Fashion Lawyer Shares Why Embracing Different Perspectives is Crucial
On this week’s episode of Lawline's Lawyers Who Lead podcast, Sigalle interviews Anna Radke, Managing Associate of Brand Counsel, P.C. Anna discusses her journey from Poland to the U.S., becoming a fashion lawyer, and how embracing different perspectives helps focus her successful representation of clients. Listen to the full interview or read highlights of the interview below! Transcribed answers were edited for readability.
On a Her Favorite Moment
Helping a Ukrainian Client Pro Bono
I responded to a Ukrainian client with some pro bono legal advice, and I've been trying to get involved with helping Ukraine as much as possible. I'm originally from Poland. I moved to the U.S. almost 12 years ago. So these are issues that are very close to my heart. So I'm trying to do as much as possible.
People have been experiencing a lot of familial separation. So I'm just trying to make sure that the families are able to stay together. But unfortunately we still have to wait for some regulations to be changed in order for these people to be able to connect with their families. It's been an ongoing process and we'll see what will happen, but there's a big community of attorneys here in the U.S. and also attorneys in Europe who are really helping people who are in need right now.
On Immigrating from Poland to the U.S.
Sports to Fashion to Law
It was a big move. I always wanted to work in the fashion industry, but there were not too many schools that would offer fashion management majors in Poland or even in Europe. I was generally familiar with the US culture, because first my older brother went to college here in the US and second, I used to play basketball. I'm really tall. I'm 6'1. So I was sort of encouraged to play because of my height. And I attended a basketball camp in Chicago and was inspired by the diversity and the culture here.
So I researched different schools. I found FIT and I decided it was the right place to come here just to learn how to develop a brand. My goal was to introduce different international brands to the Polish market. We did not have a lot of international brands at the time, but during college, my plan changed because I met Guillermo Jimenez, a fashion law professor at FIT. He sort of inspired me to go to law school, which was not a popular thing to do for an immigrant. But he's been a great mentor and partially thanks to him, I'm an attorney in the U.S. now.
On Creating a Mentorship with Her Professor
Audited His Class, Became a Research Assistant, and Stayed in Touch
I went to his lectures and was inspired. I think that Jeremy Lin on the New York Knicks was a huge player at the time and Professor Jimenez created a few case studies related to intellectual property related to Jeremy Lin's presence on the New York Knicks. I thought it was amazing. Different licensing opportunities, right of publicity, name, image, and likeness rights and so on. And I was like I really want to do it.
So I audited his class and then became professor Jimenez’s research assistant. And he also wrote my recommendation letter to go to law school. So we've sort of developed this relationship throughout the years.
On Her Love of Fashion
Wanted to Bring Western European and U.S. Brands to Poland
I was always into fashion. I like different designs. So, you know, whenever I had the opportunity to go somewhere abroad, I would buy Vogue. We did not have Vogue in Poland at the time. Our Vogue was launched maybe four years ago. I don't remember exactly. So it's like we don't really have a lot of these brands. And even when I was attending my own prom, it was very hard for me to find a dress.
First of all, I'm very tall. So not all brands offer total sizes, but also I was looking for something unique. I realized that we were a developing economy, but still we did not have a lot of these brands that were available in different Western European countries or even in the U.S. So I thought that I will be able to do it.
On Realizing Her Strengths
Researching + Analyzing = Provide Different Solutions
I always like to look for different solutions. So this is what I do for my clients now. I think that this is one of my strengths, so I just try to utilize it. I didn't even know that it was my strength. I sort of realized that I'm good at research or generally analyzing different situations and I was not even aware of it. My teachers in high school pointed it out to me. Then my professor at FIT pointed it out to me. And then I just connected the dots and realized that it's my strength.
On Her Legal Education Journey
Indiana University, Cardozo, and Cornell
I actually started law school at Indiana University Maurer School of Law. I applied to different law schools then chose IU because of their IP program, it was a very strong IP program. And I attended the admitted students day. I loved the campus.
I went to college in New York City so obviously I was mesmerized by the suburban kind of feeling of a big American campus. Like whenever my friends from Poland were asking me about my college experience, it was nothing like in the movies. When you go to school in the city, or intern, you know, you have your part-time job. You're always busy. I didn't really have a full college experience. IU campus was beautiful. Their IP program was amazing. Professors were amazing. So I was like, let's do it.
Started law school there and then quickly realized that maybe the suburban setting wasn't really for me, because I really knew that I wanted to get into fashion law. There were not too many different internship opportunities for me. So Professor Jimenez, who's a big part of my legal career, introduced me to Professor Barbara Colson who's the coauthor of the fashion textbook, which is probably, you know, the Bible in the fashion industry. And then Professor Colson encouraged me to come to Cardozo. So I submitted my transfer application and I got accepted and I ended up being at Cardozo [and then went to Cornell for my LLM].
It was amazing. It was a very hands-on experience. I met a lot of great lawyers, great brands, and people who started their own companies. Unfortunately, I think in March of 2020, we had to stop going to classes because of COVID. We were the first cohort that really attended our lectures on Zoom, which was a big challenge because we didn't really have graduation and it was harder for us to further bond. But overall the experience at Cornell on their campus on Roosevelt Island was an amazing experience that I would never forget.
On What Leadership in Law Means
Leading by Example and Being Open to Providing Different Solutions
I think overall setting an example, especially now when I start to work with lawyers even younger than me. I like to call myself a toddler attorney. I'm not a baby attorney anymore.
So I think that generally showing them that legal practice is obviously about building a strong foundation. The fact that we work with different fashion clients doesn't mean that they have to understand fashion only. It's generally good to have a strong foundation of law before jumping into a niche and showing them that being on time, being diligent, being resourceful, in our profession is extremely important.
And also we are in the business of really providing solutions. Being a transactional attorney, I deal with various issues that my clients might have throughout the day. And I really have to be open-minded and open to different solutions while helping them comply with law. Which is not easy. And it's something that no one teaches you in law school.
On What It Means to Be a Good Attorney
They Not Only Have A Firm Grasp On Legal Issues, But Also Know How Important It Is To Understand Their Client's Vision
Yeah I came up with this quote after dealing with a very difficult issue with a big client. And I think that really understanding what the client needs and what the client has in mind for the future is crucial to building a successful legal strategy, which also contributes to the overall success of a company.
As lawyers we're, sort of, like an insurance policy for a client in the future. So I've been engaged in business development and understanding different needs. And especially for me, understanding different needs of foreign companies who are entering the U.S. market is important.
Just to understand their vision, what they want to achieve here. And then I can help them make their dreams come true. So, in the past, I wanted to introduce foreign brands to the Polish market and now I'm introducing foreign companies to the U.S. Market. And I think it's a big part of my practice as well.
On a Crucial Skill for Lawyers
Understanding Different Cultures is Crucial to Being Successful
I represent a lot of Polish clients. But now I help them develop their businesses in the U.S. Not even only Polish clients, but different European clients, or basically we represent, I think, clients on six different continents. And I think that generally understanding different people's cultures is crucial in being successful in the legal profession. Especially now when the world is very global.
It's not easy, right? For example, I definitely prepare for my calls. I try to understand the mission of the company. I check out their website. I check out the founders. I read about the culture. Obviously, living in New York City enabled me to meet people from different cultures. Like one of my best friends in college is from South Korea or my best friend from law school, he's from Senegal. So I was able to learn different cultures and embrace them really and apply them in my profession.
It's been a process for me because in the beginning I was really trying to hide it. I don't think I was highlighting it. But then, you know, it's a part of who I am obviously. I might have moved to the U.S. when I was 18 or 19 years old. So I spent my early adulthood here in the U.S. But I'm also Eastern European or Central European (some Polish people prefer to call it this way) but it's a big part of myself. I think that it helps me to combine both worlds, but obviously sometimes I find myself in a limbo because some people here in the U.S. might say that I'm too European, you know, but then for some of my friends in Poland, they say that I'm too American.
I also studied abroad in Italy during my junior year of college and I met Professor Madeline Kaplan who's also one of my great mentors. And she's American, but she moved to Italy, I think, in her twenties. So she told me that I would never feel at home anywhere because in Poland sometimes when I go back home, I feel like a foreigner. I don't understand everything. Here in the U.S. I understand the culture. I generally understand the social norms, but obviously because of my roots, I have a different perspective on certain issues as well. So, it's a weird combination. It's hard to explain and I know that some who will be listening to this podcast obviously will understand what I'm talking about.
On What it Means to be a Managing Associate
Supervising Junior Attorneys, Business Development, and Substantive Work
It means to set an example for more junior lawyers and I'm the most senior attorney in our New York office. I'm responsible for generally developing this office. Might be recruiting some younger associates or interns. And a big part of my job is also business development. So I have to wear multiple hats because sometimes I have to be a supervisor to younger colleagues. Sometimes I have to be a business development manager. And obviously during the majority of my time, I'm doing substantive work which is exciting as well.
On Managing Multiple Roles in the Pandemic
Organization, Building Strong Foundations, and Establishing a Strong Culture
It's not easy. I think you have to be really organized. I think that pandemic helped me a little bit because I was stuck at home. So I was trying to develop different strategies or philosophies that would help us grow. And actually, COVID time was really good for the firm. And I think that we had time to regroup and just build some strong foundation and develop our firm's culture.
We are primarily working remotely, and it's not easy to train younger associates remotely. So I think that this is still my biggest challenge, but it's been working and I was able to connect with people from all over the world. So it worked out for us.
On Training Junior Associates
Connect Often, Invest in Professional Development, Encourage Different Styles, and Participate in Clinics and Programs
You have to connect with them as much as possible. I generally don't like emailing. Obviously I would send a general email explaining what has to be done. But I think that scheduling a video call is crucial just to connect and just explain things because now they're unable to knock at my door and just ask questions. I really have to, you know, invest in spending this time with them on Zoom or on Google Meet or whatever platform we decide to connect on, which is not easy.
Like my managing partner. He's a big fan of connecting with clients on Zoom or, you know, via video chats as well. I didn't really get it in the beginning, but now I see how important it is to be on Zoom. And actually at least look at the person because it just brings us together. And it's easier, obviously it won't be the same as in person contact, but this is all we had. So we had to face these challenges and try to overcome them.
You know law school helps students to understand some basic principles about law and generally build a foundation, but there are more things that make someone a better attorney. Helping them grow, it's an investment for me, investment for the law firm. So they are better attorneys and they serve more people and it also shows our value as a law firm, as Brand Counsel, because we really want to train these attorneys so they are better wherever they go and they can grow professionally.
I encourage everyone to have their own style. I don't like just mimicking, whatever I'm doing. Just develop your own style. I can show you some key things that for me are crucial to win a case or to help a client resolve an issue. But I encourage everyone to have their own style because there's no one way of doing things correctly. There are different ways and obviously law is not black and white. So I really like the conversation. I think that my perspective and their perspective combined really helps us win.
We try to participate in different programs. We were a part of a clinic at the New School. We connected with various entrepreneurs. There's a platform called Embark where we connected with startups as well. I got it from my managing partner, Manoj Shah. He really tries to connect with startups and help them understand how to start a business. Because again, building the foundation is extremely important. So we've been trying to participate in different programs at academic institutions and startup initiatives, just to help those people set up a strong foundation to set them up for success.
On One Thing to Improve About the Legal Industry
More Education Around the Various Ways You Can Be an Attorney, Not Just the “Traditional Way”
Just generally a more flexible approach would be much appreciated. I think there's no one path to success in the legal industry. And based on my experience, we are generally taught that there's only one traditional path that can make you a successful lawyer. My path is not exactly traditional and I made some unpopular decisions throughout my career. But it helps me to build a life on my own terms while I think about becoming a lawyer who can say that's helped some people.
You know, I generally knew what law was about. It's three years and you have to sit for the bar but I didn't really understand the Socratic Method and then the OCI. And all these things. So it's something different than what I grew up with. So the state law system, federal law system, it's just very complex.
Even immigration wise, like I've struggled with immigration so much. You have your one year work authorization to work in the U.S. Then you can get a work visa. It's a lottery based system. Then the employer has to sponsor you for a green card. You have to go through a very long and tedious process to prove that there are no other people who can do your job. So generally I was making decisions based on staying true to myself while still being able to practice law.
It's been a challenging time and especially because I heard from a lot of people that as an immigrant, I would never be able to practice on a high level, let's say. They thought that maybe I should stick to fashion or something like that. But obviously there are a lot of immigrants who are attorneys and I'm an attorney. I represented publicly traded companies. I worked with a lot of great startups and individuals. I've been preparing companies for IPOs.
There are a lot of opportunities here in the U.S. and you just have to stick to your vision and just persevere. It hasn't been an easy path. Like it might seem easy to a lot of people, especially like my friends from Europe. But it's been a while to get to this point so it's not an overnight success. And I know that I still have a lot of things to learn and to achieve, but just stick to your values and just stay true to yourself. And you don't have to work for X company or for X law firm, just choose one that really is aligned with your values and you'll be successful.
On What Clients Misunderstand About Lawyers
A Law Firm is a Business With Many Ethical Obligations to Fulfill
Time management. It's important to take care of every client, but obviously we have a lot of clients. And I think another issue that every attorney has to deal with is billing. It's not like whatever our hourly rate is, it's not the money that goes into our pocket. It's because there are a lot of different factors, like running a law firm is actually like running every other business, but we just have so much more ethical obligations to meet.
So I think that this is something that people might not fully understand how many ethical obligations or legal obligations we might have as a law firm. Different accounts like trust accounts, like, you know, the retainer is not our money. It's something that sits in the trust account. And technical issues like that.
On What Other Lawyers Misunderstand About Her Work
Fashion Law Encompasses Myriad Branches of Law
Uh maybe they know something about fashion law, but generally, you know, fashion law consists of a lot of different branches of law, like intellectual property, or corporate, international trade and I might not handle every single issue that might be an issue in the fashion industry. So for example, I generally don't help with international trade law, but I might help with trademarks, copyright, and things of the nature. So it's a complex area of law. Now with tech companies, with NFTs, and different legal regulations that we're facing. It's very complex. So obviously we're unable to know everything.
There are other team members whom specialize in these types, then I would just refer a client to a colleague. Obviously we don't deal with patents. Not a lot of attorneys might know that or maybe attorneys know, but other people might not know that in order to become a patent attorney a person has to have a science background and then they have to sit for a patent bar.
We don't currently have a patent attorney in the law firm by my law clerk, she has a science background and I'm encouraging her to sit for the patent bar. So yeah, you know, I might refer a patent client to a different colleague at a different law firm.
On a Piece of Practical Advice to Leaders in Law
Don’t be Afraid of Researching
I would say don't be afraid of researching different issues, but still ask questions. Cause you might find answers that you aren't able to find online or in a library.
Pilates, Yoga, and Walking Outside
You know, because of my sports background, I think my life would be very empty without any sort of athletic activities. So I love Pilates. I love yoga or just taking a stroll when it's nice outside. Take a moment and breathe. Law profession is very demanding. So we really have to take care of ourselves first before we can take care of other people.
Lawyers Who Lead is a weekly podcast that celebrates lawyers who are making powerful changes through extraordinary leadership. Each week, Lawline’s Chief Storyteller, Sigalle Barness, interviews a lawyer who is driving meaningful change in the legal industry. Guests represent a diverse and exciting range of experiences but with one common thread, the pursuit of bettering the legal profession.
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About the Author
Written by Sigalle Barness
Sigalle champions and grows Lawline’s brand awareness through impactful stories that are authentic, meaningful, and thought provoking. She designs communications strategies that underscore the why and how behind Lawline's work. Sigalle is an avid lover of music, video games, blogging, asking questions and all things food. She is also fluent in Hebrew and enjoys writing fiction, traveling and scuba diving.
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