordham.edu/info/21170/apply/5169/eligibility).
The second degree is a Masters Degree for Industry Professionals (M.S.L) in Fashion Law. It is designed for individuals either already working as designers, production managers, licensing directors, human resources coordinators, and so on, or for those that aspire to work in the fashion industry. The curriculum is meant to develop a "legal literacy" for industry professionals through the four pillars of fashion law. Diane Von Furstenberg, President of CFDA and a large supporter of the program, has said that she “firmly believes this program will become a powerful tool in the fashion world and beyond, and help us all as an industry – lawyers or not – better understand, grow and protect our businesses.” Scafidi added that if nothing else, this program will teach the fashion industry when to acquire professional legal help. For more information on classes and how to apply visit (http://www.fordham.edu/info/23328/msl_in_fashion_law).
Overall, the degrees are meant to safeguard an industry that has had an increase in litigation over the last decade, as evidenced by several high profile lawsuits such as the "Christian Louboutin Red-Sole" lawsuit [Christian Louboutin S.A. v. Yves Saint Laurent Am. Holding, Inc.,], and the "Marc Jacobs Three-Stripe" lawsuit [Adidas America Inc. et al. v. Marc Jacobs International LLC]. According to the founders, since every single aspect of a fashion business has a legal component (coming up with a brand name, leasing real estate for sale, hiring employees, etc.) it is extremely beneficial to have individuals with a specialty in the field that can zero in on specific needs of a client and prevent disputes.
It should be noted, however that fashion law is not a new law field, per se. Fashion law is made up of a combination of intellectual property, real estate, business, financial, employment, contract law, international trade, product and fashion compliance, and marketing law. The majority of these fields have been taught at most law schools for decades.
As a law student who is interested in working for a fashion business, I am drawn toward the idea of classes focused on the industry. Also, the M.S.L. program provides the type of education that someone in the industry without prior legal background could definitely benefit from. Still, I wonder if it is possible to succeed as someone who has had a legal education and finds the idea of adding to student debt daunting.
The tuition for the L.L.M program is $53,440.00 a year, and for the M.S.L. program it is $40,080. These price tags are suited for luxury goods.
For those that cannot afford to attend the program, taking classes similar to those offered at the L.L.M program during law school could be an alternative. Although all of the required courses have not been posted yet, they can be found in the future at (http://www.fordham.edu/info/23599/fashion_law). The degrees offer varying networking events which are essential to any legal career. Nevertheless, in the past it was possible to attend events at the Fashion Insitute without being a student there, through a separate registration for a minimal fee. For Fashion Institute's events check out (http://fashionlawinstitute.com/institute-events/the-power-of-fashion). Hence, it could be possible to design your own "fashion law" curriculum where attending the LLM program is not feasible.
While the combination of classes in varying law fields, and industry insight might make individuals that acquire these degrees desirable to employers and clients. The inability to attend the program does not squander one's chances of working for a fashion business, as long as steps are taken to learn and master the different fields of law that make-up "fashion law."