Not the Artist, But Maybe Their Lawyer

Author: Grace Cottingham
Assistant Blogger
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2026

My interest in a career in the creative industry started early in my academic endeavors at the University of North Texas, a college known for its local music and art scene. However, I never expected that interest to manifest into pursuing intellectual property (IP), until I started law school at Loyola University Chicago.

An Eclectic College Community

During my first year of college, I lived in what was considered the “music dorm” on campus, known as Bruce Hall. Bruce Hall was deemed the “music dorm” because of its nickname for housing mostly music and jazz majors. In addition, its location was across from the music building where famous Grammy winning artists like Norah Jones and the school’s One O’Clock Lab Band got their start. The central location and history as the oldest dorm on campus led me to choose that residence hall over others on campus. Even though I dreamed of attending law school and was majoring in rhetoric and writing, I was excited to meet students in different majors with passions different than my own. I quickly knew I made the right decision when I saw the culture and community of students with whom I began to become friends.

In contrast to many of my friends who majored in music and started bands of their own, I wrote for the “Arts and Life” section of the North Texas Daily, the student run newspaper. I interviewed local artists and kept up with events happening on campus and in the community. I attended many house shows and other art-related events where most students gathered on the weekends. Because I found myself so often surrounded by people or settings in the creative industry, I hoped to develop a legal career working with creative but industries but was not sure on what areas of law would allow me to do so.

Exploring an “Ocean” of IP

As law school drew near, I began to dive into what kind of law I wanted to pursue. Initially, I skipped over IP because I thought it was confined to those with science backgrounds, not writing and rhetoric like me. Then, I stumbled on an article about Frank Ocean’s writing credits on his critically acclaimed album “Blonde.” The article covered a lawsuit between Frank Ocean and a producer he often collaborated with, Om’Mas Keith. Frank Ocean sued Keith for song writing credits for his work on Blonde. Frank Ocean claimed the two had an agreement of a flat rate to be paid for his work instead of song-writing credits. Keith claimed no agreement of the kind had been established. In response, Keith filed a counterclaim, alleging that he had not given permission for the release of the music and had not received any royalties for his work. The claims eventually were dropped in both cases, with the two privately reaching a settlement.

After reading the Frank Ocean article, I did a deep dive into the firm representing him and the work they did. I saw the large legal industry there is that works behind the scenes for musicians, film makers, and many other types of artists. Especially in IP law, this industry looks after the rights and protections for new ideas, patents, trademarks, and copyrights for artists worldwide.

Shortly after, I started school at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. During my first semester of law school, I not only joined the IP Law Society at Loyola, but I also discovered my interests in artist rights and ownership embedded in IP, such as copyright and trademark law. I have a deep appreciation for how art and legal protection come together to play an important role in safeguarding the rights of artists. Discovering how intellectual property laws can protect and maintain a supportive and fair space for artists is something I am passionate about.

Nerve-Free Networking: Crushing the Jitters

To learn more about my newfound interest in IP, I attended the Intellectual Property Association of Chicago (IPLAC)’s Speed Networking Event hosted at Loyola. While I was excited to attend, I was also nervous because it was my first networking event as a law student and first IP event. To prepare, I researched the lawyers that would be attending. I was excited to meet many Loyola alumni, especially those with non-STEM backgrounds like me!

When I arrived, I socialized with other Loyola students, as well as students from other Chicago law schools. Talking with other students about our law school experiences and aspirations made it easy for me let go of any insecurities about my non-science background after I learned I was not the only one. When I started “speed networking” I was reassured by the attorney attendees for my interests in the non-patent aspects of IP law related to artists and ownership. Some of the lawyers I spoke to had careers in fashion and art industries. I spoke to attorneys with STEM backgrounds who worked alongside those without science degrees and found success in the world of IP. When I expressed concerns on my lack of a STEM background, the attorneys always met me with positivity and encouragement of navigating that process.

One piece of advice I received at this event I found largely profound. An attorney explained to me the importance of an IP lawyer is being able to communicate a subject that few people know about in a comprehensible way. She worked in patent litigation and described her job often having to “translate” the complicated subjects of various technologies into a way any judge or jury can understand.

Diving into Optimism and IP Opportunities

Hearing about the different types of jobs in the IP law world at the IPLAC networking event through the lawyers helped me gain a better understanding of the practice of IP law. For example, before the event, I didn’t know many patent litigators practiced without a STEM background. Meeting practitioners first-hand in the city where I am studying and aspiring to practice law one day left me feeling more optimistic and less apprehensive about navigating a career in IP law. With every experience learning more about IP, my excitement for my journey of becoming a lawyer grows. The lively art and music scene from my undergraduate experience continues to shape my path as I navigate law school, hoping to align my interests and passions with my legal studies. I aspire to support musicians and artists by protecting and securing their creative work through IP law, all while appreciating and understanding their artistry through the process.

Grace Cottingham
Assistant Blogger
Loyola University Chicago School of Law, J.D. 2026