Becki Lee (J.D. ‘14) recalls entering law school and debating between pursing entertainment law and intellectual property law. It might have seemed like a clear choice for Lee, who spent the first decade of her career as public relations executive in the entertainment industry, but instead of sticking with what she knew, she decided to expand her horizons.
“I was aware Georgia State Law had a great IP program because I knew of Michael Landau,” Lee said. “Also, I kept running into copyright issues in the music business and occasionally trademark issues. I just thought, ‘I really wish I could understand this stuff better,’ and I had always thought about the possibility of law school.”
Before law school, Lee spent time in Detroit as a publicist for a startup record label. She used what she learned there to start her own public relations firm, working with bands, music festivals and independent record labels. When Lee moved to Georgia, she continued her work in entertainment, but law school was still on her mind, which led her to the College of Law.
After graduating, Lee got experience at both small and large firms. She is now Counsel in the Intellectual Property practice and a member of the Entertainment & Sports industry team at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP.
“I get to do a lot of copyright work and creative review which I love,” Lee said. “I also have the freedom to work with more pro bono clients and am on the advisory board of Georgia Lawyers for the Arts, so I get to stay involved with the arts community that way as well.”
It’s just enough mix of entertainment with her love for intellectual property. She enjoys the problem-solving aspect of her job and wrapping her head around bigger abstract ideas such as how to protect a creation or brand.
“A few years ago I had a client that had a product with a very distinct smell,” Lee said. “People started making candles and air fresheners that smelled like the product and were advertising it using the client’s mark. We had to help the client figure out how to register a trademark for the smell. I really love sitting down and figuring out, ‘is it something that we can protect?’ so the client can enforce their rights.”
After practicing for a few years, Lee realized there were a lot of misconceptions about IP that seemed to come from pop culture and the media, but that there were not a lot of opportunities to learn about IP outside of law school. Correcting that is what inspired Lee to begin a series of children’s books, two of which she’s already published.
“There’s no reason kids shouldn’t learn about how intellectual property works,” Lee said. “I think if we start them young and they’re at least familiar with it, then they’re one step ahead when it becomes a concept they actually have to deal with.”
While Lee was a non-traditional student, going to law school 10 years after undergrad, she says it’s given her an advantage. Having a career and being a business owner before becoming a lawyer allows Lee to have better perspective and put herself in her clients’ shoes.
“It helps me put my advice in plain language, which I think some attorneys struggle with,” Lee said. “I can also give them practical advice. It’s easy to go down the doomsday path with clients, but I feel I can better understand their risk tolerance and give them the information they need to make the best decision for them.”
Written by Mara Thompson