From In-House to Solo: A Creative Lawyer's Unique Perspective

AuthorAdrienne R. Fields
Published in Landslide, Volume 14, Number 4, 2022. © 2022 by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion
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artists, I have clients in other industries too.
The new work on other intellectual prop-
erty matters is different and exciting. In a
sense, the going solo experience has been an
upshift with far more business responsibili-
ties and benets, such as more exibility to
spend time with my family. The time that
we have as parents of a child and as prolic
professionals is limited, and I think that it is
important to try to maximize both.
What has been both constant and grow-
ing stronger through these changes is my
experience with the ABA-IPL Section. I
was seeking to interact with attorneys from
different places and to hear about their
diverse viewpoints when I became involved
in the Section with its publishing effort and
as a Young Lawyer Fellow. As an in-house
attorney, I did not want to be isolated and
looked to the Section to ll this void. It had
never occurred to me how essential these
relationships would become later in my
career and would continue as I evolved.
My participation in the ABA-IPL Section
and other local bar organizations and their
many new opportunities have been extraor-
dinary during this time of transition. I have
avenues to write, speak, and participate,
and the enormous support of other lawyers
as I navigated the basics of setting up a law
rm. I have also been presented with many
new opportunities through ABA-IPL. The
collegial nature of our profession that I
have experienced throughout my career
and now in my new chapter has made me
proud to be an attorney and a member of
our ABA-IPL community. n
was certain that my career would involve
my passion for the creative arts, and that
made me approach the practice of law
from a different perspective than many of
my classmates. I studied art as an under-
graduate, earned an MA in art market
studies, interned at various arts organiza-
tions, and entered law school in September
2001. Immediately upon entering law
school, I saw the second plane pierce the
World Trade Center and encountered fall-
ing dust and debris in downtown Brooklyn.
As we all viewed images of death and
despair on TV, my classmates and I became
united in trying to improve the shaken
world through our legal careers. In the
ensuing years, we saw artists like Jenny
Holzer exhibiting activist art in her quest
for answers. I started searching for a career
in law that would allow me to help artists
spread their messages and aesthetics while
protecting their art.
My path took me directly to an intern-
ship in 2003, followed by an in-house
position in Artists Rights Society (ARS),
a licensing company that monetizes and
supports the intellectual property rights
of visual artists and estates from around
the world. I started working as the asso-
ciate counsel for ARS upon graduation
and worked my way up to director of legal
affairs, where I remained for nearly 17
years. As in-house counsel, I learned how
to practice law and become an effective
negotiator. I also became experienced in
and about the business of art, the individu-
alized concerns of artists and estates, and
arts advocacy. I handled countless licensing
deals and infringement matters on behalf
of both prominent artists (including many
icons whom I had admired throughout my
arts education) and virtually unknown
artists at the start of their careers. Perform-
ing work on behalf of these creators and
ensuring that their works and legacies were
being protected, credited, and paid for gave
me enormous satisfaction. I built relation-
ships with many artists and became familiar
with licensing clients and adversaries. This
helped to grow the business and expand
my participation in projects that included
commercial products; theater, lm, and
television productions; advertisements;
commissions of art installations; etc.
Over the past few years, I realized that
the position that I thought I would have for
my entire career was not right for my next
chapter for several reasons. Additionally, I
had read some articles on the “great resig-
nation” climate of the COVID-19 pandemic
and could relate to other professionals who
were reassessing their careers. I was also
aware of in-house lawyers who lamented
that once general counsel level is reached
there is no further job mobility. I believed
in the work that I was doing for artists
and thought that being an integral part of
the business could keep me interested in
working in-house. However, I also started
to think more seriously that I could use my
own abilities, talents, and resources to grow
my own law practice and enjoy the benets
of my hard work.
When I recently made the change from
in-house to solo and launched my own rm,
I essentially disrupted my normal routine
and became an overnight entrepreneur. I
realized that to be the most zealous lawyer
for my clients and to take total owner-
ship of my work, going solo was the right
decision for me. I would no longer have to
consider the changing vision of a corpo-
ration and could instead focus solely on
the individual concerns of my clients. I am
now responsible for the entire process, from
intaking a client to achieving that client’s
goals. While I still work with many visual
By Adrienne R. Fields
From In-House to Solo: A Creative
Lawyer’s Unique Perspective
Adrienne R. Fields, founder of The Law
Oce of Adrienne R. Fields, is a provider
of legal representation for intellectual
property law matters, contracts, and
collaborations across all media. She can
be reached at

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