As part of Professional Development coursework, Villanova Law encourages students to be entrepreneurial in their careers—to identify their passion and to carve their own career paths through hard work and perseverance. They have remarkable role models in alumni such as Elizabeth Kurpis '07, an associate at New York's Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo, P.C. and a power player in fashion law.
Kurpis has always hoped to combine her love for fashion and law and set out to apply to work in intellectual property upon graduation from Villanova Law. But the path to her dream job ended up being less than conventional.
"I quickly learned that Big Law preferred such candidates to have a technical undergraduate degree, like engineering, which I did not have," she explained. "When I moved to New York to work for Chadbourne & Parke, I pursued another area of law that interested me, fund formation, and when I could, took on pro bono matters that involved fashion clients."
Over time, Kurpis carefully built and cultivated her network of fashion contacts. She found synergy and opportunity at Mintz Levin, which has worked with a number of fashion clients over the years. When the time was right, Kurpis had a proposal for the firm.
"I figured Mintz Levin could capitalize on this better if we had a full working group dedicated to being a "one-stop-shop" for current and future fashion clients," Kurpis said. "From there I set out to create our Fashion Law group along with another of my colleagues. So far it has been very well received in the industry."
And while "fashion law" may conjure glamorous visions, Kurpis' day-to-day work might surprise some. Her tasks vary between clients and include everything from drafting and negotiating a manufacturing or licensing agreement to working on immigration issues to brand protection.
"What I like most about my job is that every day is different. I also truly enjoy working with creatives, seeing their visions through and protecting what they have already worked so hard to achieve. It adds a little something to the practice of law, which is generally very literal," she said.
For Kurpis, her focus on intellectual property as a Villanova Law student prepared her well. Often times the first questions and issues brought up by fashion clients are related to that area of law.
Today, Villanova Law offers students several fashion law-specific opportunities including a fashion law course and an annual student-run symposium. Interested students have also taken advantage of the School's comprehensive externship program to secure placements with companies such as Stuart Weitzman and Louis Vuitton Americas.
Kurpis' advice to those interested in pursuing a career in fashion law: "Seek out as many people as you can for guidance and advice, always be networking and do as much research, reading and writing on the subject as time permits."