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Law School Launches Program to Serve LA's Booming Fashion Industry

Because someone has to do the paperwork behind all that creativity, Los Angeles will soon boast its very own breeding ground for fashion-focused lawyers.
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The sometimes-overlooked Los Angeles fashion industry has received a lot of attention lately. In August, we explored whether the perpetually sunny city could be the next fashion capital, while The New York Times' T Magazine devoted a chunk of its recent issue to touting LA-based labels like Rodarte and Band of Outsiders.

Because someone has to do the paperwork behind all that creativity, the city will soon boast its very own breeding ground for fashion-focused lawyers. The powers that be at Loyola Law School this week officially approved the launch of the school's fashion law institute at its LA campus, the program's director, Staci Riordan, says. That means law students will be able to get a certificate in fashion law by taking four fashion-specific courses focusing on issues like industry-specific contracts and law related to celebrity endorsements. Students must also take classes in related topics like intellectual property.

The goal, Riordan says, is to have students interact as much as possible with non-lawyers in the industry, and the concentration will also require students to get real-world experience working with young designers from nearby design schools. Law students in the class of 2015 will be the first eligible to receive the certificate.

Loyola's institute is the first of its kind on the West Coast, and the second nationwide, Riordan says. The first was launched in 2010 at Fordham Law School in New York. Similar to Fordham's program, the Loyola version will also host events to educate local lawyers who have or want to have fashion clients. While Riordan wouldn't yet divulge all the industry players who will teach courses, she says True Religion General Counsel Deborah Greaves, who currently teaches Loyoa's fashion contracts class, will continue to be part of the new initiative.

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Riordan cites the size of Southern California's apparel industry as the driving factor for the program's establishment. Los Angeles' and Orange Country's fashion industries alone are responsible for more than 168,000 jobs and have a nearly $60 billion impact on the economy, according to statistics released by the Otis College of Art and Design in December.

Loyola's new institute is just the latest example of the emergence of fashion law as a genuine career path for young attorneys. In addition to Fordham and Loyola, a handful of other law schools offer fashion law courses, and some major law firms have dedicated fashion law practice groups.

Underlining the industry's growing profile in law, the American Bar Association in September released its first "Legal Guide to Fashion Design." A large part of fashion law's focus is, of course, keeping counterfeit goods out of the marketplace, making it especially amusing that the ABA guide was edited by an attorney named David Faux.