By Esther Goldschlager • May 15, 2015•Ms. JD
As the practice of law has evolved significantly since the economic downturn in the mid 2000s, I decided to showcase the story of an attorney who is also a millennial. Learn how Nicole Abboud is using her talents and drive to create a fascinating personal brand.
Can you please provide a brief summary of your professional background?
I am an almost-4th year attorney practicing Fashion Law in Los Angeles, Ca. I received my B.A. in Political Science from California State University, Los Angeles and after 3 glorious years, I graduated from Southwestern Law School in 2011. Upon graduating, I practiced Family Law, Civil Litigation, and Business Law for about 2 years. Less than a year ago, I decided to open my own practice because I wanted to help more people in my own way. I love being involved and giving back to my community so I am currently the President-Elect of Southwestern’s Young Alumni association – the Nickel Club, and I serve as a the secretary of the Arab American Lawyers Association of Southern California.
While in law school, did you know that you wanted to work in your current field?
No, not at all. I was completely obsessed with Family Law in law school and took all of the Family Law related classes. At the same time, because I grew up in a culture where couture was a huge deal and fashion designers were celebrities, I had a natural curiosity for the inner workings of the fashion industry. During my 1L year, I started exploring this fascination with the fashion industry, in hopes of finding attorneys who represented fashion designers. Back then, around 2008-2009, “fashion law” was not as well-known and accepted as a legitimate practice area as it is now. I was unable to find any lawyers who identified themselves as Fashion Lawyers, so I put my research on hold to focus on my studies. It wasn’t until 2012 that my fascination resurfaced and I decided I wanted to dedicate my practice to helping individuals in the fashion industry.
You have your own law firm and you host a podcast. Could you please tell the readers what these roles generally entail?
They both entail a lot of organization, dedication, and creativity. As the owner of my own firm, I have to manage both the legal side and the business side. I have to stay on top of developing legal trends affecting the fashion industry by reading trade journals and fashion blogs. I’m constantly drafting motions, researching case law, filing paperwork, or consulting with clients. Since it’s just me running my business, I have to make sure I am diligent about attracting new clients, networking, and getting paid.
In my role as a podcast host and producer of The Gen Why Lawyer Podcast, I handle all aspects of the production, from the guest outreach to the editing and publicity. It’s my responsibility to showcase the stories of successful millennial attorneys in an informative and entertaining way. I try to pull from my weekly conversations with my guests any actionable advice law students and new lawyers can implement to help move them forward in their careers.
Both roles are equally important in helping sharpen my analytical skills, public speaking and communication skills, and both are shaping me into a better lawyer.
What inspired you to create the podcast series?
I had a few inspirations but the main one stemmed from my own experiences as a new attorney. A few months after graduating and practicing law, I noticed that I was struggling to find joy as an associate at the firm I was working at. Thinking it was due to my practice area, I started to explore other practice areas but those didn’t bring me satisfaction either. I even considered that perhaps it was the practice of law all together that made me unhappy and left me unfulfilled. The more I spoke with my colleagues and other new attorneys about my feelings, the more I found that so many other young attorneys were going through the same emotions I was. I figured, why not create a community through my podcast where I can highlight the stories of young attorneys who absolutely love their jobs but also showcase stories of young attorneys who recognized that they’re purpose in life is outside of the legal profession and instead, have decided to pursue other passions. Through the podcast, I get to speak with so many young attorneys across the country and hopefully, I can provide a resource for other attorneys to explore what else is out there for them.
Have you encountered any hurdles on your career path?
I don’t think I’ve encountered any major hurdles on my career path. Of course, the fact that I’m a woman and an ethnic minority did not make my journey super smooth, and I’ve had to deal with a lot of bias as a young, female attorney. Unfortunately, that’s a struggle many of us go through. My hope is that we, as young lawyers or future lawyers, can work together towards breaking through any gender, race, or age bias in the legal profession.
One small hurdle that does come to mind is the fact that I am the only person in my family – my entire extended family, that is – to go to law school and become an attorney. I did not have anyone in my family to turn to for professional advice, connections, or maybe even a job! However, that just forced me to work that much harder to make the right connections and find the right mentors.
Is there anything on your path that you wish you had done differently?
Yes, there are a few things. If I could go back to undergrad, I would try to gain more hands-on experience by working at a law firm. My first time stepping foot into a law office was when I externed during my 3L year. If I could have volunteered or clerked at a firm during undergrad, perhaps I would have gotten a better sense of what the day-to-day experiences of an attorney are like, and I would not have been as naïve as I was when I graduated from law school.
Did you have a mentor at any time?
I’ve had several mentors throughout my life, and they have each served a different person at a different time in my life. In law school, I connected with one professor more than others and he became and remains until this day my mentor. He helped get me through law school with his advice and encouragement. As a practicing attorney, I was fortunate enough to meet an older attorney who is wise, patient, and understanding of my struggles as a new lawyer. I stay in touch with him often and keep him posted on my updates and achievements. He is full of great career advice and is always there to answer any legal questions that stump me. I can’t stress enough how important it is for law students and young lawyers to surround themselves with supportive mentors.
Do you have any final advice for newly minted female lawyers/JDs who aspire to conduct similar work?
On the very first day of my Property Law class as a 1L, my professor recited this mantra in reference to law school and the bar, “Thousands have done it before you and thousands will do it after you.” That really put things into perspective for me because as a law student or new lawyer, you often feel isolated, lonely, and overwhelmed. But if you just keep in mind that so many others have gone through similar struggles and have found success, you too can make it. Also, remember that there is strength in numbers so surround yourself with like-minded individuals who will support you in your journey by listening to you, offering advice, and helping open doors for you.
I have listened to your podcasts and during each session, you ask the guest to provide the listeners with a motivational quote. In closing, can you offer a motivational quote or phrase for the readers?
“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” Helen Keller
Really think about what you want your life to look like. Think about what you’re passionate about, what makes you excited, what you think about day and night. Then, try to craft your career around those passions. Having a JD can open many doors for you so even if you do not end up practicing as an attorney, the education you gain as a law student and the skills you acquire as a young lawyer will set you up for success in any profession. Take some time this week to sit and write down your vision for your life and list the first few steps you need to take to bring you closer to your vision.
Nicole Abboud is an attorney practicing Fashion Law in Los Angeles. She works with fashion designers and companies to set up their business entities and protect their brands. Nicole graduated from Cal State L.A. with her B.A. in Political Science in 2008 and from Southwestern Law School in 2011. She has been named a Pasadena Top Attorney for 3 years in a row by Pasadena Magazine. Nicole remains heavily involved in her law school’s young alumni organization and the Arab American Lawyers Association of Southern California.
When she’s not lawyering, you can find Nicole chatting with awesome millennial attorneys on her podcast, The Gen Why Lawyer Podcast. Nicole’s guests range from millennial attorneys who are finding great success in their legal careers to young attorneys who have decided to pursue alternative non-legal careers to find happiness. Through her podcast, Nicole hopes to inspire professionals to shake off their fear of being unconventional and embrace their unique voice. In her downtime, Nicole trains for half marathons, volunteers at legal clinics and other community organizations, and hangs out at her local public library.