Sparking a Change: Women in IP Law feat. Biana Borukhovich

When I started law school I knew I wanted to be involved in Intellectual Property law, but I'd be lying if I said the thought of entering a male-dominated industry wasn't intimidating. The more I got involved with IP law, the more I realized that there were amazing women in the field who had achieved great successes and paved a way for women to follow. They served as an inspiration to me, and I hope through this Sparking a Change series, they can serve as an inspiration to you.

I'm excited to introduce Biana Borukhovich, an attorney from New York who focuses on Intellectual Property, Fashion, and Business Law, and has her own practice. She graduated from Touro Law School with recognition as being the school’s pioneer within the Fashion Law industry. Currently, she is the Chair of the Trademark, Licensing and Intellectual Property Committee under the Brooklyn Bar Association. Biana has authored and published a number of legal articles within the Fashion Law and Bankruptcy fields. Her background includes work with H&M in-house, Bluestar Alliance, LLC , Kings County District Attorney’s Office and private legal firms.

Katie Day: How did you get started in IP?

Biana Borukhovich: Before law school, I wanted to go to fashion school, and I didn’t go, I ended up going to law school. In law school, I took an IP class where I wrote an article on fashion law, which tied into my passion. When I was in law school I worked in-house for H&M and when I finished law school I also clerked for them. My niche was always fashion law. I was the chair of the fashion law committee at the Brooklyn Bar, I’ve had several articles published in the legal field on fashion law. And with fashion law a lot of it entails IP. 

KD: What are your favorite and least favorite parts of your job?

BB: I love my job. I can’t just pick one thing that I would say is my favorite part. I definitely love the fact that I’m not just an intellectual property attorney. I also deal with contracts and licensing, which is a different realm of the legal field. I love the fact that I can help my clients, especially when I see my clients growing after I’ve helped them establish their companies and protect their intellectual property rights.

KD: What was it like starting your own practice?

BB: When I was in law school I decided that I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I knew that I wanted to be in the fashion industry somewhat. Currently, I don’t only work with the fashion industry, I work with a lot of different businesses, but my niche is fashion law.  I knew that to work in house for a fashion house I needed at least five to ten years of experience and I didn’t have that as an entry level attorney. I applied for many different jobs and the jobs I applied to either I didn’t fit the role or what was offered I didn’t want to accept. I had a professor from my law school who used to have her own bankruptcy firm and she would always tell me I should open up my own practice because I have the personality for it. So as soon as I got admitted to the bar in New York, literally within a week, I formed my LLC and I got on my way to forming my own practice.

Starting your own practice I don’t think is for everyone. I think you have to have a personality for it. Some people like the challenge and others need more of a structure. I think that people really need to face reality about whether having their own firm is for them. It’s important a lot of times, depending on the person’s situation, whether they have a lot of loans or a family, whether it’s really worth it for them.

I can’t say that being a woman it was more challenging to establish myself because I feel if anything it has helped me being a woman. The fact that I was intelligent actually surprised clients and other people and it helped me move forward, especially since I look young. I know a lot of people have experienced a hard time being a woman and being in the legal field, but I haven’t experienced that.

KD: What skills are necessary for success?

BB: Lawyers and law students need to know how to network. Networking is really important. They also need to know how to not burn any bridges. You need to understand that your colleagues and the people you surround yourself with can really help you succeed and grow. I think being a good human being is the number one thing you need to focus on in the legal field. Everyone knows each other and if you’re just a shady attorney people are going to find out and nobody is going to want to send business to you. 

KD: How should young attorneys and law students be networking?

BB: Young attorneys and law students definitely should get involved with all of the bar associations. They should network within the field that they wish to practice. Network, network, network. The more people you know the better off you are. Because I was able to meet the right people and I showed them that I’m passionate about what I do and I know my stuff I was able to get to where I wanted to be.

KD: You’ve also authored several legal articles, do you feel that writing is important for new lawyers?

BB: Yes, and I’ll tell you why. If you’re going into a law firm it’s really important because they want to see if you write well. Every single intern I’ve had, one of the biggest things for me is that they write well. Even something as simple as a resume, if there are errors, I don’t want that person working for me. So writing is essential in the legal field. I always recommend that people, when they are in law school, write as much as they can. In our profession, we always write whether it’s motions or whether it’s letters to communicate or a client.

KD: For the law students, are there any specific classes they should be taking to help them break into IP?

BB: I think it’s important if a person is interested in intellectual property to take an intellectual property class, but what I find to be even more important is internships. I want to see that during their summers and during the semester that they’ve interned or externed at law firms where they’ve had hands-on experience working with IP.

Simply saying you want to work in the IP industry is not good enough because if you’ve never handled an IP case, or filed a trademark or assisted an attorney who has done that, then you don’t really have an idea of what you want to get into. You just like the idea of IP, but you don’t know what it entails.

For entry-level attorneys and law students, it’s important to remember that they shouldn’t settle for a legal field just because a job is available, they should pick a field that they’re really passionate about. It’s a lot harder to switch after a few years than to just get into a field that you like from the beginning.

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