Wednesday, 16 March 2011
The Creative Dance: Practicalities of a Career in the Creative Industry with Justin Lynch of Colby Law Office
In December I posted an interview with David Colby, the Managing Partner of Colby Law Office, in which we discussed some of the challenges that fashion entrepreneurs face. Readers enjoyed the practical insights into a creative career provided by the interview, so we are going back for more! This time I sat down with Justin Lynch, an attorney at Colby Law Office, to discuss his practice and ask him a few questions.
How did you come to join Colby Law Office and what is it like to work with David?
Before I joined Colby Law Office, I operated a solo practice devoted to entrepreneurs in creative fields like design, fashion, and photography. I also kept a blog on arts-related legal issues. I think David liked the fact that I was already working with the same kind of clients that he was working with, and that I have a strong involvement in the arts. David is a down-to-earth guy and a great lawyer. He is an entrepreneur himself and he takes a user-friendly and practical approach to solving clients’ problems, which is the way I like to work as well. A lot of law firms are committed to an old business model that consists of overworked lawyers and overcharged clients. I was excited to work with David because he wasn’t interested in running one of those firms, and because I knew I could learn a lot from him.
Your official bio says that you are a professional dancer as well as a lawyer. Please tell us more about your performing arts career and how you manage that while also practicing law. Also, I read that Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, when asked once, “How do you become more productive?” answered, “Work out”. Does dancing help you in your professional pursuits?
I’ve been involved in the performing arts since I was a kid. Currently I dance primarily with Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company, whose work combines contemporary dance with Asian influences, and Naganuma Dance, whose work is more experimental and multi-media. I’m involved in other dance projects from time to time as well. In addition to the obvious benefits that accrue from keeping in shape and having varied days, I do think that dancing has helped me to become a better lawyer. I used to work for a large corporate law firm, and at a certain point it became impossible to dance as well. So I left and started my own firm. And then I found out that working without the infrastructure of a big firm not only allowed me to lead a happier life but also forced me to take on a level of responsibility that I did not have working at my former firm. I have to understand every aspect of a client’s (often complex) situation, whereas at a big firm you are often only assigned a small part of a client’s matter and you can slide by without thinking about the bigger picture.
You wrote an article on Extending Copyright to Fashion. Do you think it’s a good idea to do so?
The article I wrote was about how the fashion industry has enjoyed economic success even though there is currently no copyright protection for fashion designs. The purpose of copyright is to ensure that people who create things get to reap the economic rewards (if any) of those creations. Right now, there is a lot of "knocking-off" that happens in fashion and in the absence of copyright protection; it’s perfectly legal. But in the fashion industry in particular, you have to ask: isn’t everyone really knocking off everyone else? For example, fashion designers big and small are always thumbing through old magazines for inspiration. Under the latest version of the copyright for fashion designs legislation, copyright protection will be extended to “unique variations over prior designs.” A young, up-and-coming fashion designer who has been accused of infringing a big fashion company’s design is not going to be able to employ the army of lawyers and paralegals necessary to sift through old issues of Vogue to prove that the big fashion company’s design turns out not to be unique after all. In the end, I think the primary beneficiaries of copyright protection for fashion designs will be big fashion companies and of course their lawyers.
You also work with artists from around the world seeking to stay in the U.S. and obtain a Visa. What does that entail and what advice do you have for artists seeking Visas?
Because I’m so involved in the dance community in New York City, I meet many artists from abroad who want to obtain O-1 visas (popularly known as “artist visas”) in order to work in the United States. My advice to anyone considering applying for an artist visa is to keep voluminous records of their work in their artistic field, because they will need to prove they are working at a high level. For a performing artist, these records might include programs from shows, press clippings, blog articles, a professional headshot, performance contracts, and the like. It is better to err on the side of being over-inclusive. Also, many artists mistakenly think that only evidence of their work in the United States can be used to support an artist visa application. Not surprisingly, I also encourage artists who are thinking of applying for an artist visa to hire a lawyer.
More information on Colby Law Office can be found at http://www.colbylaw.com.